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“Bourne’s been off the grid for some time,” remarks someone in Jason Bourne. No, really? What else is new? Bourne’s whole thing, surely, is being off the grid. In the week’s second franchise sequel featuring a protagonist with memory issues, Matt Damon plays the identity-troubled spy last seen in 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum but still swimming around, we discover, in the opaque ocean of world espionage. Finding Jason?
My theory: the Bourne saga and its eternal-reappearance riffs are a big joke at the expense of William Shakespeare. “The undiscovered country from whose Bourne no traveller returns . . . ” (Hamlet): who can recite that now with a straight face? Directed by saga veteran Paul Greengrass in his brand-recognition style — handheld and headlong — the story bounds along at high speed like a travel addict trying to accumulate air miles. Now Langley, Virginia (spooks’ HQ); now Las Vegas; now London; now Greece . . .
Never mind the plot. There isn’t any; beyond Tommy Lee Jones as a rogue CIA chief out to kill anyone who irks him. Just feel the pell-mell editing — at its most bravura in a car chase along the Vegas Strip — and the weary grace that Matt Damon, 45, brings to his role. Bourne used to be existential in the old and echt philosophical sense: concerned with individuality, authenticity and the generating of moral identity ex nihilo. He is now existential in the cheapjack modern sense: concerned with survival. Into the next second or season or sequel, whichever comes first.