Recycled thrills still pretty good
The Bourne Legacy
Starring Jeremy Renner, Edward Norton, Rachel Weisz, Stacy Keach. Screenplay by Tony Gilroy and Dan Gilroy. Directed by Tony Gilroy. 135 minutes, rated M (violence), showing at Reading Cinemas Porirua, Light House Pauatahanui. If it looks like Bourne, walks like Bourne, and talks like Bourne, it’s Bourne right? Not quite. Jeremy Renner has a pretty good go at filling the secret agent shoes Matt Damon considered too worn-out to wear again, in The Bourne Legacy, but the terrain he covers is painfully familiar.
Universal Studios was left holding a hot franchise with an uncertain future when Damon and director Paul Greengrass decided enough was enough after The Bourne Ultimatum. The story arc of amnesiac action man Jason Bourne was complete.
But three brilliant globetrotting spy thrillers were not enough for Universal, which was never likely to let its most successful active franchise end with Bourne leaping into the East River and swimming off to a new life.
As it turns out, while the CIA was busy trying to eliminate Bourne – a black ops killing machine intent on outing his architects – they also had their hands full covering their tracks on all manner of dodgy projects involving genetically- enhanced assassins should the Bourne scandal trace back to them.
This includes the extermination of agents in the field and science units, a task co-ordinated by stone cold colonel Eric Byer (an effectively prickly Edward Norton).
Escaping his net is Renner’s Aaron Cross, a fight-happy agent desperate for answers, and scientist Marta Shearing ( Rachel Weisz), who has been ignorant of the consequences of her lab work.
Cross tracks down Shearing, and the CIA chases them both. So far, so Bourne – too much so.
Director Tony Gilroy – who wrote the scripts for all four pictures – has retained the pace and plot structure of the earlier films, no doubt for cohesion. But it means a lot of ideas feel recycled or repeated, and the use of shots and out-takes from the earlier pictures may help with tone and placing the story in context, but it also makes it feel like we’re getting sloppy seconds.
Renner ( The Hurt Locker, The Avengers) is always great at conveying intensity and does a great job here, but less care has been taken to distinguish his character from the unstoppable, stockstandard action hero archetype.
I dearly missed the detail given to Jason Bourne’s smarts; the checking of maps and building plans. He needed to know where he was going. With Cross it’s more of a given that he’ll get there.
The Bourne Legacy is solid enough in that I’ll probably be back for another adventure should Cross’ storyline be continued.
But I’ll be quietly hoping he gets to cross paths with Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne.
Bourne this way: Jeremy Renner seeks a quick end to a motorcycle chase in The Bourne Legacy, in which he stars as a black ops agent on the run with Rachel Weisz.