The Bourne Legacy
Generation Kill 2.0: Dual assassins live parallel lives as a new Bourne hero emerges.
Thursday, August 9, 2012
Is it worth $10? Yes.
The Bourne Legacy takes the franchise in a smart and practical new direction, but due to a dragging, convoluted story it’s also not as good as its predecessors. For clarity: This is neither prequel nor sequel to the prior Bourne films, and it’s also not a reboot. The story in Legacy is concurrent with The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), the last of the Matt Damon-led trilogy.
Damon’s Jason Bourne is discussed often but never seen except in pictures, though his actions directly affect Jeremy Renner’s Aaron Cross. This is the movie’s first mistake. The way it plays it feels like Cross is living in Bourne’s world, which is bad because we need to believe Cross’ story is worthy of standing on its own.
Fans of the series will recall that Bourne was part of a secret government program that trained him to be an assassin. Cross receives the third and most advanced generation of this training, so it comes as a surprise to him to learn that he’s the target of government bigwig Eric Byer (Edward Norton), who’s eliminating all phases of the program. Because Cross needs special pills to maintain his abilities, while on the run he tracks down Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), who was previously responsible for monitoring and administering the medication.
The action and Renner’s performance are strong, in part because Cross uses his brains as well as his brawn to escape perilous situations. When Cross is first pinned down in the Alaskan mountains, note the clever way he uses camouflage, his tracking device and, yes, a wolf. This and other action sequences are nicely paced and exciting, and comprise the film’s finest moments.
If only the script by writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton) and his brother Dan Gilroy didn’t have so many holes. There’s a murder spree in Shearing’s lab that is never explained, constant references to “Treadstone,” “Blackbriar” and “Outcome” will leave those not readily familiar with the original trilogy a bit lost, and there are flashbacks to Cross’ early days in the program that add little to the story. In fact, there’s much that should’ve been trimmed to cut the 135-minute running time to a more comfortable two hours.
Most inexcusable, however, is the ending. The villain comes out of nowhere, as if the Gilroys didn’t know how to end the story so they threw a supposedly equal bad guy in Cross’ way. As a result the chase sequence is exhilarating but doesn’t feel climactic or conclusive. It’s never a compliment to say the ending is a surprise only because nobody expects the movie to be over.
Of course the intention is to set up for a sequel, perhaps including Matt Damon. To an extent that’s fine and expected, and there are enough good things here that warrant further exploration. But The Bourne Legacy is also a step down from what fans of the franchise are used to, so getting that sequel is very much in doubt.
THE BOURNE LEGACY (2½) • Directed by Tony Gilroy • Starring Jeremy Renner, Edward Norton, Rachel Weisz, Scott Glenn • Rated PG-13 • 135 min. • At Century Cinemas Del Monte, Maya Cinemas, Northridge Cinemas, Lighthouse Cinemas, Cannery Row XD.