The Bourne film series — Identity, Supremacy, Ultimatum, and even the Jeremy Renner starrer Legacy — has been probably the most exciting, best written, most attractively conceived action/spy franchise of all time. Not even the James Bond cycle can match the energy and topicality of author Robert Ludlum’s novels (which stretch to include ten further titles by Eric Van Lustbader) about a renegade national intelligence asset named Jason Bourne. As personified by Matt Damon, Bourne is a sort of Super-Everyman of the 21st century: Powerful and yet conflicted, deceived from an early age into serving the military-industrial complex, then brain-wiped, callously cut loose, and eventually hell-bent on extracting vengeance from his masters. Anyone can relate.
But the series is losing its steam. In Paul Greengrass’ Jason Bourne, Damon is back at his old habits — punching, shooting, running, leaping, crashing, outwitting, and surviving. But really nothing more than that. Sometimes a “good popcorn movie” is simply not enough. Not in this case. We expect more from Bourne. Damon (looking the slightest bit paunchy), Alicia Vikander (his quasi-sympathetic CIA handler), Tommy Lee Jones (CIA villain), Vincent Cassel (hired assassin, the most interesting face in the movie), Riz Ahmed (techie CEO comic relief), Julia Stiles (ill-fated sidekick), and the usual travelogue scenes of exploding locales do what they can, but the fifth Bourne is more of a standard-brand spy workout than an epiphany — and only an epiphany will do at this stage of the game. Actor Damon and filmmaker Greengrass can get along quite nicely in the future without any more Bournes, and so can we.