Directed by: Tony Gilroy
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton
Rated: PG-13 for violence and action sequences
Jason Bourne is familiar to folks who love movies about international intrigue, spies, and highly-trained assassins. Matt Damon brought us the amnesiac operative in three films, tracing Bourne’s journey as he recovered from near-drowning, got some of his memory back, and confronted his creators at the CIA. “The Bourne Legacy” brings us a new hero in the same world, a subject in a program similar to Bourne’s, whose life is torn apart as a result of Bourne’s actions.
Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is a subject in an intense, secret training program, one which uses genetic manipulation to turn average (and even below-average) soldiers into highly intelligent, physically-superior assassins. Bourne’s activities have sent everyone at the CIA scurrying for cover, and the higher-ups decide to scrap Cross’s program — which means getting rid of anything to do with it, including the subjects and the scientists who work on them.
Cross survives, and rescues one of the researchers, Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz). Cross’s only hope of long-term survival is to have the changes the program created using daily medication made permanent, something Shearing knows how to do. For that procedure, however, they need material currently housed halfway around the world. Meanwhile, of course, the CIA is trying desperately to cut them off and kill them.
Like the other Bourne films, this has nothing to do with the Bourne novels, but it’s very entertaining if you’re willing to set aside your disbelief and accept that two pills a day can turn a sub-par average Joe into a brilliant superhuman fighter. There’s lots of political scheming behind the scenes by the powers-that-be who control Cross’s program, and plenty of action as Cross and Shearing try to survive long enough to get Cross permanently adjusted.
Things take a little bit to get started, but once it’s on, it’s on. There are chase scenes on foot, on motorcycles, you name it. There are shootouts and hand-to-hand combat fights and even a very tense sequence where Cross must outsmart a missile-firing drone. This is an exciting flick, and although the credits sure give the impression that it’s packed to the brim with special effects, it doesn’t look at all like it is. That’s a testament to the quality of both the effects and the filmmakers’ use of them.
Renner keeps giving action-movie crowds glimpses of his range as an actor, and “The Bourne Legacy” is no exception. Aaron Cross is a very driven man, for reasons that only become clear as the film progresses. Weisz delivers a solid performance as a scientist dragged out of her element and forced to leave everything she knows. Shearing manages to overcome her initial damsel-in-distress status and become a surprisingly competent companion to our hero. It’s to be hoped that she doesn’t meet the same end as Bourne’s initial, competent companion in the seemingly-inevitable Cross-focused sequel.
“The Bourne Legacy” has a similar feel to the other films, in spite of Renner’s less everyman-ish appearance compared to Damon. This is an airplane novel on celluloid, a popcorn movie for folks who love thrillers. There are plenty of references to the other “Bourne” films, but you don’t need to have seen them in order to enjoy this new one. All you need is to pay a little attention and be willing to suspend your disbelief.