By Tim Posada, 8/16/2012
Ludicrous chase scenes, inhuman combat, Big Brother trying to capture the underdog, and a pretty damsel along for the ride. Bourne is back, sort of, and he’s got just as good a punch, again sort of, as ever. The legacy will continue.
The Jason Bourne espionage thrillers remain some of the most vibrant, complex and suspenseful films of their kind. So when news hit that Matt Damon would not reprise perhaps his best role to date, there was more than just an air of disappointment and concern.
Say hello to Jeremy Renner, who puts our minds at ease. “The Bourne Legacy” might not live up to its predecessors (maybe “The Bourne Supremacy”), but a three-quarters-strength Bourne can still parkour — just like the many agents in these films — circles around the A-Team, the latest Bonds, and whatever less-than-inspired spies Hollywood yawns out.
Remember the good old days in “The Bourne Identity” when Operation Treadstone was all we had to worry about? Well, that “was just the tip of the iceberg,” as our new ops leader, retired Col. Eric Byer (Edward Norton), says as he sets out to erase Outcome — a special program that essentially tries to turn Jason Bourne’s abilities into green pills for strength and blue pills for intelligence (hello Morpheus, oh wait, that was red and blue pills) — and all parties linked to it. But these mysterious government officials greatly underestimated agent Aaron Cross (Renner), our new Bourne agent. After a failed cancellation, Cross seeks out the doctor who controls his meds, Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), and together they do their best to avoid the powers that be. Low on pills and with all the resources of the world’s superpower looking for them, it doesn’t look good.
The film has two faults: the storyline becomes exhaustively convoluted from the get go, which leads to the second fault, disjointed connections to the former films. At the start, “Legacy” spends quite a bit of time jumping around when there were plenty of ways to get to the point with half the scene jumps. I imagine longtime screenwriter and now director, Tony Gilroy, felt the need to ensure people would get the connections with former films, but all he really needed to do was show something very simple: a secret government program was compromised, thus D.C. needed to clean up the mess in a very violent way. Cue our hero’s escape and attempt to gain the upper hand.
Second, “Legacy” attempts to connect characters from the former films like Pam Landy (Joan Allen), Noah Vosen (David Straithairn) and Dr. Albert Hirsch (Albert Finney) in what can only be described as awkward cameos. In fact, their appearance in the trailer is practically the entirety of their appearance in the film. Either include them in the film or don’t bother.
Those criticisms aside, when “Legacy” gets going, it packs the same punch in combat and chase sequences, even if the final showdown leaves something to be desired. Between the camera work, style of action and narrative structure, it all feels familiar but not to a fault.
Since “The Hurt Locker”, Renner proved he’s a new face to look for, and this year he solidifies his role as an action hero in “The Avengers” and “Legacy”. Rather than channeling Damon’s introverted, tortured soul, Renner adds a dash of humor to an otherwise laughless franchise. In short, Renner’s the man.
“Legacy” is not a solo film but the start of an entirely new “Bourne” saga. However, if I speak prematurely, then what we have is an incredibly incomplete story that remains to be continued for all eternity. Let’s hope for the former, and let’s hope Damon comes back to create a fighting duo no spy film ever attempts…two people in the lead.