When the Bourne series premiered over a decade ago, it was groundbreaking and made Matt Damon a bona fide action star. It’s a gritty, grounded action film. The actions were realistically audacious. Instead of heavily stylized, longer range shots, the hand-to-hand combat seemed realistic and performed with bravado. The “parkouring” into compact spaces looked cool. And the chases and crashes were spectacular. At the same time, we’re also engrossed in a human story. We had a real hero, Jason Bourne, who’s not a superhero or James Bond, one that we cared about and rooted for.
Tony Gilroy, co-writer of the Bourne trilogy, takes the helm as director (replacing Paul Greengrass) this time with “The Bourne Legacy.” While Greengrass and Damon are out of the picture, ‘Legacy’ has some of the look and feel of a Bourne movie.
“There was never just one.” Jeremy Renner (“The Avengers“) is Aaron Cross a super agent of “Project Outcome.” The story runs parallel to the “Bourne Ultimatum,” where the powers pulling the strings behind the scene (Edward Norton and Stacey Keach), are in panic mode due to the threat of being exposed to the public, courtesy of Jason Bourne.
There are references to Operations Blackbriar and Project Treadstone from the trilogy. The impact of Jason’s actions reverberate throughout different government agencies. It’s severe enough that a decision is made to wipe out the programs as part of the cover-up, along with its super agents and the doctors who help create them. One of the doctors survives the massacre, Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz, “Runaway Jury“). Once Aaron and the good doctor realize that they have a deadly target on their back, they have no choice but to go on the run together. The story starts rather slow but once the first explosion and shooting rampage begin, it maintains its tense pace until the end.
Acting-wise, Norton is good as always. He does the best with the material he’s given. Weisz has a couple of intense scenes that stand out. Whereas Jason Bourne is a more appealing character, I think it’s also because he’s a real human being. Aaron Cross, while still human, is genetically-altered and chemically-dependent. He depends on “chems” or super pills to survive. The blue and green pills are part of the regiment to maintain the enhancements to his physical abilities and stamina, such as strength and agility, and mental capabilities, such as intelligence, sensory perceptions and pain suppression. Damon may be the only Jason Bourne, but Renner is a decent replacement. As a programmed operative, he shows rare moments of quiet desperation and vulnerability. And judging from his scene-stealing performance in “The Town“), Renner is capable of going further if provided with a more compelling script.
The actions, without a doubt, are the best parts of the movie. There are exhilarating extended sequences of foot and motorcyle chases throughout the tightly packed and frenzied streets of Manila and Bangkok, where Aaron and Marta attempt to outrun local police, SWAT team, and one particularly determined CIA super agent. The latter is almost comical in his Terminator-like determination to pursue and kill at all cost. Having Asia as a backdrop is a refreshing change of scenery from Europe.
In the end nothing is resolved; the movie is clearly set up for a sequel (think “Salt” from 2010 starring Angelina Jolie). While it may not be satisfactory, both protagonists seem to be in a good place – at least for now. I, for one, look forward to seeing the next chapter of Aaron Cross’ adventure.
Copyright (c) 2012. Nathalia Aryani.
Nathalia Aryani is a business manager, foreign language translator, travel/lifestyle writer and film columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Nathalia owns a movies blog, The MovieMaven (http://sdmoviemaven.blogspot.com). Twitter: http://twitter.com/the_moviemaven