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“Jason Bourne” delivers at box office

Why do we get so many action sequels? You can argue laziness, or also the general interest of fans. Matt Damon said people constantly were asking him when Jason Bourne would return. But the real reason has to do with money and profits. The new Bourne film is closing in on $400 million overall gross, with around $160 million domestic. Those are pretty strong numbers for just creating a new installment in a series.

Damon returned to the Bourne series in this year’s “Jason Bourne,” an espionage suspense thriller based on subjects all too familiar to American audiences: Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing, mass government surveillance, and the government takeover of internet corporations for personal data about its citizens.

The movie begins with Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), an ex-CIA operative accessing secret government folders, among them a project called Treadstone, the same one that trained Jason Bourne into an agency operative. She copies them to an encrypted thumb drive, immediately drawing a deadly bull’s eye on her head as a CIA operation to apprehend her begins.

She escapes and discovers Jason in some remote desert, participating in brutal fist fights with ex-cons. Shortly afterward, they have a brief conversation in tumultuous Greece, where she hands off the thumb drive with secret files – files that suggest his father’s death was an inside job, and singlehandedly exposes several top projects of the CIA. With this exchange, Jason is unwillingly thrust into a race with CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) to unfold another mystery about his past before he’s taken out by CIA ops. Will the secret Jason Bourne seeks to expose truly take down the agency, as Director Dewey suggests? Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), an operative of the agency, requests to be assigned as the project leader for apprehending Jason Bourne. Although she’s given a direct order to report on every detail and step she takes, she soon reveals her loyalty is to Bourne, offering him a cellphone and ongoing aide as a CIA insider.

Here we pause, as the story takes an unusual turn to pseudo-document real life events; there’s a candid conversation between tech mogul Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed) and CIA director Dewey, who requests full access to live, personal information from an app that Aaron’s huge internet company has developed for personalizing internet use. Aaron refuses.

Perhaps it is the poignant realism of this situation with regard to the privacy-violated world we now live in, post-Snowden. This scene almost doesn’t fit in with the rest of the film, breaking the flow of the narrative and merging with our own day to day reality. It’s a difficult situation to be in, if it is indeed an accurate portrayal of events: Should Aaron give in to a super power’s threats by betraying the trust of billions of people that rely on his company’s internet services? Or should he stand in opposition to the overwhelming and deadly force of the US government?

After a heated dinner meeting with Dewey in which he refuses to work with the US government, Aaron receives a notice for his refusal to cooperate with real time spying on citizens. After this scene, the viewer is left to wonder: is this what really happened behind closed doors?

Before we can answer these musings, Jason’s back on the screen, running and shooting with precision and determination. Though the conflict to uncover his past’s secret pales in comparison to the engulfing discussion the scene with Aaron unearthed.

About the Actors

Damon’s performance is fitting for the espionage thriller, with few moments for emotional connection and a relentless pacing that makes it a fun flick.

Stiles, on the other hand, only appears briefly in the film, despite our hopes that she would continue in a main role. Tommy Lee Jones’ acting as CIA director Dewey is excellent, also suited to those scenes where he directs individual agents and teams to capture or kill. It was particularly chilling to see the scene where he makes a coded phone call to an operative in the Middle East to “close the account,” essentially ordered his agent to kill a hostage he’d been holding in a safe house.

For fans of the Bourne series, Matt Damon’s calm, strategic mind is still intriguing to watch as it was in the first film in the series. There’s plenty of evaded gunfire, sneakiness and terse conversation to make this a true Bourne film.

However, the operatives sent to kill Jason never seem to get an upper hand. Perhaps Jason’s just that good, or his enemies don’t know how to use all that surveillance technology properly? We believe fans of the Bourne series will enjoy this movie.

It’s a Wrap

“Jason Bourne” is a movie about Jason’s beginnings and his father’s death. The backdrop is a modern depiction of our world: riots in many countries like Greece, Turkey and Egypt, and an increasing presence of the government over real-time data on its citizens. Jason and the supporting characters do their best to traverse this maze, but somehow we know how the story will end for them, even when he finally uncovers the secrets to his past.

Final Say: A suspense thriller with Matt Damon for people who enjoy fast-paced action HD movies. B-.