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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