23 August 2012 | Simon_Says_Movies
A Solid Continuation That Nevertheless Goes Through the Rhythms
There is never just one. We've reached our fourth globe-trotting adventure based on the novels of the late Robert Ludlum, and the first without former series lead Matt Damon as the enigmatic superspy Jason Bourne. With its name taken from a 2004 installment not actually penned by Ludlum, The Bourne Legacy explores the ripple effect of the events that played out in The Bourne Ultimatum. While little could be done to cushion the drop in quality that was bound to come with well, anything, that followed that near-masterpiece of action, Jeremy Renner makes an apt substitute and the thrills, wit and set pieces are all top notch, even if it won't quite have audiences asking, "Jason who?"
In the mischievous and highly top secret world of clandestine CIA superspy programs, the program previously known as Treadstone has once again morphed – from Treadstone to Blackbriar and now to Outcome (officially known as Alcom), a bio-weapons division in New York State that operates under the ruse of a pharmaceutical research firm. It is through this project that Rachel Weisz's Dr. Marta Shearing crosses path with Outcome agent Aaron Cross, as her employer's cloak-and-dagger endeavors supply its agent with viral treatments that boost both physical and mental efficiency.
While on a training procedure in Alaska, Cross is nearly assassinated by his own people after it's been decided by the powers that be that Jason Bourne's actions in "Ultimatum" have metastasized beyond repair and all outlying assets must be eliminated (including Dr. Shearing and her peers). Going on the run is one thing for Cross, but now without the pills he has been taking to keep himself stimulated, he faces the threat of crashing like a lifetime heroine addict gone cold turkey – a dire situation which would indefinitely lead to his — and the doctor's — death.
With Tony Gilroy, some will be relieved to be done with the shaky cam approach of Paul Greengrass but what does remain intact is Gilroy's dense, jargon-filled dialogue that even if being dumb, always sounds so incredibly smart. There is certainly no mistaking that this is a film from this universe.
The Bourne Legacy is easily the goriest of the bunch and at times really pushes the envelope when it comes to a PG-13 rating. As evidenced in the trailers, there is an early-set shooting involving Weisz's character and it is quite disturbing and effective in its robotic ruthlessness. Forget the controversial scene in Gangster Squad that is being reshot due to the Aurora, Colo. shootings, this sequence is bound to give anyone close to that event vivid flashbacks. And speaking of Weisz, even in her quiet moments (and she has plenty of loud and quiet) she steals her show coming off as both devastated and strong and nimbly sidesteps the oft- seen trope of the shrieking helpless female victim.
Gilroy's foray has a number of inspired instances, and though "Legacy" could have used about 15 minutes of trimming, it never bores. There are a number of intense and well-choreographed sequences that aptly showcase Cross' lethality and they're presented with enough frequency amidst the bureaucracy. An electric and immensely entertaining sequence takes place back when Cross is back in Alaska and attempting to avoid a quick death both by a military drone and a pack of wolves. I won't spoil anything, but it puts a whole new spin on the "slip your GPS tracker so your pursuers think you're somewhere else" cliché.
At other times, however, it seems like Gilroy is just going down the "Bourne" checklist even down to playing Moby's "Extreme Ways" at the end credits (I was really glad about that, actually). Bourne beats up some unsuspecting guards — check. Bourne engages in an extended car chase in an exotic location — check. Bourne evades capture by running along rooftops — check. Another agent is sent to eliminate Bourne — check. The only "check" missing is the inclusion of the man himself. However, in lieu of giving us an utter deconstruction of the series (or nothing at all), why should we be disappointed that The Bourne Legacy gives us everything we could expect (and at times quite a bit more)?
It also becomes clear pretty early on that Damon's Bourne is not the only one who has been given a redux. David Strathairn's Noah Vosen (who is under investigation following his attempted cover-up) has been given the form of Edward Norton's Eric Byer and Joan Allen's Pamela Landy (who is also having problems with her "treason" as it were) effectively with Donna Murphy's Dita Mandy (only changed one letter in the last name there). It's safe to say, despite strong performances, they feel like a downgrade when recalling the fiery antagonism shared with Vosen and Landy in The Bourne Ultimatum.
One thing The Bourne Legacy makes utterly clear is that at the distinguished age of 41, Jeremy Renner has proved himself to be a formidable action hero, both bringing a classic look to Cross but also matching Damon in displays of physicality and athleticism. He has now proved his leading man potential and I look forward to Renner headlining further action adventures (be it in this series or others).
But after all the conspiracies have been unmasked and the last bullet drained, I still couldn't help but miss Damon in the lead role. We all knew how great he was as Jason Bourne, but it would seem that I at least took his work for granted, perhaps failing to truly appreciate how magnetic he was in his ass-kickery. Let's hope Damon comes to miss his involvement and teams up with Renner in future missions, because that would be an on-screen duo worthy of all kinds of legacies.