135 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13
There was no reason to expect much from “The Bourne Legacy,” the fourth in the “Bourne” series and first without star Matt Damon. Going in, the whole thing smacked of a desperate case of sequel-itis.
But darned if it doesn’t actually work.
Oh, by comparison to the other “Bourne” titles it’s a tad thin, but writer/director Tony Gilroy (who’s been with the series since the beginning) provides the film with so much forward momentum and furious action that he almost overcomes a ridiculously stretched-out running time.
The picture begins in a remote part of Alaska where a lone man (Jeremy Renner) battles wolves, climbs mountains and exhibits astounding strength, endurance and agility. His name, we learn, is Aaron Cross, and he – like Damon’s Jason Bourne – is a product of Treadstone, that nefarious CIA-sponsored project to create superior secret agents.
But unlike Bourne – who merely had been brainwashed to be a conscienceless assassin – Cross is one of a new generation of genetically-altered agents. Only problem is that he’s dependent on these special pills. If he doesn’t get them he’ll have a mental meltdown.
Meanwhile, back in D.C., the whole Treadstone operation is about to be exposed by a British newspaper. (“Legacy” is taking place simultaneously with events in “Bourne Ulitmatum,” if you care about such things.)
The spylords in charge (among them Scott Glenn, Stacy Keach, Ed Norton, Dennis Boutsikaris, David Strathairn, Donna Murphy) decide to shut the program down, which means killing all their super-spies, as well as the scientists and techhie drones assigned to the project. Up in Alaska our boy Aaron survives one such assassination attempt and, armed with his extensive training and jazzed DNA, goes off to find out what’s what.
In the process he kidnaps/befriends a scientist (Rachel Weisz) who was part of the Treadstone program and barely survived a workplace massacre. The two of them embark on a globe-trotting trek to get the drugs Aaron needs to survive and, perhaps, get even with their murderous masters.
There are several good action sequences, particularly a climactic motorcycle chase through the streets of Bangkok.
And every now and then the film slows down enough for some decent dialogue. There’s a fine, creepy moment when an agency “psychologist” (Elizabeth Marvel) shows up at the lady scientist’s house to debrief her on the workplace bloodbath.
And in another, Weisz and Renner exchange some pithy dialogue about their respective roles in the enterprise.
She protests her innocence.
“I do research. I design. I don’t make policy.”
“No,” he says, “you just load the gun.”
“The Bourne Legacy” is a pretty shallow affair, but Renner, exhibiting real star power, keeps it afloat, never losing sight of the real person beneath the trained killer. Weisz does a nice transition from hysteria to grim determination. The baddies are…well, really Machiavellian, viewing their work as morally indefensible and absolutely necessary.
| Robert W. Butler