Where's The Nearest McDonald's?
One of the more acclaimed and successful film franchise in recent years is the Bourne series of films, I'd guess many had thought that this franchise could not continue if without the return of director Paul Greengrass, and leading actor Matt Damon as Jason Bourne. However it's a case of milking the cash cow, and under the hands of another director and lead actor, can the same universe continue, or will a reboot be required? Christopher Nolan may have left his The Dark Knight Rises at this crossroads, the same point in which The Bourne Legacy takes off from, and I'm really pleased at how Tony Gilroy's version of the Bourne film had turned out, with Jeremy Renner proving to be a force to be reckoned with as well.
Written by the Gilroy brothers Dan and director Tony, with the latter having screenplay responsibilities for the earlier Bourne films as well, they had set up Legacy to tangent off from Ultimatum, with the beginning here taking place some 6 weeks before Ultimatum's, and running in a parallel timeline. The return of characters both major and minor in cameo appearances convince we're still in the same universe, and dealing with similar shady secret operatives who are hell bent at containing the damage that Jason Bourne is out to do through his expose of all the clandestine projects under the CIA. Rather than close the doors revolving round the possibility of Jason Bourne's return, Legacy had set it up so that the next film, if it happens, has more doors opened up for the narrative to move forward.
But for now the first hour can be extremely dry, as we take many steps back to see the earlier stages of the programme that Jason Bourne was put under, with the guinea pigs at various stages of experimentation, who remain dependent on the regular drug doses they have to take to maintain their super soldier abilities with heightened senses and physicality. We get introduced to Jeremy Renner's Aaron Cross, who's also on the project, and learn of the existence of many others, who are all on the crosshairs of the agencies they serve, in order to kill them off for the longevity of the programmes they are put under. Led by Edward Norton's Retired Col. Eric Byer who's brought in to contain the situation and threat that Jason Bourne is posing, Aaron Cross outwits them through an episode taken a leaf out of Grey, allowing us some man versus drone plane action sequences that set up Cross to be quite a formidable Bourne clone.
The introduction of Rachel Weisz' Dr Marta Shearing was in essence to provide for a Marie type character whom Cross can run around cities with in escape from their hunters, but more importantly to serve as a link to the drug formulation used to turn those in the programme into formidable assassins, being one of many scientists involved in genetic research, which as usual, comes with the deliberate weaponization from new research. To add to the story, how anyone can get to the level of Jason Bourne's expertise is given an explanation here, which is something yet to be explored in detail until now. One thing's for sure, the role is not one that's the typical damsel in distress, although being involved in a deliberate massacre may trigger some negative reactions in light of what had happened in the USA. It's one of the better stand out, though more harrowing, scenes in the movie, which may undoubtedly strike too close to home for the Americans, and the box office.
Jeremy Renner's stock had risen in recent years after The Hurt Locker, with involvement in steady franchises such as Mission: Impossible, and Marvel's comic book films, and whether or not he'll take over Tom Cruise for further M:I adventures remain to be seen. But he's already cementing his role as Aaron Cross, and looks set to take the Bourne movies forward, even if there are rumours of a pairing with Damon for the next film. Renner worked the action sequences with aplomb, whether it calls for fisticuffs, rooftop chases or spectacularly weaving dangerously through Manila's traffic on a motorbike, and is convincing as an ex-army operative turned guinea pig who now has to bite the hand that fed it, constantly on the move in order to stay alive. It's early in his story arc, and it may seem Cross is on the backtrack for the most parts, so it would be interesting if, like Bourne, he's allowed to take the fight back to his hunters.
It took about 60 minutes before The Bourne Legacy exploded into life, and swung into the high gear formula its predecessors have been known for, but without the shaky cam cinematography that alienated and irritated some. Tony Gilroy decided to go for traditional techniques without being too flashy, which served well. Familiar ingredients defining the Bourne movies continue here, with the jet-setting, cat and mouse chases, and battle of wits. Protocol also comes in the form of the hunt being commanded from a control room setting in which Norton's Eric barks orders, and the multitude of ground work and effort going into tracking the needle in the haystack which is Cross and Marta. It's the hunter who becomes the prey, and vice versa reversal of roles, that has Legacy continue the good work set up by the initial trilogy.
If you'd take a step back, The Bourne Legacy had really kept it simple by introducing a slightly different premise than we're already familiar with, which in tongue and cheek fashion, went on to have the patient seek out his doctor for more medication, only to be brought to the factory for the drugs he requires, and an effort made to be weaned off them. All these, with their employers hot on their tracks in order to finish them off, and keep their clandestine projects under wraps. It may not be the best film of the franchise given that it's the beginning of another, and had dwelled a little longer to have everything set up, but once it got its act together, the adrenaline never stopped pumping. It's also interesting to note how many variations of Extreme Ways can Moby come up with! Highly recommended!