The Bourne Legacy

August, 2012, Thriller

Directed by:Tony Gilroy


Writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton, The Bourne Trilogy) can be forgiven for revisiting familiar territory in this latest examination of espionage paranoia - - after all, he penned the screenplay for its three predecessors, based on characters developed by novelist Robert Ludlum. In this outing, Gilroy takes his audience beyond the confines of the novel by switching heroes. Matt Damon’s conflicted Jason Bourne has been consigned to the cinematic netherworld and replaced by Aaron Cross, (Jeremy Renner) first seen in precisely the same translucent watery shroud that enveloped Bourne in the last movie-an appropriately sly reference by the director to all three films that proceed this effort. 

But Legacy ups the ante for its scientifically-enhanced & mentally reprogrammed agents; Cross and a cadre of post-Bourne operatives have been enhanced by a genetic cocktail of mental & physical additives which must be ingested on a regular basis, lest they regress into much less than they were originally. Their continued maintenance is overseen by a small team of scientists working for a corporation based in New York that includes Dr. Marta Shearing, (Rachel Weisz) a molecular researcher charged with keeping these human mutations in precarious chemical balance.

 Bourne’s previous escapades have convinced the government it needs to shut down several programs which have created Bourne-type agents; that task is consigned to Eric Bayer (Ed Norton) a retired Air Force colonel whose connection to both private sector and senior government officials gives him unlimited access to the human talent and technology necessary to quietly assassinate those operatives currently deployed.

 But thanks to no small supply of skills and a bit of luck, Cross survives his handlers' attempts to kill him and pieces together what they have in mind. His dilemma is simple; with all resources arrayed against him, how can he “drop off the grid” without first obtaining an adequate supply of the medications which sustain him?

 With this plot contrivance, Legacy shifts from fear of unknown opponents (the lemotif of The Bourne Trilogy) to fear of dependence on those who control the drugs needed for his survival. In that process, the script loses much of the tension contained in its predecessors, becoming instead a race against time as Cross seeks to gain access to the pills he needs for survival. That’s a storyline whose antecedents date back at least to 1950 and the classic crime drama D.O.A. But what this version lacks in originality, it more than makes up for with deft character sketches and references to the chicanery of the three previous films. (Note: this outing’s far more entertaining if you have a working knowledge of its predecessors.)

  Renner’s Cross has a no nonsense, working-class appeal that contrasts nicely with Matt Damon’s more cerebral Jason Bourne and Rachel Weisz manages to make the pseudo-scientific explanations of Renner’s enhanced abilities sound a lot more plausible than they have any right to. As Renner’s bureaucratic nemesis, Ed Norton employs his capacity for seething intensity to perfection; it’s a shame this exceptionally talented actor can’t find roles that properly allow him to display his considerable skills.

 While the movie’s action sequences range from mediocre to excellent, Legacy makes it plain that Gilroy’s skills behind the camera don’t equal those of either Doug Liman (who directed the original Bourne film) or Paul Greenglass who helmed the last two. That’s especially true of this film’s climatic chase sequence, which goes on far too long, in the process dissipating what little overall energy it possessed.

 Gilroy’s style would have better suited Matt Damon’s Bourne, but that’s another story…perhaps one the Gilroy family can address; their fingerprints are all over this movie; one brother (Dan) co-wrote the script, another brother (John) edited the film and Tony’s son Sam played a supporting role.

 The Verdict? More thoughtful yet less compulsively exciting than its forerunners, but still a much better than average example of the genre.



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