Saturday, September 01, 2012

The Bourne Legacy

The Bourne Legacy, directed by Tony Gilroy, can't properly be called a sequel to the three successful Bourne films starring Matt Damon. Gilroy (Michael Clayton), who wrote the Damon-starring Bourne trilogy, instead builds out from the end of The Bourne Ultimatum and imagines a universe in which Jason Bourne is to new protagonist Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) essentially what Netscape is to the latest Internet Explorer. Remember the New York mayhem of The Bourne Ultimatum? The climax of that film is used as an inciting incident here, as the arm of the U.S. Intelligence bureaucracy (represented chiefly by Edward Norton and Stacy Keach) that's working on taking the next step in enhanced humanity gets nervous and decides to shut down. Field agents are killed and a massacre is engineered at the research facility that's tracking the agents' medical status. (Prolific character actor Zeljko Ivanek is wasted as the scientist-turned-assassin.) A scientist named Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) escapes the shooting and becomes a partner as Cross races to secure more of the medication that's the source of his new abilities.

 I don't know if Tony Gilroy meant to build an implicit critique of the way America does its business into The Bourne Legacy; what is the film's "Outcome" program but an attempt to easily mass produce more Jason Bournes through pills? In any event, Gilroy's conception almost requires Cross to be something of a blank slate; an important plot point that goes by quickly is that Cross was only accepted into the army because a recruiter lied about his I.Q. Jeremy Renner happens to be good at playing men who don't think too hard about what they're capable of though, and he gives Cross some welcome notes of curiosity and decency. By the time Cross and Shearing are running from another government assassin (part of the next wave of souped-up hit men) Renner has done more than enough to establish Cross as someone worth saving. There are stretches of necessary procedure and exposition in the film, mostly involving the tracking of Cross and Shearing. On their end, Norton and Keach (along with Donna Murphy and Corey Stoll) find something harried and specific in their characters that turns what could have been a series of slam-on-the-breaks info dumps into scenes about urgently trying to stick a finger in a dam.

The climactic action scene in The Bourne Legacy is a chase through a Manila shanty town that's pulled off with skill if not with the flair Paul Greengrass brought to last two Bourne movies. We always know where the characters are in relation to each other and where they're going; that doesn't seem like too much to ask, does it? Who knows if the Aaron Cross character will be brought back, but he really doesn't need to be and that's part of the point. There is only one Jason Bourne, and he is still out there swimming.

1 comment:

andreasmoser said...

Am I the only one who is annoyed by the constant display of spooks sifting through e-mail, CCTV and satellite data in action movies? This was new in "Enemy of the State" in 1998, but it is not exciting any longer.

Bourne IV does not live up to the expectations.

I wish the franchise will continue, but the story has to develop beyond the original Ludlum books for it to succeed. The producers may contact me for my input: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2012/09/23/the-bourne-legacy/