With Renner this legacy is Bourne again
One reason popular spy-action thrillers work is their sound formula and ability to deliver direct hits to the expectations of their fan base. The Bond franchise has survived protagonist changes and an argument could be made that the “Mission Impossible” series could thrive even if someone other than Tom Cruise took the lead. From the looks of it, the Bourne series, now in its fourth installment, will undoubtedly live on despite the departure of Matt Damon, who was immensely popular in the previous films.
While new hero Jeremy Renner (“The Hurt Locker”) is no Damon, he puts his own impenetrable spin on a Jason Bourne contemporary, covert operative Aaron Cross.
The first 30 minutes of “Bourne Legacy” are as complex as they are inter-continental. Don’t be too dismayed by the head-spinning shifts from Alaska, England, Virginia, South Korea as well as the plot points that only hint at the multiple political schemes in play involving Treadstone, Blackbriar, CIA cover-ups and “meds” that make super agents out of misfits.
Once the action kicks in, this installment not only successfully links to the previous films (to the credit of Director Tony Gilroy, who has also written all of the films’ scripts) but contains some of the most well-orchestrated action sequences in the franchise thus far. A farmhouse shootout is riveting, a lab massacre feels eerily current, and a pedestrian parkour infused foot chase is spectacularly well-choreographed. Only the high-speed motorcycle sequence in Manila feels a little over the top, but that’s a minor flaw in a production where little feels contrived.
Best of all is the addition of talented beauty Rachel Weisz as Dr. Marta Shearing – a microbiologist who by necessity becomes a fugitive with Aaron and is superbly credible as a fragile innocent with enough inner strength not to slow down him down. Her character might be one of the most believable and interesting accomplices in recent memory. Here’s to casting Oscar-nominated actors in such roles.
With Renner as a grittily capable soldier on the run, Weisz as his convincing road buddy, and Edward Norton as Colonel Eric Byer, the cold-blooded bureaucrat who wants to eliminate all of the “outcome” operatives as part of the program shutdown, “The Bourne Legacy” nicely overlaps the previous films while carving a name of its own.
Creator Robert Ludlum may have had little to do with this outing (indeed, the source material is a novel written by Eric Van Lustbeder), but the spirit of his vision, in the right hands, still makes for intriguing adventure.
Rated PG-13 for violence and intense action sequences.