It is hard to predict the weekend box office for “The Bourne Legacy” when hits theaters Aug. 10. While it will be a continuation of the previous trilogy, it is substituting another star in the lead role and missing previous franchise front man Matt Damon. Another major change is with the director Tony Gilroy who previously wrote the screenplays for the franchise and has now been promoted to the director’s chair.
How will these adjustments in front of and behind the camera affect the overall attitude and anticipation following this fourth entry into the franchise that began 10 years ago? Will it live up to the standards set forth by Matt Damon and director Doug Liman? Read on and find out.
The film starts off with a rugged prologue in which a new off-the-grid Operation Outcome field agent, Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), is in the process of completing a strenuous solo mission in the valleys and over the mountains of remote Alaska. We are shown him performing tactical and inhuman feats of strength, courage and endurance along with a heaping amount of blue and green pills, one which enhances his brain and the other his body. He finds his way to another operative (Oscar Isaac) held up in a log cabin, deep in the recesses of the forest. After a quirky exchange between the two, Aaron Cross says he is looking for more special medication as he has lost the last of his.
Meanwhile, the arrival of Jason Bourne has threatened to infect and expose the entire secret program and C.I.A. manager Eric Byer (Edward Norton) does some research before deciding that they need to wipe all traces of the programs, including agents, scientists and all traces from ever being trace to the organization. When a military drone fails to kill Cross, he makes it appear it succeeded and begins to make his way back to find the answers behind his attempted execution.
In a top secret lab, Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) is just one of many genetic scientists who analyze and process all of the agents’ blood samples to find ways to further push the of development of making them the best possible agents. Without ever asking what the agents do, she is in the dark, but still a loose-end to the C.I.A. When Marta survives a rampage by another scientist — which leaves all others with her clearance level dead — she seems to be next in line to inexplicably disappear.
When a tactical team comes to take her out, she is rescued by Cross who happened to see her on TV and previously met her in the lab for some of his testing. Together, the two go on the run to find the answers they both seek and the location of the crucial enhancement drugs Alex needs to sustain his superior physique, intelligence and abilities. The movie takes us from remote Alaska, across America and beyond in a cat-and-mouse chase between our two heroes and the answers they so desperately seek.
Right from the start, “The Bourne Legacy” lets us know that the events in this movie are happening simultaneously as those at the end of 2007’s “The Bourne Supremacy.” We have multiple references to Jason Bourne and even see a recap from previous events. The movie is a staggering two hours and fifteen minutes long and although the exposé of the opening scenes through half of the film border more on dramatic than action-packed, the pacing goes through many stages, bordering slightly on slow to full-throttle heart-pounding adrenaline-fueled at the end.
The final 45 minutes are nearly non-stop with a prolonged chase scene on rooftops and leading into an escalated chase scene through the streets on a motorcycle. This portion of the movie is the most intense and could have bettered the movie with some of this action sprinkled more throughout the film.
While the action isn’t as constant as in previous installments, we are shown how Aaron Cross is just as good as Jason Bourne in the intelligence and skill department. Jeremy Renner and Rachel Weisz play well off each other and the looming romantic connection is well established. I did enjoy seeing pasty key players throughout the film, but their roles were mostly minor cameos and I felt there could have been more original storyline to be shown.
The amount of medical lingo can be staggering to anyone who isn’t a professional trained in a medicinal field or in human anatomy and enhancement, but I was able to catch the basic meanings behind how each pill enhanced the user. There is a lot of focus on these government super-drugs as Aaron is constantly on the hunt for more.
While there is a lot of rehashing of past plot points and events, we are quickly filled in to Aaron’s Cross back-story through a series of flashbacks. Unlike Jason Bourne, who took three entire films to uncover his origins, Aaron Cross knows who he is and we see he volunteered for the program freely.
“The Bourne Legacy” is a catapult film with the sole purpose of identifying our new lead and preparing us for the adventures he will have in future installments. If it would have been treated as a standalone endeavor, the pay-off at the end would have been sweeter. Instead, we are left with a very open ending, leading people to wonder with a film this long why we don’t have a fulfilling conclusion.
Although I liked Jeremy Renner in this role and we have seen him in action before, this starring role showcases an amount of stamina and skills we have never seen him perform before. He is believable and a relatable character, but nearly half of the film feels like a summary of “The Bourne Supremacy” and makes me think they didn’t have a complete story for this film so they riddled it with past references and events.
I will say that although I am looking forward to the future chapters in Aaron Cross’s journey, this one fell short of my expectations.
“The Bourne Legacy,” which opens in theaters Aug. 10, is rated PG-13 for violence and action sequences. It also stars Albert Finney, Zeljko Ivanek, Elizabeth Marvel, Scott Glen, Donna Murphy and David Strathhairn.
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