The Bourne Legacy
Starring Jeremy Renner & Rachel Weisz
Directed by Tony Gilroy
PG-13, 135 min.
Released Aug. 10, 2012
The fourth movie based on the espionage-thriller novels of Robert Ludlum comes to the screen with its name brand intact and its dark, dangerous, cloak-and-dagger world as treacherous as ever, but with its familiar leading man in hiding.
Matt Damon, who played tormented, always-on-the-run assassin Jason Bourne in the three previous movies, opted not to return. Into the breach, however, steps Jeremy Renner as a new character, Aaron Cross, who is introduced as another cog in the same ruthless, government-controlled, über-spook machine that turned Bourne into a hunted, haunted killer.
This time around, a major news story is about to break about the deep-cover operation, which specializes—as one character puts it—in the “morally indefensible and absolutely necessary” tasks that have to be done to take out the world’s trash.
The secret program’s agitated officials, worried about the disastrous consequences of such exposure, decide to shut everything down and erase the evidence of its dirty work, particularly the viral re-engineering program that makes its operatives stronger, smarter and less sensitive to pain. It’s the super-spy equivalent of steroids, with a hard-wired DNA twist.
Shutting down the program also means the elimination of all their highly trained operatives who have now become liabilities—like Cross, who suddenly finds himself on a hit list and cut off from the “meds” his brain and body has been conditioned to need to keep functioning.
Rachel Weisz plays a sympathetic scientist who holds the key to Cross’ survival. Edward Norton and Stacy Keach are the retired military bureaucrats calling the control-room shots as they track Cross in a deadly game of global cat-and-mouse.
If you haven’t seen any of the previous “Bourne” movies, you’ll probably find yourself grasping to hang on to the plot, which refers frequently to things that happened in the earlier Damon dynasty. But Renner is a capable action star, doing many of his own stunts, and Tony Gilroy, slipping into the director’s chair for the first time after screenwriting for the three other three films, keeps things “real” with slam-bang action that relies on practically no computer-generated special effects.
The movie could use a little more of that action, however, and a bit less talk, of which there’s quite a bit. However, we do get to see Cross outwit a drone bomber with a rather ingenious ploy involving a tree-sling noose trap and a wolf that he later tells, half apologetically, “You’re gonna be sorry you messed with me.”
Another scene finds Cross crafting a lethal weapon out of a compressed air tank and a nail, part of his one-man lay-waste campaign to an entire house full of hit men (and one hit woman). And later, half the world away, he and Weisz’s character are involved in a romping, stomping 15-minute chase that begins on the rooftops of Manilla, then rolls onto streets below, where it continues as a wild ride on motorcycles.
It’s undoubtedly one of the best chase sequences of any movie this year, a real gem of cinematography, stunt work and editing. It probably took several days, if not weeks, to rehearse, arrange and shoot. But after it’s over, the movie seems stumped for how to wrap things up.
So it just kind slams into an ending that doesn’t really feel like an ending at all, with all sorts of things unresolved, open and unchanged. “Bourne” fans may leave with a glimmer of hope that Renner’s character and Damon’s character—who’s apparently also still alive—will intersect in the next movie.
But other viewers will probably feel like this “Legacy” leaves them adrift, quite literally, in a sea of unanswered spy questions.