Review by Paul Stathakis | August 17, 2012

An action star is Bourne

Some are going to walk into “The Bourne Lega­cy” not know­ing much about the lead actor. Most won’t even know his name. There are, of course, those will rec­og­nize him as “the guy” who dif­fused bombs in Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Lock­er” or as the actor who played one of Tom Cruise’s side­kicks in last year’s “Mis­sion Impos­si­ble: Ghost Pro­to­col.” But one thing is cer­tain: by the end of this film, many will leave the the­atre know­ing who Jere­my Ren­ner is because this pic­ture rep­re­sents his induc­tion into the uni­verse of action films. “The Bourne Lega­cy” is not the best action film you’ll see this year. It does very lit­tle to stand out from any oth­er spy pic­tures that have pre­ced­ed it and it’s rarely thrilling. But if it is at all watch­able it’s main­ly because of, yes you guessed it, that new action star in it.

There may be some con­fu­sion here for those who think that Ren­ner is por­tray­ing the Bourne char­ac­ter in lieu of Matt Damon. That is not the case. Ren­ner stars as Aaron Cross, an agent from the same pro­gram as Jason Bourne. Damon’s “Bourne” films were main­ly cen­tered on the pro­tag­o­nist’s search for his own iden­ti­ty while elud­ing hordes of oth­er agents and assas­sins who were con­stant­ly on his tail try­ing to wipe him out. Cross finds him­self in a sim­i­lar cir­cum­stance but he is not after his iden­ti­ty. Instead, Cross is on a mis­sion to reach a top-secret facil­i­ty (a lab­o­ra­to­ry to be more spe­cif­ic) where he can get his hands on a sup­ply of spe­cial blue pills. To do this he enlists the help of a doc­tor by the name of Mar­ta Shear­ing, played grace­ful­ly by Rachel Weisz who is every bit as good and con­vinc­ing as Renner.

Ren­ner and Weisz spend the entire film on the run from the CIA and that’s about as excit­ing as things get. The action here involves watch­ing the main char­ac­ters dodge bul­lets, fight, and find ways out of intri­cate and not so intri­cate sit­u­a­tions. Cross is good at what he does. He’s an expert in the same way that Jason Bourne was. They do a lot of the things most peo­ple on the run would do: they pre­pare fake IDs and pass­ports and when nec­es­sary they call on their cool­ness and fast-think­ing ways to get around obsta­cles. Watch for the scene where Cross and Shear­ing arrive in the Philip­pines at a fac­to­ry. They are stopped and inter­ro­gat­ed by a guard who is hes­i­tant to let them through.

The film was direct­ed by Tony Gilroy, the same direc­tor respon­si­ble for the 2007 thriller “Michael Clay­ton.” Gilroy also co-wrote the screen­play of “The Bourne Lega­cy” as well as the pre­vi­ous Bourne movies. Gilroy is a direc­tor who is very much inter­est­ed in the lit­tle qual­i­ties and traits of his char­ac­ters. His char­ac­ters feel real, act real, and oper­ate with­in the con­fines of a real world though “The Bourne Lega­cy” does still incor­po­rate implau­si­ble ele­ments. The open­ing min­utes are ter­rif­ic. We are intro­duced to Cross who is liv­ing in Alas­ka, sur­round­ed by vast snowy moun­tains. He hikes his way through the snowy land­scape, dives into a cold lake, meets a stranger who we learn very lit­tle about, and he does his best to avoid a pack of wolves who are after him. Soon after come the mis­siles zip­ping by the pro­tag­o­nist’s head to get the action started.

”The Bourne Lega­cy” is not a par­tic­u­lar­ly bad movie but it’s not a great one either. The writ­ers based this film on author Robert Lud­lum’s “Bourne uni­verse” but there’s lit­tle men­tion of Bourne (he does make a pho­to cameo at one point). Aside from that, the only oth­er con­nec­tion to the Damon films are actors David Strathairn, Joan Allen, and Albert Finney who reprise their roles as CIA operatives.

This is an action film that takes itself too seri­ous­ly. Despite their best attempts to stretch a sto­ry­line which requires lit­tle to no stretch­ing, the writ­ers ulti­mate­ly turn in a bore of a screen­play. Agent Cross squares off against the police, leaps from one rooftop to the anoth­er seam­less­ly, and abus­es the heck out of a motor­cy­cle while being pur­sued by an assas­sin. All this is fine because Ren­ner has the look, qual­i­ties, and physique to han­dle this kind of role and achieve these kind of stunts. I don’t have an issue with the action. I don’t even mind if the film­mak­ers push the bound­aries of real­i­ty here and there. Action films have always been about the pro­tag­o­nists doing impos­si­ble things and emerg­ing unscathed. But how about hav­ing an action star per­form these whacky high-fly­ing manoeu­vres in a movie that mat­ters? Fill­ing some big shoes here, Ren­ner at the very least deserves that much.


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