Directed by: Tony Gilroy.
Written by: Tony Gilroy & Dan Gilroy.
Starring: Jeremy Renner (Aaron Cross), Rachel Weisz (Dr. Marta Shearing), Edward Norton (Retired Col. Eric Byer, USAF), Stacy Keach (Retired Adm. Mark Turso, USN), Dennis Boutsikaris (Terrence Ward), Scott Glenn (Ezra Kramer), Corey Stoll (Zev Vendel), Neil Brooks Cunningham (Dr. Dan Hillcott), Zeljko Ivanek (Dr. Donald Foite), Albert Finney (Dr. Albert Hirsch), David Strathairn (Noah Vosen), Louis Ozawa Changchien (LARX #3).
Through the first three films in the series, the Bourne movies represent modern, American action cinema at its finest – especially the two installments directed by Paul Greengrass. Yes, Greengrass likes to use the shaky camera work and rapid fire editing that I often find annoying, but he does it better than just about anyone else working right now. When The Bourne Ultimatum came out in 2007, it seemed like a good place to end the series – it brought the series to a fitting conclusion, and nothing more really needed to be done. But movie studios don’t like to leave a profitable franchise until they have wrung every last box office dollar out of it. So, after a five year layoff, the Bourne movies are back – but without Jason Bourne, and perhaps even worse news for the franchise, without Paul Greengrass. Instead of Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne, the trained assassin with amnesia, we get Jeremy Renner’s Aaron Cross, who knows exactly who he is, but is still on the run because Bourne has become a news story, and the government needs to clean up the mess he has created – including the program that Bourne led to, which Cross was a part of. And instead of a great action filmmaker like Greengrass, this film was co-written and directed by Tony Gilroy (who has writing credits on the previous three Bourne movies), whose only directorial credits are the brilliant legal drama Michael Clayton, and the comedic heist picture Duplicity. And yet, while I know that this movie is in many ways just a cynical attempt to make money off a franchise that has reached its natural conclusion, and while I will admit that the film is not nearly as good as any of the previous Bourne movies, I do have to admit that The Bourne Legacy works. This movie is much better than it really should be.
Much of the credit for the success of the movie is due to Jeremy Renner, who had big shoes to fill in the lead role, and does an excellent job. Renner has a natural believability about him – most likely forged in his years as a character actor before The Hurt Locker made him a star. Renner has to perform physical feats that are, logically, impossible, but because he has an effortless charm, and look of fierce determination, you do believe him. You also like him, which isn’t an easy thing considering we know that he voluntarily turned himself into a killing machine. Still, you root for him, which is essential in this movie. He is ably supported by the rest of the cast. Rachel Weisz, an actress I run hot and cold on, hits the right notes as a doctor who finds herself in way over her head, and having to depend on Aaron for her life. And Edward Norton and Stacy Keach are well cast as the two head government honchos bad guys because both are capable of appearing to be really bad guys – and that’s all that is required of them. And that great TV baddie Zeljko Ivanek may have a small role, but it is unforgettable, as he goes on one of those infamous work place shooting sprees, which is simply chilling – even more so given recent events.
And it also must be said that Gilroy acquits himself quite nicely behind the camera. On the basis of his first three films, it doesn’t appear like he has much of an original style behind the camera, but he does quite ably steal from Greengrass – using a little less shaky camera work and rapid fire editing, but still incorporating enough of it that this movie certainly feels like a member of the same series as the previous films.
The Bourne Legacy cannot possibly have the same impact as the previous films in the Bourne series, simply because this is now the fourth time were seeing it. And yet, as a film unto itself, it works quite nicely. It is exciting, well-acted and not quite as dumb as most action movies. It also has one of the best car chases (ok, motorcycle chase) in recent memory. No, The Bourne Legacy is not a great film, but it is an entertaining action film.