THE BOURNE LEGACY (Dir. Tony Gilroy, 2012)
In retrospect, maybe it was a mistake for me to re-watch all of the Bourne movies recently in preparation for the new one.
To have those three fine fast-paced films so fresh in my brain, hurt more than helped for me to buy into a fourth film featuring neither star Matt Damon, nor director Paul Greengrass.
Especially when the connective tissue is that THE BOURNE LEGACY takes place during the events of the previous film, THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM (2007), with return appearances by David Strathairn, Scott Glenn, Albert Finney, and Joan Allen, all wrapped up in the vast conspiracy that’s a lot more confusing this time around.
“Jason Bourne was just the tip of the iceberg,” says series newcomer Edward Norton, as the corrupt CIA bigwig in charge of, well, everything, to enforce the continuity, but it rings hollow as it was a line said in the last movie.
It’s the justification that co-writer and director Tony Gilroy, who was the screen-writer of the other Bournes, and his brother Dan, give us to expand the series’ narrative, that the network of entangled secret government programs has various agents in the field, and here’s another one who is in confused conflict with his superiors. And his adventures are just as exciting so let's put up the Bourne banner for him too!
Jeremy Renner, racking up his third franchise after MISSION IMPOSSIBLE and THE AVENGERS, is that other agent, who has been genetically enhanced by a regimen of little green and blue pills prescribed by a top-security scientist played by Rachel Weisz, who also doesn’t know the full scope of what’s going on.
Count me with her - despite the fact that this is by far the talkiest Bourne, a lot of the exposition about the clusterf*** of evil operations just goes in one ear and out the other, as it’s obvious the film is more about its fight scenes and ginormous motorcycle chase climax through the streets of Manila, Philippines than its perplexing plot mechanics.
The stoic Renner, who is just as indestructible as his predecessor, has some impressive moves - one unbroken shot of him running/climbing up the side of a house, jumping through a window and shooting somebody might be the physical highlight of the movie.
Trouble is the film is too drawn out - it takes a while to get going as it cuts back and forth between Renner training in the arctic, and the well-groomed evil old men in the corridors of power trying to get a handle on what Bourne brought down on them. Then when some momentum is built, the film stalls then starts again, then stalls…
Renner and Weisz on the run does amount to a few thrills, the slick stylish look of the film (provided by master cinematographer Robert Elswit) is attractive, and the fiercely focused performance by Norton as the stop-at-nothing antagonist certainly has its merits, but Bourne without Bourne just doesn’t cut it.
This errant adaptation of the first of Eric Van Lustbader's continuation of the late Robert Ludlum's Bourne novels doesn't have enough action to satisfy action fans, and the project never quite gels plot-wise.
THE BOURNE LEGACY isn’t a boring or bad movie, it’s just not inspired enough to get it up to par with the rest of the series.
Although Damon and Greengrass wanted to make another Bourne, maybe they should be glad they got out when they did. The Gilroy brothers - a third brother, John Gilroy, edited the film - seem to be tapped out on this material.
After watching all four films in the last week, I know I am.