For me, the legacy of the Bourne saga has become a bit convoluted and confusing, that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the first couple of movies, starring Matt Damon, because I did. I also enjoyed the new film, The Bourne Legacy, now starring Jeremy Renner (but not as Jason Bourne). But I missed the last Bourne film (The Bourne Ultimatum – 2007) and I’ve never read any of the Robert Ludlum novels on which the films are based (very loosely from what I understand), so I was a little puzzled with parts of the latest Bourne adventure.
Aaron Cross (Renner) is an assassin and part of the same clandestine “super-soldier” program that produced Jason Bourne, the badass secret agent that went rogue in the first films and gave his government handlers in the Treadstone operation the “don’t tread on me” treatment. Apparently these government killers are created with performance-enhancement drugs which give them heightened senses, strength and intelligence.
After the problems that were incurred with Jason Bourne (in the previous stories), Operation Treadstone is shut down and its operatives are killed-off by being given poison instead of their usual dose of super-drugs, that is everyone except for Cross, who is on a training mission deep in the northern wilderness, where he accidentally has lost some of his prescribed pills – inadvertently weaning himself off of the medicine.
It turns out that after taking the super-pills for a long period their effects on your body become permanent, so Cross manages to retain some of his abilities, but is becoming ill from his lack of a second (Part-B) prescription. So he saves the life of a Treadstone doctor (Rachel Weisz) and enlists her help to quell his withdrawal symptoms and make the second pill’s effects permanent as well. It’s the only way Cross can protect and save their lives.
So you are probably starting to get my drift when I say that The Bourne Legacy is slightly perplexing. But this is still a very satisfying action-adventure film with thrilling stunts and an extended edge-of-your-seat motorcycle chase through the bustling streets of Manila. It has the same sort of realistic fight sequences and parkour-style escapes that made the previous Bourne movies successful – just be sure to disengage your brain before entering the theater.
Jeremy Renner, who played Hawkeye in this summer’s The Avengers film, is a fine action star with potential to be really big – given the right role. His portrayal of Aaron Cross in this movie certainly showcases his physical prowess as well as some pretty decent acting chops, but I doubt that The Bourne Legacy is going to be the breakthrough starring role that the actor deserves.
The rest of the very good cast in this film includes Stacy Keach and Edward Norton as Treadstone military officers, together with small parts by Albert Finney, Joan Allen and Scott Glenn, all reprising their respective roles as government officials from the previous films. This Bourne movie was written & directed by Tony Gilroy, who was involved with the other Bourne movies and also did the much better film, Michael Clayton (2007).
For pure entertainment value, The Bourne Legacy is an exhilarating and fast-paced thriller, albeit with some slightly wacky plot elements. It’s definitely worth a big bag of popcorn on a Saturday morning screening, but I still want to see Renner in something where he can really shine and not just retread the steps of another character and actor.