Movie Review: “Jason Bourne”

Starring
Matt Damon, Alicia Vikander, Tommy Lee Jones, Vincent Cassel, Julia Stiles, Riz Ahmed, Ato Essandoh, Bill Camp
Director
Paul Greengrass

There are film franchises where each installment comes with a checklist of the beats the film will hit. A chase, a shot, a musical cue, a line of dialogue, a plot device, those sorts of things. “Jason Bourne” takes that idea to an absurd level. This is a film where the audience isn’t just reminded that they’re watching a Bourne film (though they are, constantly); at times, they’re watching a featurette on the making of a Bourne film. Several scenes are staged in such a manner that they look like test runs of the final shot, rather than the final shot. The plot is rather threadbare for a series that prides itself on convoluted story lines, but the most damning thing about “Jason Bourne” is what a bloodless, cold viewing experience it is. From start to finish, I was not emotionally invested in a single thing that took place. In fact, I couldn’t wait for it to be over – definitely a first for a Bourne film.

Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is living off the grid, making money in underground fighting. He receives a visit from former operative Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), who tells Jason that she has hacked the CIA database and has uncovered information on Treadstone, the now-defunct program of which he was a part, as well as their latest program, which involves surveillance. The database hack draws the attention of Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), a talented and ambitious coder who works for CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones). Dewey enlists an assassin, known only as The Asset (Vincent Cassel), to find and kill Bourne. As Lee listens to Dewey talk about Bourne, she starts to question Dewey’s motives and volunteers to run point on Bourne’s capture (or death) in order to discover if there is more to the story.

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Movie Review: “Trance”

Starring
James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, Vincent Cassel, Danny Sapani
Director
Danny Boyle

Danny Boyle is one of the few directors working today whose projects are almost always met with fervent excitement, and that’s certainly the case with “Trance.” Though moviegoers were forced to wait a few years for Boyle’s much-anticipated follow-up to “127 Hours” – due to other engagements on stage (the National Theatre production of “Frankenstein”) and for his country (the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony) – the delay seemed well worth it following the news that he would be reteaming with frequent collaborator John Hodge (“Shallow Grave,” “Trainspotting”). In retrospect, my expectations were probably set a little too high, because although “Trance” is an entertaining psychological thriller, it doesn’t quite live up to Boyle’s more recent, award-winning work.

The film’s whiz-bang opening sets the stage when art auctioneer Simon (James McAvoy) teams up with a group of criminals to steal Francisco Goya’s 1798 masterpiece “Witches in the Air” during an auction in progress. Everything is going according to plan when Simon suffers a blow to the head during the heist, only to awaken with no memory of where he hid the painting. When more conventional methods (i.e. torture) prove ineffective, the gang’s leader Franck (Vincent Cassel) hires hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson) to dig deep into Simon’s psyche and help jog his memory. But as Simon starts to piece together his broken subconscious, he becomes increasingly suspicious of Franck and Elizabeth’s ulterior motives, reconfirming why he chose to stash the painting in the first place.

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