THE BOURNE LEGACY
I have to wonder why they even bothered making “The Bourne Legacy”. Why not just re-release “The Bourne Identity”? No one would notice the difference. While Jeremy Renner (“The Hurt Locker”) certainly makes a stellar stand-in for Matt Damon, the films are carbon copies of one another with our lead character on the run from [...]
I have to wonder why they even bothered making “The Bourne Legacy”. Why not just re-release “The Bourne Identity”? No one would notice the difference. While Jeremy Renner (“The Hurt Locker”) certainly makes a stellar stand-in for Matt Damon, the films are carbon copies of one another with our lead character on the run from the CIA with a beautiful woman in tow.
The one stroke of genius in “Legacy”’s screenplay (by Tony Gilroy and Dan Gilroy, inspired by Robert Ludlum’s books) is setting the first day of action on the last day of “The Bourne Ultimatum”. That means we watch Jeremy Renner’s genetically-enhanced soldier complete a test of endurance and survival in Alaska as an off-screen Jason Bourne is on his way to New York City for his final reckoning with the doctors who programmed him. If you remember, Bourne escapes by diving into the river. Renner sees his face in a newspaper the next day and we can only hope that in some future movie they will meet up and run from the CIA together with beautiful women in tow.
“The Bourne Legacy”, despite its repetitious nature is quite entertaining up to a point. We have globe-trotting action (Alaska, Washington D.C., Manila) announced by digital type appearing across the screen, covert CIA operations (this time Operation Outcome replaces Treadstone and Blackbriar), nefarious operatives, smart dialogue and an intense sense of urgency. What “Legacy” fails to deliver is a convincing third act. The filmmaker (Tony Gilroy who wrote all four films, directing his first) slaps on a preposterous high-speed motorbike chase that is shoddily shot and edited. Why? Because evidently he couldn’t find a smarter way to wrap things up….while also leaving them open to the inevitable next installment.
It’s a real shame, and I can’t hide my disappointment at this lazy denouement. Up until that point, I was loving Renner as the trained assassin whose real name is Kenneth Kitsom but who goes by the name #5, a program participant in Operation Outcome. He’s more menacing and brutal than Damon and I never doubted his drive to stay alive at all cost. He’s joined on the run by Rachel Weisz (“The Whistleblower”) who was his doctor in the program. She is an expert on genetics and viruses but claims ignorance as to what the true intentions of the program are. She absolves herself from responsibility by claiming “I don’t make policy”. It’s the age-old dichotomy of science versus ethics. Ed Norton is excellent as the head of Outcome, who is forced to shut it all down after the Bourne incident. Therefore, all the participants and all knowing parties must be terminated. But #5 is always one step ahead.
The film raises interesting (if not entirely original) questions about the morality of developing “super soldiers”, of messing with genetics and lying to Congress about the existence of black ops programs. Outcome is “morally indispensable and absolutely necessary” in the words of Norton and I thought back to Jack Nicholson’s speech at the end of “A Few Good Men”. We need these men on the wall and perhaps it is best if we don’t know what it takes to put them there.
I wish I could rave about “The Bourne Legacy”. Despite a great performance by Renner and a tight, tense first half, I was left with a sour taste in my mouth after the weak ending, as if I had just sat through a particularly dynamic episode of The Amazing Race. If Norton and Renner had faced off at some point, with some killer dialogue, before Renner escaped once more …now that would have been something to talk about.