Maybe too much time has passed since we last saw Jason Bourne, in “The Bourne Ultimatum,” in 2007. Maybe his quest for answers went as far as it needed to go and didn’t require an extension. Maybe the serviceable “Bourne Legacy,” with Jeremy Renner as a substitute, made it clear that Bourne himself was unnecessary. Whatever the problem is, the fifth entry in the franchise, is a flat, affectless, misfire.
It’s simply called “Jason Bourne”; it features the return of Matt Damon and “Supremacy” and “Ultimatum” director Paul Greengrass — and I was disappointed at how little I cared, how uninvested I was in Bourne’s mission. He reemerges this time because he has learned yet another wrinkle in his increasingly convoluted backstory: the CIA was watching him before they recruited him, and his father (Gregg Henry) may have been involved. Meanwhile, the CIA has been hacked again, and Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), Bourne’s old Agency accomplice, is implicated.
But never mind Jason Bourne. The film’s main concern is CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones), a Tommy Lee Jones-faced man who’s secretly in cahoots with a Silicon Valley tech whiz (Riz Ahmed) to spy on everyone with a new piece of software and a new black-ops program (or maybe the same black-ops program as before but with a new name). Fearing exposure, Dewey wants Bourne dead and summons an unnamed asset called The Asset (Vincent Cassel) to do the job. But Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), a new CIA analyst, asks Dewey to give her once chance to bring Bourne in alive, maybe even re-convert him to their side.
(Heather’s job is to be the person back at HQ who, when a CIA team is pursuing Bourne, watches the surveillance feeds and shouts directions like “He’s going into the alley!” and “Left at the top of the hill!”)
There’s a fine chase through Athens at the top of the film, another good one in Las Vegas at the end, and a whole lot of nothing in between. Where Bourne’s pursuit of the truth once engendered sympathy — what did those CIA monsters do to him?? — now it seems rote, as if Bourne himself is hardly interested. Greengrass, who co-wrote the film with its editor, Christopher Rouse, assumes we’re desperate to learn more about Bourne but makes no effort to show us — or remind us — why the character or the quest is compelling. Like I said, maybe it’s been too long since the handsome amnesiac last captivated us. Fittingly, I’m having trouble remembering why he ever did.
C (2 hrs., 3 min.; )