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Movie Review: 'Jason Bourne,' A Thriller For Our Times


Even those who have never seen the movies know the name - secret agent Jason Bourne, a human wrecking machine played by Matt Damon.


MATT DAMON: (As Jason Bourne) I remember. I remember everything.

TOMMY LEE JONES: (As Robert Dewey) You're never going to find any peace, not till you admit to yourself who you really are.

DAMON: (As Jason Bourne) I know who I am. This is Jason Bourne.

MONTAGNE: The latest in the series is called simply "Jason Bourne," and it's out today. Film critic Kenneth Turan joined us to talk about it. Good morning.


MONTAGNE: Nine years since Matt Damon has been in a Bourne movie. That's a pretty long time. And it seems unusual for a star of a movie franchise that successful to take so long to sign on to another one. What's happening there?

TURAN: Well, it wasn't for lack of wanting to do one. I mean, Matt Damon has said in interviews that whenever he's in airports first thing fans say to him is, when are you going to make another Bourne movie? And so he's wanted to do one. But they really - he and Paul Greengrass, who's the director, they wanted to make sure that they did one that had relevance, that really worked as a thriller and worked in the real world as well.

MONTAGNE: OK, so does it have relevance? Talk to us about the plot.

TURAN: Well, it does. I mean, you know, obviously, first there's the thriller aspect of it where Jason Bourne - the personal aspect for him. He's always - in these films he wants to find out more about his past, about how he became who he was. And so he's doing that. But also, as he's investigating this he stumbles upon a plot, a CIA kind of dark black ops operation that's going to involve full-spectrum surveillance. That's going to involve a lot of the questions that really are in the news today, questions of personal privacy against public safety, questions that really we can hear. And we can hear in this clip a name that will sound familiar to people.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As CIA agent) We've just been hacked; could be worse than Snowden. Facial recognition got a hit. It's Jason Bourne.

JONES: (As Robert Dewey) Why would he come back now?

TURAN: One of the things I love about this - and you can hear it in that clip - is in addition to the name Snowden, you hear the urgency. You hear everyone is tense. Everyone is on point. Everyone is worried. Everyone is active. And they carry you along, and that's one of the reasons they were so good.

MONTAGNE: Well, it does sound like you really liked it.

TURAN: Oh yes, I did. It's really a compulsively watchable film, very propulsive. They've got a great new cast of villains - Alicia Vikander, Tommy Lee Jones, Vincent Cassel. It's got a look. Because both Greengrass and cinematographer Barry Ackroyd have documentary experience, it feels really real. Vincent Cassel was quoted as saying it manages to make everything look like images stolen from reality. And, you know, they're not saying that about James Bond.

MONTAGNE: Well, I'm going to take a guess here, though, that even though they may be stealing images from reality, there's a lot of pretty grim reality happening these days, especially around terrorism, hacking and all kinds of things. I wonder if it's partly about escape, going to a movie like this, but also partly about having a moment where you feel like you might have some control and there might be something close to a happy ending.

TURAN: Yeah. I mean, I consider this film kind of controlled escapism or engaged escapism, you know, where you really have it both ways. You have a hero doing heroic things, triumphing, but he's not doing it in some fantasy Marvel universe. He's doing it in today's real world. And in some ways, I think that's extremely satisfying. And these films have been, I think, very successful because audiences find that satisfying as well. It's bringing fantasy into real problems, and that's a very seductive combination.

MONTAGNE: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and The Los Angeles Times. The new movie is "Jason Bourne." Thanks for joining us.

TURAN: Thank you, Renee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Kenneth Turan is the film critic for the Los Angeles Times and NPR's Morning Edition, as well as the director of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes. He has been a staff writer for the Washington Post and TV Guide, and served as the Times' book review editor.