Sunday, February 24, 2013

"The Bourne Legacy" (2012)

Starring Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, and Edward Norton
Written by Tony Gilroy and Dan Gilroy
Directed by Tony Gilroy
Rated PG-13 - Violence, language
Running Time: 135 Minutes

Jason Bourne was only the beginning. As agents of the United States government, led by Eric Byer (Edward Norton) attempt to wipe away the evidence of the black-ops assassin program known as Treadstone, Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) discovers that means he's now a target. Escaping death by Predator drone in Alaska, Cross is low on medication that increases his physical and mental prowess.

Meanwhile, a scientist working on a secret project for a major pharmaceutical company, Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), survives a mass killing in the lab. With all of her coworkers dead, she takes a leave from work and decides to visit her sister in Canada. But buying a ticket out of the country triggers a red flag, and government agents arrive to interrogate her. These agents are not only there to interrogate her, but to kill her and make it look like a suicide. Cross shows up just in time, hoping she has a stash of medication for him, and rescues her.

Now the two of them are on the run. Cross needs the medication or he'll regress to a state of sub-intelligence, and he's the only one who can protect Shearing from the assassins on their trail.

"The Bourne Legacy" is an odd film in that it's one in which the titular character actually doesn't appear. He's referred to several times, and we even see his picture during a newscast, but Matt Damon isn't in this movie. Instead, Jeremy Renner takes over as another agent, this one enhanced by viral agents. "Legacy" also takes place around the same time as "The Bourne Ultimatum."

But is it a good film? It's okay. For much of its running time, a lot of things are happening that don't seem all that related. These things do come together at the end, but the film seems to take forever getting to that point.  And, problematically, once it does... it's kind of over.  The movie is well made, it looks good, and the action sequences, when they come, are appropriately thrilling. But there's a sense of "So what?" that permeates the entire exercise.

The script is also problematic in that Edward Norton's character sets himself to wiping out all of these secret government programs, including their agents, but then suddenly in the third act reveals the existence of a new one... and decides it's appropriate to use it against Cross and Shearing. Why is it that he spends the entire movie trying to off all these assassins only to have one in waiting at his beck and call? It seems like this was done just to give Cross an equal to square off against in the film's climax, but it really doesn't make a lot of sense.

Once all the disparate threads of the movie come together in the third act, the movie throws a couple more action sequences at the audience and then just kind of ends. The final scene lends an even deeper sense of "So what?" to the proceedings. To be fair, I had similar feelings about the previous "Bourne" movies, which only seemed to inch forward with each entry. Perhaps writer/director Gilroy is looking to start a new trilogy of films starring Cross, and this one was really all setup? A risky move, if your film doesn't make enough money to justify a sequel.

If you're a fan of the "Bourne" films, you'll probably enjoy another look into that world. Action fans will find some cool sequences, with various chases and fistfights on display. The cast is on their game, with Renner and Weisz both doing fine work in their roles. Weisz, especially, hides her British accent quite well, even when her character is upset.

"The Bourne Legacy" is a decent film, but I couldn't quite shake a sense of pointlessness to it all, even while enjoying the craft of it.