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Heart-pounding 'Jason Bourne' makes the most of a familiar routine
Matt Damon returns to his most iconic role in "Jason Bourne." - photo by Josh Terry
JASON BOURNE 3 stars Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Julia Stiles; PG-13 (intense sequences of violence and action, and brief strong language); in general release

Its a testament to the quality of the Bourne franchise that director Paul Greengrass can essentially run out the same movie multiple times and keep things highly entertaining. Look no further than 2016s most unimaginative title: Jason Bourne. After a certain point, you drop the frills and get down to business.

All the classic elements are there. Youve got Jason Bourne discovering another element of his mysterious past. Youve got a corrupt high-level CIA administrator trying to keep the wraps on a devious black ops program. Youve got a female character inside the agency who feels compelled to help Bourne.

Youve also got rival super assassins, a killer car chase and Moby on the soundtrack. Weve seen it all before, but they keep doing it so well that were more than happy to see it again.

We pick up the story a few years after the events of Bourne Ultimatum, where Bourne (Matt Damon) confronted the head of the program that turned him into a trained killer. Hes still off the grid, making ends meet by making meat out of his opponents in various underground boxing rings.

But Bourne gets yanked back into the mess of international intrigue when his old CIA colleague Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) comes at him with a flash drive full of black ops documents, just waiting to be posted to the free world. Bourne really isnt the Snowden type, but he is interested in his own file, which reveals some surprising information about his father.

The CIA has been tracking Nicky, and now theyre back on Bourne, this time led by Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and an ambitious newcomer named Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander). Theres also another highly trained agency asset on the hunt (Vincent Cassel), with an especially personal bone to pick with Bourne.

Dewey isnt so concerned with Bournes past as he is with another program on the drive, a comprehensive surveillance program named Iron Hand that involves a wealthy tech magnate named Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed). The resulting twists and turns take us from Greece to Iceland to London to Berlin to Washington, D.C., and finally to Las Vegas for the big finale.

Damon gives the same cold killer performance hes been perfecting since the first Bourne film came out 14 years ago, and Vikander is effective coming off her Best Supporting Actress Oscar from last year. Jones may be stepping into a kind of placeholder role that the likes of Brian Cox and Scott Glenn have handled in past films, but theres nothing routine about an actor who can take a benign piece of dialogue like Lets give it a shot! and get a big reaction from it.

You do wonder what would happen if Greengrass and company decided to do something truly daring with Bourne. They might be a little gun-shy after 2012s Bourne Legacy failed to spin off a new franchise with Jeremy Renner in the pilots seat (Renners character is nowhere to be seen in this new film). We dont necessarily have to get The Bourne Musical, or anything too crazy, but the franchise is strong enough to experiment a little.

Still, what they do, they do well. The climax in Vegas may not quite be an all-timer, but the showdown between a SWAT truck and a black Dodge Charger on the Vegas Strip caps things off with more than a few bangs. Its a path weve trod many times seriously, does every high-level CIA director have to be corrupt? but its a path that holds up for a reason.

Jason Bourne is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief strong language; running time: 123 minutes.
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