The Bourne Legacy (Universal)
Rated PG-13 for violence and action sequences.
Starring Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Joan Allen, David Strathairn, Albert Finney, Scott Glenn, Oscar Isaac, Donna Murphy, Stacy Keach, Zeljko Ivanek, Corey Stoll, David Asmar, John Arcilla, Lou Veloso.
Written by Tony Gilroy and Dan Gilroy, inspired by the Bourne novels by Robert Ludlum.
Unless you have amnesia, the Bourne movie trilogy is a part of very recent film history. The original trilogy based on the novels by Robert Ludlum was a commercial and critical success, starring Matt Damon as the rogue CIA killer trying to discover who he is. It seemed a little greedy when Universal and Tony Gilroy announced plans to keep the series going, despite the death of Ludlum (shortly before the release of the first film) and the departure of Damon. The Hollywood money beast must be served, so a whole new series begins, starring Jeremy Brenner as the latest rogue agent in The Bourne Legacy.
Brenner plays agent Aaron Cross, a man given a new identity by the CIA after they fake his death in the Middle East. Cross is turned into a super-soldier/agent through a series of chemical enhancements that alter his genetic make-up, giving him super intellect and super strength. At the same time Cross is completing his training and chemical regimen, a team of CIA "cleaners" is attempting to rid the agency of all that "Jason Bourne" embarrassment. Their solution is to kill all their super agents including Cross to cover up all the "Treadstone" and "Blackbriar" mistakes of the past.
Part of the clean-up is to shut down the chemical lab responsible for developing the "chems" used by Cross and the other agents. The lab sweep results in the deaths of everyone working on the research, except Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), who survives the massacre.
Meanwhile, Cross also survives an attempt on his life while on a training mission in Alaska. Down on his "chems" Cross travels across the country and arrives on the east coast just in time to save Dr. Shearing from a second attempt on her life at the hands of the CIA cleaner squad, led by Eric Byer (Edward Norton).
Cross and Shearing team up and travel to the Phillipines so that the doctor can permanently repair the agent's genetic system without the "chems." Byer's team closes in, resulting in a great chase through the streets of Manila.
The Bourne Legacy sticks to the basic Bourne formula, which relies heavily on the idea that no one at the CIA has much a conscience about killing their own people to hide their mistakes. No matter what your personal feelings are about the U.S. intelligence community, most would have to agree that Ludlum's world is a little slanted in that direction. Either way, it works for a movie, even if The Bourne Legacy offers nothing new when compared to the original Damon trilogy. It's certainly a Bourne movie, but more like Bourne "Light."
The rapid pacing of the previous films is replaced by a lot of technical/scientific exposition and explanation in The Bourne Legacy. It's also a little hard to follow if you don't have a biochemistry graduate degree. Sure, there's action, but there's a lot more slow scenes that drag the action down in between.
Renner's cool persona is a fine replacement for Damon's frantic nature, but the Aaron Cross character is a little less sympathetic in going after his "chem" fix, contrasted to Bourne, who was always striving for peace and closure.
While the film bears the same title as one of the Bourne novels by Eric Van Lustbader released since Ludlum's death in 2001, it does not exactly follow the "new" book series. In other words, there's no Jason Bourne (or David Webb, for those who remember his real identity) in The Bourne Legacy, other than a few photos and several references to Damon's character. Having read a synopsis of the The Bourne Legacy novel, be assured that the film and book have absolutely nothing in common other than the title.
Even with the flaws, The Bourne Legacy is a decent action film in the vein of the other Bourne films; it's just a little less likeable.
I feel it my duty to share a warning about one particular scene that might upset a few people. It's a scene in which an individual massacres co-workers with a gun. Some might view the scene as a little too disturbing in light of very recent tragic events. If the Aurora or Wisconsin Sikh shootings upset you, then you might want to avoid The Bourne Legacy until those very real events are a little more in the past.