The Bourne Legacy

I remember a scene in The Bourne Ultimatum aka Bourne 3, where CIA Director Ezra Kramer (Scott Glenn) is having a phone conversation with Noah Vosen (David Strathairn). We get this from Stone:

“If this thing goes south, we’ll have to tie it off, roll it up, and hang it around Pam’s neck.”

One might think that this bit of planned scapegoating might be an effective place to start The Bourne Legacy. We do get about one minute of Noah Vosen lying through his teeth to a Senate committee, as well as Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) fending off the media hordes as she tries to defend herself of the charges of aiding and abetting an enemy of the United States. When do we get this? About two hours into The Bourne Legacy which opened today. This was just one of the many references to Bourne.

In my view – there are far too many Bourne references in this new film.

Any way, Ultimatum ended with Matt Damon‘s Jason Bourne surviving despite being shot and falling a dozen stories from a building into the East River in New York. He suddenly comes alive while submerged in the chilly waters, and swims off.

Well one super agent’s ending is the beginning for another super agent. This time it is Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross and he is swimming in the ice-cold waters of an Alaskan river. This is a part of a training mission which no one bothers to explain. Cross was looking for and finds a submerged vial containing his meds. It takes a while for us to learn that Cross and his kind are not just skilled in the field, in hand-to-hand combat, or anything else via physical training and brainwashing as was Bourne. No, Cross, and his fellow agents who have been a part of Operation Outcome, and all their super powers come from biological refinements and genetic alterations that come from drugs.

Of course, Cross will soon come to realize that he has been targeted, like all the other Outcome agents, by the suits who run the program. Rather than name these suits, I’ll simply name the actors – from the top – Edward Norton, Stacey Keach, Donna Murphy, Dennis Boutsikaris, and Corey Stoll.

Obviously things have gone south (again or still isn’t clear) so the agents, all of whom are dependent on a steady stream of meds, that is, until they can be ‘locked in’ which means they retain the super abilities but no longer need the meds, are called in for re-dosing, but are given a deadly poison pill instead. Four of them die off nearly instantly. All except for Aaron Cross who was able to avoid being blown up by a missile launched from a drone, as well as fighting off a wolf – all while still in the Alaskan wilderness.

Back in the states – at a scientific lab where all the behavior modification research is done, a scientist goes bonkers and begins to kill off all of his fellow scientists. All are killed except one – Dr. Marta Shearing, played by Rachel Weisz. Maybe it was sheer luck (no pun intended), but this particular doctor was the one who administered the drugs to Aaron Cross while he was still a human lab rat.

But the fact that Shearing survived means that the plans went wrong, so a team is sent out to do away with her. Somehow Cross arrives at her deep in the woods home around the same time.

He saves her, and off they go – halfway across the world in search of those precious meds.

Okay folks, there’s your set up.

The tagline for the film is There Was Never Just One. Which is not quite true. They can have programs like Treadstone, Blackbriar, and Outcome. They can have suits like Ezra Stone, and Edward Norton’s Eric Byer,

and Stacey Keach’s Mark Turso, but unlike Noah Vosen – Byer and Turso are never out in the field. They work in one those war rooms that can reach for and acquire surveillance videos from anywhere on the planet in seconds. But there was only one Bourne.

We easily sided with Bourne – because he was a guy struggling to recall his own identity. He spent three movies, three great movies, in this struggle. Since he couldn’t remember the details, we were in his shoes, because we didn’t know either. But with Jeremy Renner’s Aaron Cross – we don’t have the same care and concern. His agenda is to find his meds and not get killed while doing so.

The film is lengthy. At times you’ll be lost. You will meet characters and have no idea who they are. you’ll be buried beneath a ton of jargon which won’t have any meaning to you – like cognitive degrade for one.

Often there’s too much time between the action. Too much exposition. But for me, the main flaw of the film was that it wasn’t the least bit new or fresh. Simply – it was the old Bourne dressed up with new characters.

Rooftop chases? Check. Stolen motorcycles. Check. Individuals either chasing or escaping through mazelike streets. Check, this one has that too. Whether their names were Bourne or Cross, or Nicky Parsons or Marta Shearing, each of them are in a life or death race to find each other or avoid the implacable enemy assassins like Desh or Larx who stalks them. All the while, the local cops are failing in their chase attempts too.

Directed by Tony Gilroy who had the writing credits for the first three Bourne films, this one isn’t bad or terribly flawed. I think it just isn’t as good as what came before. And that has to do with the construction of the story rather than the visuals or even the action. The last set piece was far too long, and ended much too abruptly.

You know how the 2nd Bourne ended? With Bourne saying via the phone to Pamela Landy – Get some rest Pam, you look tired? We had no idea where Bourne was going as he headed South on Park Avenue walking out of view and closing the film.

In Bourne 3 we knew that Pam Landy had faxed out the info. We knew that Noah Vosen was facing issues, and we knew that Jason Bourne had likely survived.

This film ends with us being given a clear indication that we’ve not seen the last of Aaron Cross. But nothing else at all was tied off or decided. I think I’d like to see Cross again, even if written and directed by Tony Gilroy. That’s a credit being given to Jeremy Renner. As good as Renner was in The Hurt Locker, and The Town, he seemed to regress even as he was set in place for the next Mission Impossible. His miniscule role in the Avengers was also a backwards step for him. So, yeah,  I’d like to see another Aaron Cross film, but I sincerely hope it decides to no longer reference Bourne. Either jettison Bourne completely or bring back Matt Damon.

I’ll give this film a rating no higher than three-point seven five. It was disappointing because rather than beginning a new story, the story of Aaron Cross, the story this film started and finished by gripping the old Bourne format so closely – in fact, in my opinion, far too closely. Simply, the Bourne clothing fit the new guy just fine – only by this time, the old clothes are shopworn, musty, and look like relics from a third hand, or maybe it should be called a fourth hand store.

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One thought on “The Bourne Legacy

  1. Jeremy Renner is a talented actor with serious range and complexity. However, the character he plays is not much of a character and the script that he has to work with is riddled with cliché after cliché. He can do anything a secret agent can do but better but the character is not very compelling or interesting to say the least. Jason Bourne was a compelling character that needed to find himself and through that journey in the original trilogy, we saw complexities that were compelling and thoughtful. He was a conflicted man whose drive was dictated by an inner sense of redemption. The character of Aaron Cross is a cartoon character compared to Jason and that is the main problem of the script for this movie. It is though Renner’s efforts as an actor that we care about the character of Aaron Cross and that is one of the few bright spots this film has. Renner injects likability and vulnerability to this character and because of it, we want him to succeed in beating the bad guy and save the girl but Renner is working with a script that goes against itself and we are left with a half fast story that deals with supermen than a human story about survival. It is through Renner’s efforts as an actor that we see humanity and conflict in this character while the script itself does not give that sort of detail and Renner is working overtime to accomplish that. Renner would have done wonders with a compelling character like Jason Bourne, unfortunately that is not found with the character of Aaron Cross.

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