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The Bourne Legacy Is An Overall Solid Addition to the Series

The Bourne Legacy
Directed by Tony Gilroy
Written by Gilroy and Dan Gilroy based on the series by Robert Ludlum
Universal, 2012

What we have with The Bourne Legacy is not unlike what we dealt with a month or so ago with The Amazing Spider-Man.  And even though The Bourne Legacy doesn’t re-tell an origin story, it’s an origin story nonethless, with the events of The Bourne Trilogy setting this movie’s story into motion.  Tony Gilroy takes the director’s chair with this one, following Doug Liman and Paul Greengrass, but Gilroy has always been a part of the Bourne series: he’s written all the scripts.

Gilroy as director has the excellent Michael Clayton and the underrated Duplicity to his name.  He has an old-fashioned style, something of a 70’s throwback, which is a good thing.  Which is why it’s odd that when the action gets really intense, he decides to use extreme close-up, MTV-edited action.  That’s my biggest complaint about this movie, which overall is pretty good.  It isn’t up to the standard of the previous films, but it does have a lot to like.

Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is our new hero.  He’s in a remote wilderness area, completing his training.  We know that elsewhere, Jason Bourne (played in the previous films by Matt Damon) is doing his thing: messing up the CIA black operation Treadstone’s plans.  This brings military men Eric Byer (Edward Norton) and Mark Turso (Stacy Keach) into the fray to orchestrate a way to kill all the remaining would-be assassins in the program.  Cross is in a bad situation: all the trainees take medications that keep them functioning at a high level, and he’s lost his, and apparently it’s a nightmare if he doesn’t get these meds soon.  That and military guys are trying to kill him.

Enter Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), a scientist who has been delivering the meds to the trainees, and endures a strange incident at work and is now being surveilled/hunted/possibly killed herself.  Cross finds Shearing and the chase is on, as the two need to make a trip to Manila in order to find his meds or possibly ween him off of them.

That’s pretty much the story, which is why this movie is currently sitting around 60% on Rotten Tomatoes and not much higher.  There is some hinting here and there of “more of the story” and lots and lots of secrets, but The Bourne Legacy keeps its cards close to the vest, as it is trying to rebuild a franchise and add intrigue for future sequels.  But for the most part, this is intense and gripping: especially the first half of the film.  Gilroy knows how to ramp up tension and give you an uneasy feeling, and all the actors bring their A game here, including Norton, who hasn’t shown up in movies in a long while (now he has this and Moonrise Kingdom as a great example that the guy still has it).

Renner is a good action star and actor, although his demeanor in every film I’ve seen him in recently: Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol and The Avengers has been completely without humor.  We know a more engaging Renner exists, but he’s being pigeon-holed into damaged, brooding characters.

Not likely to be held in the same esteem as the previous Bourne movies, but this is really good overall.

Follows: The Bourne Ultimatum

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