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The Bourne Legacy (2012)

| August 11, 2012 | 0 Comments

The Bourne Legacy is one of those movies that you’ve already seen before you’ve seen it.  It is about a man who is on the run from a secretive government agency that is trying to kill him.  That’s it. There is nothing else that needs to be said.  It looks and sounds important. It opens with a lot of important-looking government people who have a lot of of top notch computer equipment talking insider jargon about something that sounds really important.  It takes us a minute or two of confusion before we realize that it doesn’t really matter what they are talking about.  All that yakking is just exposition to set up a long chase.  Why didn’t they just skip the chatter and get to the chase?

The movie opens with an intriguing series of events.  A man (Jeremy Renner) is floating in icy cold water and reaches out to grab a cylinder.  He pulls himself out of the water and we realize that he’s half-naked, exposed to the elements in the snowiest mountains of Alaska.  He sits by the fire to warm himself.  His cylinder contains green and blue pills.  For the next hour, or so, he will spend his time in that frozen wilderness wrestling with wolves, climbing mountains and taking his medication.

That’s followed by some events that are not so intriguing.  We sit through a lot of boring (and rather confusing) talk from those important government people (who are played by Edward Norton, Stacy Keach and Scott Glenn) who are very upset that their secret agent program – called “The Program” – is no longer so secret.  It seems that “The Program” has suffered a security breach, so the important people order all of their field agents to take a triangular yellow pill that will take them off “The Program” – the hard way.

Yet, as you might expect, one agent never got the yellow pill.  That’s our friend in Alaska, to whom the agency sends best wishes by dropping a missile into the cabin he just exited. With some quick thinking he takes out the drone that was carrying that missile and goes on the run.  That’s the set-up for the rest of the movie.  This man, whom we eventually learn is named Aaron Cross, has been given medication that will enhance his survival abilities, thus making him an important asset to “The Program.”

Aaron needs the medication; unfortunately it was destroyed along with the cabin, so his only hope is to find the doctor who prescribed it to him.  She’s Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), a biologist who was in charge of dispensing medication to the agents in the field.  In a very scary scene, a fellow doctor (Zeljko Ivanek) goes insane and shoots everyone else in her lab, so she goes on the run herself, eventually joined up with Aaron as they trot across the globe.

From there it is one long chase as operatives from “The Program” try to kill Aaron and Marta as they attempt to get to The Philippines to get their hands on some of Aaron’s medication.  That means a lot of disguises, phony passports and surveillance cameras watching their every move.  It also means that we get several spectacular stunt pieces and shoot-outs.  There is a car chase, a foot chase, and a very long motorcycle chase around the streets of Manila while our heroes are chased by a dogged assassin whose role in this story is left kind of a mystery.

The Bourne Legacy is, of course, the fourth film of the Jason Bourne series that started 10 years ago with “The Bourne Identity.”  Up till now it has starred Matt Damon as Jason Bourne, but he grew tired of the series and bowed out.  Now, we have Jeremy Renner (in truth, a scruffier and much more focused actor) in the lead.  He gives the film a certain amount of credibility, but what does he have to work with?  Unlike the latest James Bond pictures which contain a lot of action but also gravity and weight and a tight storyline, this series is kind of threadbare.  What it needs is a script with some purpose, some focus, and a better narrative.  This particular entry is all over the place.  The film is sure-footed as far as its action scenes go, but to what end?  This is a competent, good-looking action picture that is all style and very little substance.  As action movies go, you could do worse (see this instead of that “Total Recall” remake.) but you won’t take much away from it when it’s over.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.