10 August 2012

The Bourne Legacy

Jeremy Renner is shown in a scene from "The Bourne Legacy."
How many times have you seen the fourth installment in a Hollywood franchise and left the theater thinking, "I hope I don't have to wait long for part five?"

It doesn't take long to count to zero.

But Tony Gilroy, screenwriter of the first three "Bourne films," should create that kind of anticipating with "The Bourne Legacy," which he directed and co-wrote with his brother, Dan Gilroy.

Like the films that preceded it, this is a movie that, even its (brief) quieter passages, is all about momentum. Things are happening, the good guys are on the move, the bad guys are closing in. Its pulse never drops, its pace never relents.

Gilroy might even take that edge-of-your-seat feeling a little too far, barely offering a moment to breathe before the end credits start to roll rather abruptly. Maybe that just goes to show how completely I was wrapped up in the movie's action to that point.

Without Matt Damon and, thus, the series' namesake, Jason Bourne, a new hero steps to the fore, Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), an agent of the super-secret Operation Outcome. Treadstone, the program that produced Bourne, was just the beginning, you see, and after Bourne exposes it, the CIA is quick to dismantle its similar black ops programs, which includes eliminating its field agents.

We meet Aaron Cross during a training exercise in the Alaskan wilderness. He swims in icy waters, climbs mountains, fends off angry wolves, draws blood samples from his body and takes daily medication, which we later learn is enhancing both his physical and mental capabilities.

Naturally (or we wouldn't have a movie), he survives the attempt on his life, just as Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), a key figure in the genetic science behind Operation Outcome, survives an office massacre designed to take her out of the picture. The two become allies in an attempt to find a solution to Cross's lack of meds and, more importantly, to simply stay alive.

The mystery of the earlier movies is not present here—Cross knows exactly who he is and why he joined the program—so we're left with a straightforward action picture.

Edward Norton is Eric Byer, the man coordinating the search for Cross; they have a personal history, though its ramifications, presumably, are to be explored in a future film. Norton is mostly wasted, spending the bulk of his time barking orders in rooms filled with men in suits and ties, computers and large video screens.

Renner comes off much better. With "Mission:Impossible — Ghost Protocol" and "The Avengers" on his resume, he knows his way around an action movie, and he brings an intense physical presence to the screen. Cross also is far more loquacious than Bourne ever was, offering Renner the chance to give him something of a personality.

But, of course, we watch these movies primarily for the action, and with blessedly real stunts instead of green screen/CGI work, that is what "The Bourne Legacy" delivers best.

Greg’s Grade: B

(Rated PG-13 for violence and action sequences. 135 minutes.)

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