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The Bourne Legacy – A high octane adventure that runs out of gas

The Bourne Legacy - Theater Review
Release Date: 08/10/2012 - MPAA Rating: PG-13
Clacker Rating: 3 Clacks

Jeremy Renner steps into Matt Damon's shoes in 'The Bourne Legacy,' a fast-paced action flick that leaves you with one question at the end: That's it?

Jeremy Renner in "The Bourne Legacy"

I enjoyed the Bourne Trilogy when those films first burst onto the scene as kind of a new, American type of James Bond character, more rough around the edges, and with a mysterious backstory (the first film debuted four years before Daniel Craig stepped into Bond’s tuxedo and Aston Martin), and each film actually developed the character of Jason Bourne, following his story to a logical conclusion with the third film. That film ended with us thinking Bourne was dead, but there was still always a chance that he’d come back. Except star Matt Damon was finished, so what’s a studio to do when it wants to keep a money-making franchise alive? Recast, reboot, or just carry on?

Luckily, Universal opted to carry on with The Bourne Legacy, which picks up pretty much where the last film left off (although Jason Bourne’s legacy was exposing the government program that created him, so the title is a little odd, but the film does deal with this aftermath as well, and having some familiarity with the original films is helpful), with several characters from the trilogy carried over here in much smaller roles, as they deal with an investigation into the program that was exposed by Bourne and Pam Landry (Joan Allen returns for a very brief cameo). The main focus now is Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), a “participant” in another program that was the next step from Treadstone that created chemically enhanced super soldiers, for lack of a better word. But as Bourne’s actions are on the brink of exposing the entire operation, the new participants are assassinated … except for Cross who keeps out-smarting and out-running them. He needs the “chems” the subjects were given to keep him from going crazy or dying, and he gets a scientists from the program, Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), to help him after she is nearly assassinated for knowing too much. They make their way to Manila, where the drugs are manufactured, but not being as stealthy as Cross, Shearing practically leads the government right to them. And we then learn there is another evolution of the program, one that seems to have been perfected, when an agent is dispatched to take out Cross and Shearing.

Like I said, I really enjoyed the original trilogy and I really, really wanted to like The Bourne Legacy … and I did for the most part. I thought it had a great set up with Cross checking in at an outpost in Alaska, only to be nearly killed by a drone missile (the other guy wasn’t so lucky), and the calculated assassination of the scientific team that helped create the program. But, while these movies do require some suspension of belief, there were things here and there that I just didn’t buy, particularly Cross managing to track down Shearing at her secluded home just as government agents were about to kill her (but make it look like suicide). It was a great action sequence with a lot of tension, but it just was a little too convenient for my tastes. The whole film has great action sequences, but herein lies the biggest problem — the action trumps the story.

I enjoyed Total Recall because it really was one amazing action sequence after another, and I didn’t really care that the story got pushed to the sidelines because the visuals were just so awesome. But here, director Tony Gilroy commits the one cardinal sin that just drives me crazy (and I had the same complaint about Paul Greengrass’ action scenes in his Bourne films) — shooting just about everything in extreme close-up. I mean, I could literally count the pores on Rachel Weisz’ face, and the action scenes are all close-up and hand-held and quick edits, and you can’t tell what’s going on. In my opinion, that is just sloppy filmmaking and shows that the director has no idea how to shoot action. Shaking the camera and swooshing it around is no substitute for actually seeing a fight scene or a car chase. A few wide shots would be nice! This style, I assume, is supposed to make you feel a part of the action but it just gives me a headache.

The other problem, and forgive me for being slightly spoilery here, is the film’s climactic car/motorcycle chase … that goes on forever. Yes, it’s choreographed well (and shot again with a lot of annoying close-ups) and will have you on the edge of your seat, but as it goes on and on and on, you’ll notice there’s absolutely no dialogue for what seems to be about half an hour (even though it was probably more like fifteen minutes), and then once it’s over, there’s one brief scene and all of a sudden a song starts playing. I thought that couldn’t be end credit music because nothing was really resolved. Nothing. Cross and Shearing are still on the run and Landry is just heading into court to address the charges against her … and it ends. It’s like they decided to split the movie into two parts like the last Harry Potter and Twilight films … except there is no part two coming in six months! And there’s not even a post-credits Easter egg giving us an “A-ha!” moment that makes us want to see the next film. It just ends, and it pissed me off. I don’t mind films that have ambiguous endings, but this was anything but ambiguous. It was just over, thank you, goodbye, roll the credits, get out of the theater. I could overlook the sloppy action direction by getting into the somewhat Byzantine plot, and I enjoyed Renner, Weisz, the new cast members and the returning ones, but just ending a movie like turning off a light is unforgivable, and ultimately left a sour taste in my mouth.


Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

One Response to “The Bourne Legacy – A high octane adventure that runs out of gas”

August 15, 2012 at 3:47 AM

But it kind of ended the way the first Bourne movie ended, didn’t it? Spoiler:The rogue agent has escaped his hunters for now and has a new lady-friend to follow him to some exotic hiding place. The abrupt ending didn’t bother me so much as the fact that there was almost no plot or even an epic fight. And, yes – I totally concur on the car/bike chase. I had the same reaction. BORING. I simply hate obligatory, interminable chase sequences in movies. Now, despite these complaints, I didn’t hate the movie. It was all right and has a great cast. What could have put it over the top would have been, instead of the climactic bike chase, a kick-ass showdown between Aaron and the Larx dude.

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