I guess I buy the premise that the Bourne movies can exist without Matt Damon. I can even buy that Bourne, the character, isn’t necessary for us to be in the Bourne universe. What’s important — the name of the sulky spy trained to be a deadly super soldier or the amount of punching, kicking and exploding-stuff that he does? This movie doesn’t completely leave Bourne behind — he’s talked about constantly — and so it doesn’t fully commit to the franchise’s next-generation protagonist either.
Not that you really need to remember all of the details (thankfully, because there are a lot of them), but the timeline of this movie appears to overlap some with the last Bourne movie. Newbie Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is a chemically altered, government-trained soldier-spy-type on the order of a Jason Bourne. He is somehow on the outs with the program (everything is ominously called a “program”) and has been sent on a training exercise in the wilds of Alaska. Scenes of him trekking through the wilderness give the story back in Washington a chance to unfold: Due to the actions of Jason Bourne, the government, as personified by a guy named Eric Byer (Edward Norton) and occasionally by a guy named Mark Turso (Stacy Keach), decides to shut down the program, which is CIA for “kill off all the superagents.” (Honestly, I had to rely totally on IMDB for names here. The movie makes very little effort to explain who these people are and what their role is. I thought of them as “Shadowy government guy Edward Norton” and “other guy.”)
When Aaron figures out he is being hunted, he heads to find Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), a doctor who he believes can help supply him with the drugs that help make him a super-smart, super-strong killing machine. But she’s having some “shut down” problems of her own.
Run run run, quick cut, close-up, quick cut, punch, run run, explode — don’t worry too much about how this fits in with the overall Bourne mythology and you’ll follow what is essentially a long chase movie just fine.
With his roles in Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol and The Avengers, there is a sense that Hollywood is not going to stop trying to make Jeremy Renner happen until we all just give in and accept him as our new action hero. There are worse things we, the moviegoing public, have been asked to accept. Renner has the same smartypants action guy thing going on as Damon and some of the ruggedness of Daniel Craig’s James Bond. He can crack the wry smile; he is believable as a hottie. They could turn up the personality a bit more on him, as he has the tendency (particularly in this role) to settle into the beginnings of that late-era Harrison Ford grimace. But overall, we could do worse.
So, Team Bourne, if you bring Aaron back for another go, give him something more exciting to do than just run and find drugs. And, more of an emotional life would also help sell the romance-or-whatever with the obligatory female sidekick. All of the characters feel like little more than pieces being moved on a board game; a little more heft would help me care more about how the story unfolded instead of just waiting for the next punch-kick-shoot sequence. B-
Rated PG-13 for violence and intense action sequences. Directed by Tony Gilroy with a screenplay by Tony Gilroy & Dan Gilroy, The Bourne Legacy is two hours and 15 minutes long and is distributed by Universal Pictures.