Sunday, August 12, 2012

Movie Review: "The Bourne Legacy"

There's always a concern when a popular movie franchise continues without its original star, especially when the director who shepherded at least several of the films decides not to return as well. While you hope that the new actor(s) won't try to be a carbon copy of the previous one(s), will they be able to bring the same type of mood, the same attitude, the same chemistry, the same charisma?

Within the first few minutes of The Bourne Legacy, which opens with Jeremy Renner training in subzero Alaskan tundra, I felt pretty confident that the fourth movie in the series was in good hands. Renner plays Aaron Cross, one of six warriors chemically altered for physical and intellectual superiority by the U.S. Defense Department in an operation called Outcome, inspired by Jason Bourne and their Treadstone program. But like Bourne before him, Cross is more than a man-as-machine—there is an emotional intensity, almost a vulnerability, lurking just beneath his surface.

When word threatens to leak to the public about Outcome, Treadstone, and other shadowy programs, the government agents who oversaw these programs (led by a razor-sharp Edward Norton) endeavor to destroy the six superagents. As you probably guessed, Cross (in a deviously intelligent bit of thinking) survives, and in need of the medicines that have kept him from regressing back to his "old" self, he tracks down Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz, proving she's more than a cerebral actress), the chemist who monitored his progress and helped keep him at the top of his game. Shearing is in some trouble of her own, finding herself an unwitting pawn in the government's efforts to destroy the Outcome program.

What I've loved about the Bourne movies to date is that they've taken actors whom you wouldn't immediately peg as action heroes—first Matt Damon, now Jeremy Renner—but they bring not only excellent physicality to their roles but an amazing intensity and depth. Renner is at his best when he projects an outer sense of steely calm, but you know that his mind is working furiously. In this movie, Cross isn't fueled by revenge, hurt, or a need for power; he's simply trying to survive any way he can.

Director Tony Gilroy, who wrote the screenplay for all four Bourne movies, brings a great balance of action (there are some pretty terrific chase and fight scenes throughout the movie) and introspection to the film, something his previous movies (Michael Clayton and Duplicity) only hinted at. The extent to which the intelligence community has eyes all over the world is a little frightening (and you wonder how much of it is true), but I liked that none of the villains in this movie were overblown or stereotypical. And it's good to see some old friends from the previous movies—Joan Allen, David Strathairn, and Albert Finney—albeit in small roles.

I'm totally game for a fifth movie in the series. Maybe Matt Damon and Jeremy Renner?

Watch the trailer.

1 comment:

  1. Renner is no Matt Damon, but he brings a certain type of edge to Aaron Cross that makes him different from Jason Bourne. Not saying that it’s a good thing or bad thing, just a very good idea that Gilroy uses here and it helps the film out in the long-run. Good review.