Movies: "The Bourne Legacy" | Arts & Culture

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Movies: "The Bourne Legacy"
Movies: "The Bourne Legacy"


The fourth movie in the Bourne series is missing two of the basic elements that made the last two films so memorable: director Paul Greengrass, whose rock-’em-sock-’em camera style revitalized the action movie genre, and the series’ star, Matt Damon, who gave the character of amnesiac agent Jason Bourne heart and soul.


Instead, we have Jeremy Renner, who thrilled in “The Hurt Locker” but displays few emotions here other than anger, in a film directed by Bourne screenwriter Tony Gilroy, whose best-known movie before this was the estimable but slow-moving “Michael Clayton.” (Gilroy co-wrote this outing with his brother Dan;  the movies are based on the novels by crappy spy writer Robert Ludlum.)


“Legacy” begins just as the storyline of the last movie, “The Bourne Ultimatum,” is coming to an end.  We see all sorts of high-level spooks, primarily Edward Norton and Stacy Keach, trying to control the chaos that Jason Bourne unleashed in the earlier pictures.  Their decision is to terminate the entire program (originally code-named “Treadstone,” now known as “Outcome”) that created a cadre of superhuman spies, among them Aaron Cross (Renner) and the scientists who helped develop them, including Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz).


The action cuts back and forth from Washington to far-flung regions of the globe, including wintry Alaska, where Cross is on some sort of training exercise.  When he narrowly escapes a drone attack, he doubles back to DC to get more of the meds he needs to keep his abilities at peak levels.  Yes, this iteration of Bourne is a pill junkie.  He arrives just in time to rescue Dr. Shearing from assassination, and the two of them set off, pursued by the minions of the secretive spy agency headed by Norton and Keach.  "We are sin eaters," remarks Norton.  "Morally indefensible but abolutely necessary."


Before it all ends, Cross and Shearing will be chased through the alleys of Manila by an even more powerful super-spy, much as Arnold Schwarzenegger was by the shape-shifting robo-killer played by Robert Patrick in “Terminator 2: Judgement Day.”  So the once realistic Bourne series has reached its inevitable conclusion: science fiction.  


Small wonder that the departing Greengrass suggested that this movie be titled “The Bourne Redundancy.”


Renner is a terrific actor and performs a lot of his own stunts here.  The problem is, he just doesn’t have much personality.  Weisz is a talented actress as well, but she doesn’t have much to do here but look imperiled.  And there are some high-level cameo performances as well, from the likes of David Strathairn, Joan Allen, Scott Glenn and Albert Finney (!), none of which contribute one whit to the movie.


Tony Gilroy does his best with the action sequences, including a seemingly endless motorcycle chase, but there is little of the visceral style that Greengrass brought to the series.  He may be at his best showing the workings of a drone attack operation, but like much of the rest of the movie, this consists primarily of people sitting at computer monitors -- hardly an action movie trope.  “Legacy” leaves the door open for yet another sequel, but unless they bring back Greengrass and Damon, I hope it goes no further.


“The Bourne Legacy” is rated PG-13 for its violence, which is fairly tame except for an excruciating mass murder at a science lab.  


I give it a B-Minus.

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