- The Bourne Legacy. Directed and co-written by Tony Gilroy. Starring Jeremy Renner and Rachel Weisz.
Rating: 6 (out of 10).
READY to be Bourne again?
It means letting go of some old friends (Julia Stiles, in the first three films) and accepting a new power into your life (that'd be Jeremy Renner) while waiting for the possible second coming of Matt Damon.
Damon's no dummy: he bowed out of the franchise while it was still relatively hot, in deference to director Paul Greengrass and to pursue other projects. But Legacy's script leaves plenty of room for him to re-enter the picture should this fourth instalment prove a hit. Based on last winter's frosty reviews of We Bought a Zoo, Damon might want to seriously consider adding a few more stamps to Jason Bourne's passport.
Renner is a more than suitable replacement, though setting the story within six weeks of Bourne turning up in Moscow (and with many of the other films' supporting players) means that we're looking expectantly for Damon around every corner. What we get is a passport photo and a bit of Bourne's graffiti, nothing more.
The beginning is very Bourney, with Renner floating facedown in a body of water. It seems that he is an agent in a Treadstone offshoot program, and he's been sent to do an Amazing Race-type training exercise in the wilds of Alaska because he's been a naughty agent.
While fending off packs of wolves and crevassejumping, the agent - whose name turns out to be Aaron Cross - keeps popping blue and green pills. These, we learn, are what keeps him smarter and stronger than the average man, and Aaron is Jonesing for more.
Alas, Jason Bourne's very public outing means shutting down all Treadstone-related secret ops because "This CIA mess has metastasized into other programs," according to an omnipotent government suit called Eric Byer (Edward Norton), and "shutting down" is a euphemism for killing off all nine of the program's participants, one by one.
There's also a related workplace incident, after which Dr. Marta Shearling (Rachel Weisz) finds herself a target too. Cross initially contacts Marta for more of those magic meds but stays because he feels that he has to protect her, and because their paths have crossed 13 times previously, which is apparently the longest relationship Cross has had with a woman.
Cross won't die without the pills, but there's a rather poignant reason he needs them. But poignant or no, the quest for drugs or a viral panacea proves flimsy against, say, Jason Bourne's need to plow through his amnesia to rediscover his past, and seek revenge for having been used as a governmental guinea pig. Cross seems to have no such need to get to the truth; he just doesn't want to lose any more IQ points.
Beta programs, the JSOC: it's all a little muddy for the first third of the film, during the laborious setup, while various agencies finger-point and gaze into computer screens. (And we get brief glimpses of David Strathairn, Joan Allen, Scott Glenn and Albert Finney).
Weisz livens things up, even if her job consists of looking pliable, sweaty and bewildered most of the time. Renner draws on some of his Hurt Locker intensity for his role, though we wish he had more soul-searching and less motorcycling on the streets of Manila (a key but overlong action sequence). We believe in their slow-cooking romance, but not in the rushed ending, which resolves little but leaves plenty of sequel room.