KATHMANDU: The Bourne Legacy is Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) and like his predecessor the actual Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), it’s about a spy with his mind altered.
I write this having seen it in a multiplex. It was slower than the first three Bourne movies because of writer/director Tony Gilroy. It had a slow but steady elegance to it. The reason I went was because I have been a Robert Ludlum fan for years, from after he left producing films to writing. I truly liked The Bourne Identity and even saw the television miniseries with Richard Chamberlain. Damon was better.
Do the Bourne movies make any sense? Enough. The first three films — The Bourne Identity, Supremacy, and Ultimatum — throw in just enough detail into the covert ops babble and high-speed action that, by the end, Jason Bourne comes out an emotional character with an evident mission. A “sidequel” to the original trilogy, Legacy follows super soldier Aaron Cross as he runs, jumps, and shoots his way out of the hands of his government captors. The film is identical to its predecessors; political intrigue, chase scenes, morally ambiguous CIA agents monitoring their man-on-the-run from a computer-filled HQ — a Bourne movie through and through. But Legacy has to dig deeper to find new ground to cover, introducing elements of sci-fi into the equation.
Damon’s Bourne spent three blockbusters uncovering his past, erased by the assassin training programme Treadstone. Renner’s Alex Cross has a similar do-or-die mission, Cross’ own training programme, Outcome, is terminated. Unlike Bourne, Cross is enhanced by “chems” (essentially steroid drugs) that keep him alive and kicking ass. When Outcome is ended, Cross goes rogue to stay alive and find more pills. Steeped heavily in the plot lines of the established mythology, Bourne Legacy jumps back and forth between Cross and the clean up job of the movie’s big bad (Edward Norton) and his elite squad of suits. The movie balances a lot of moving parts and the adventure feels sprawling. Actress Rachel Weisz, vibrant in nearly every role she takes on, plays a chemist who is key to Cross’ chemical woes. The two are forced into partnership. Cross is tailored to the actor’s strengths — a darker, more aggressive character than Damon’s Bourne.
Writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton, Duplicity, and the screenwriter of the previous three movies) is a master of dense language, but his style choices can’t breath life into the 21st century epic speak. In the film’s necessary car chase, Gilroy mimics the loose camera style of Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass without fully embracing it.
Sort of a sequel, The Bourne Legacy is not easy to peg as a follow-up to the original Matt Damon trilogy. Except for this: it’s a heckuva satisfying spy picture, an ingenious expansion on the Bourne universe that also meets the expectations of a multiplex title circa 2012. (Plenty of action to go with the espionage talk, in other words.) Jeremy Renner takes centre stage as Aaron Cross, an agent groomed by the government programme that also unleashed Jason Bourne, but with a few new wrinkles. Cross is busy training in Alaska when he’s caught in a tsunami of hurt, thus beginning a frantic search for answers that leads to a mad motorcycle chase through the streets of Manila. Kudos to writer-director Tony Gilroy, who scripted the other Bourne installments — he brings his knack for crafting intelligent, complicated stories and zingy dialogue to good use, while simultaneously announcing himself as a potential James Bond director. But the movie’s a humdinger anyway: not exactly Bourne again, but something distinct to itself.