I’m admittedly not a big fan of the BOURNE movies. In fact, I’ve only seen THE BOURNE IDENTITY all the way through, which I (for the most part) enjoyed. The shaky camera action of THE BOURNE SUPREMACY was enough to make me give up on it while watching, something I never normally do. Somehow I get the feeling that BOURNE movies are mostly like James Bond movies, in that they’re all pretty much the same, just enjoyable to fans because they like the lead character and actors involved. So I went into THE BOURNE LEGACY with no specific expectations, other than hoping the camera would be a little bit more steady.
Jeremy Renner plays Aaron Cross, an agent who seems to be in constant training for secret government organizations, and is introduced to the audience while navigating snowy mountains and rough terrain. We learn he’s taking some pills which he clearly has become very dependent on. As the film plays on we also meet Eric Byer (Edward Norton), a private government agent who is trying to keep all the off-the-books problems contained, and a laboratory specialist and Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) who is one of the people making those little pills Cross is taking. Throughout the first portion of the film we see flashes of Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) in photos, and overhear he’s still out there somewhere. Certain events begin to unfold, such as the medicated agents (like Cross) dying off thanks to a newer drug, and a brutal murder/suicide in the lab where the drugs are developed. Naturally a lot of this mess is being done to cover up a program that never should have existed in the first place. Aaron Cross is the current last piece of the puzzle, and his only hope of survival is staying one step ahead of the agency that created him. Sound familiar?
What I just described is the most coherent way I could define the extremely convoluted story in THE BOURNE LEGACY, a film that for the first hour seemed to be all over the place with no specific plotline. Tony Gilroy, who penned the screenplay for the previous BOURNE outings, takes over as director this time. His script with Dan Gilroy feels too complicated for its own good, leaving the audience to wonder where is all of this going. And by the time you’re able to process the plot points and how they intersect, you’ll likely already be drained. The film does its best to keep us interested, staging intense tracking sequences where the agency is dissecting the whereabouts of their targets, with an intense James Newton Howard score in the background – but it doesn’t cover up the fact that this just isn’t a good flow for an action movie, or even a thinking man’s espionage flick.
Jeremy Renner is likable and interesting enough to carry the lead as Aaron Cross, a man who I halfway expected to go by the name “Jason Bourne” after he observes it etched into a bed frame within a training cabin… but he never does, and in a way it feels like a missed opportunity. Why call this a BOURNE movie if there’s no “Bourne” in it? Rachel Weisz still looks great as the damsel in distress here, obviously matured with age, but still encapsulating the raw beauty to be a strong leading lady. I’ve always liked her, and the decision to include her here was smart. Edward Norton spends pretty much all of his time playing the calculative nemesis to Cross, though never really impressing us the way we all know he could. There’s solid supporting performances from Oscar Issacs, Scott Glenn, Stacy Keach and Donna Murphy… but lets’ face it, this is the Jeremy Renner show. I’m glad to see him getting so much spotlight lately, I just hope it isn’t overkill. Looking back on the film, I can’t say much of it really blew me away the way I hoped it would – even a lengthy motorcycle chase just feels by the numbers, save for a quickly impressive finish. I don’t know if THE BOURNE LEGACY has the weight it needs to launch a new franchise for Renner, but at least it’s more polished and slick than the last two Matt Damon outings appeared to be, and that by itself my be enough to keep fans interested.
THE BOURNE LEGACY opens August 10, 2012