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The Bourne Legacy Review

By Joe Lozito

A Star is "Bourne"


Before "Casino Royale" rebooted the James Bond franchise, the heir to the 007 throne was surely Jason Bourne. Adapted from the Robert Ludlum books, the three Matt Damon-starring "Bourne" movies proved to be increasingly sturdy and, in the case of 2004's "The Bourne Supremacy", excellent action movies. Now the Bourne filmmakers intend to take the Bond similarities one step further by having another actor fill the lead role in the "The Bourne Legacy". But this new star (Jeremy Renner) isn't playing Jason Bourne. And Mr. Renner is no George Lazenby.

Taking the title but little else from the Ludlum novel, "Legacy" opens playfully as "Ultimatum" ended: with a body floating in the water. But it isn't Jason Bourne, it's Mr. Renner's Aaron Cross on a training mission in an icy wilderness. The film's opening scenes take place in parallel with the events of "Ultimatum" via the well-crafted script by director Tony Gilroy (who wrote or co-wrote all the previous films) and brother Dan Gilroy.

Aaron stumbles upon a mysterious colleague in the forest (Oscar Isaac) and we learn that they are part of a government genetic-enhancement project similar to the one that created Jason Bourne. And if you don't know your Treadstones from your Blackbriars, well, that's okay (but get ready for Outcome, and don't get me started on Larx). The two soldiers develop an uneasy trust moments before it becomes clear they're being targeted for termination.

And here's where the film's true agenda - and Bourne's true legacy - becomes clear. With the actions of the previous trilogy threatening to expose the whole shebang, the government - represented by Stacy Keach's malevolent Adm. Turso - decides to wipe out all the operatives. As you might expect, that doesn't go as planned, and it creates a nice excuse for the extended chase scene that is, essentially, the remainder of the film.

We get a bit too much of a glimpse into the inner-workings of the genetics project which, it turns out, relies heavily on pills (or "chems" as they're repeatedly called here). With Aaron's supply running out, he seeks out a scientist, and fellow target, played in a nicely understated turn by Rachel Weisz. The two spend most of the film on the run, pursued by a bunch of government keyboard-jockeys goosed by Col. Byer (Edward Norton, barking orders with a what-am-I-doing-here? scowl). They end up in the Philippines which, in a post-9/11 world, makes for a pretty uninteresting travel sequence (it involves a lot of unbelievable fake-ID-making and tense moments in customs).

Mr. Gilroy is right at home during the taut opening exposition but he flounders during the crucial white-knuckle action sequences which have become a trademark of the franchise. Previous director Paul Greengrass' hand (and hand-held) is particularly missed during the bravura climactic chase through and above Manilla.

But remember, 2002's "The Bourne Identity" (directed by Doug Liman) was a quieter film than the two sequels and, if this is Mr. Gilroy's way of introducing a new franchise helmed by a new star, then his shortcomings can be forgiven. He's building new characters with this film, and he succeeds. So much so that you might like to see these characters "Bourne" again.

What did you think?

Movie title The Bourne Legacy
Release year 2012
MPAA Rating PG-13
Our rating
Summary Matt who? Jeremy Renner finally gets his due in this well-crafted and entirely satisfying entry in the sturdy spy franchise.
View all articles by Joe Lozito
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