“I remember everything.” That’s the first line of dialogue in Jason Bourne, spoken over a black screen by the title character, presumably for the benefit of viewers who may have forgotten that everyone’s favorite amnesiac super-soldier finally regained his lost memories during his last mission. Bourne remembers everything, but will his audience? It’s been four years since the previous entry in this blockbuster franchise, and almost a decade since Matt Damon packed on some muscle and lost some levity to play Robert Ludlum’s signature spy. Those who don’t treat themselves to a “previously on” refresher may feel a little fuzzy themselves, the series coming back to them as a disorganized jumble of motorcycles racing down European alleys, desk jockeys yelling coordinates across blue-tinted control centers, and old white dudes furrowing their brows. It’ll all be a blur, just like the camerawork.
Jason Bourne presses Damon back into service, while also reenlisting director Paul Greengrass, who made the most acclaimed of the Bourne films, first sequel Supremacyand the trilogy-capping Ultimatum. Reuniting the two furthers the impression that this is a makeup movie, getting back to basics after The Bourne Legacy, which had the gall to remove Bourne from the equation entirely, replacing him with a new lab rat played by Jeremy Renner. But was that such a disastrous move for the series? Ultimatum brought the original character’s storyline to a proper conclusion, and Renner made a fine successor, his frazzled, junkie desperation (“The chems!”) an interesting pivot from the steeliness of Damon’s turn. Plus, director Tony Gilroy, who wrote every Bourne except this new one, staged the action with refreshing clarity. Jason Bournefancies itself a course correction, but it’s really just a backslide: Rather than push this character or story forward, the film cravenly hits the reset button, doing more of the same with much less passion and skill.