Monday, August 13, 2012

Movie Review: “The Bourne Legacy”

The “Bourne” franchise is alive and well, but can we please get back Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass now?

**** out of 5
135 minutes
Rated PG-13 for violence and action sequences
Universal Pictures

Article first published as Movie Review: The Bourne Legacy on Blogcritics.

It was with great trepidation that I approached “The Bourne Legacy.” Co-writer/director Tony Gilroy has been in the hot seat with Matt Damon ever since he handed in his rough draft of “Ultimatum” and literally walked away. While Damon said he would not return to the Robert Ludlum franchise so long as Gilroy was involved, it didn’t stop Universal Pictures from marching on. Let’s be honest: every studio knows a good cash cow when they see one. So while “Legacy” may not necessarily bring anything truly new to the table, at least things haven’t gone so awry that it can’t be salvaged by pairing up new star Jeremy Renner with Damon in a hopeful faceoff.

The Bourne Legacy” begins essentially the same as “Ultimatum” did. Journalist Simon Ross (Paddy Considine) has been gunned down at London’s Waterloo station and Jason Bourne (a seen-only-in-photograph Damon) has come to New York. What begins now is a side story (or “flash sideways” as I call it, thanks to “Lost”) that runs parallel to the events in “Ultimatum.” This time the story focuses its attention on new Blackbriar “Participant” Aaron Cross (Renner) who is on his own in the Alaskan wilderness popping blue and green pills, taking his own blood samples, and fending off wolves. We learn that he’s on disciplinary action when he meets up with another participant of the program at a cabin in the woods.

It’s not long before the cabin is blown to smithereens and Cross steals a plane headed back to the States. Meanwhile, Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) is performing her scientific duties to the program in a lab at Sterisyn-Morlanta. Before you know it, Dr. Donald Foite (Zeljko Ivanek) goes berserk and guns down five of the lab staff before he turns the gun on himself. Back at home, Marta is visited by grief counselors but not before they turn a gun on her in what is supposed to wind up looking like a suicide but, just in time, Cross comes busting in on the scene. Now Marta’s home is engulfed in flames and Retired Col. Eric Byer, USAF (Edward Norton) is hot on their tails while Cross and Marta take off on a global trek to find Cross some more “chems” (i.e. medication) and maybe even wean himself off and out of the program.

There’s plenty more to the “Bourne” series left to unfold, but it takes Gilroy forever to give up the goods. We know the story is part of it all, but why not throw in some more action as well? There are plenty of chances for Renner to show off his feats of gravity, but this episode sure is talky and maybe even a little too “scientific” for its own good. Gilroy, writing with his brother Dan, thinks that the story is why most people are there. And when you have cinematographer Robert Elswit (“Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”) at your disposal, you should put his expertise to better use. Although the end chase is quite a doozy—even if we’ve waited just a little too long for it.

Without Damon on board, I have to say, we don’t need a reboot a mere 10 years later, especially when everything takes place during the exact timeframe of the last film. Let alone the fact that it feels like it’s all leading up to some big reveal to really tie it up nicely within the context of the other films, but once the grand finale chase scene is over, it’s just that, over. In the end, this feels like a midsection, the same way most second films do during a trilogy, except that obviously Universal wants this to be more of a long running series—which is fine. And I probably sound more negative than I feel about the film; believe me, most of it is intense, riveting stuff. But now that we have “The Bourne Legacy” out of the way, it’s time to give us fans something a bit more than just another origin story.

Photos courtesy Universal Pictures

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