The Bourne Legacy | Movie review
Jeremy Renner makes a more human superspy than Matt Damon.
No offense to Matt Damon, whose sinewy physicality provides its own kind of charisma, but do action heroes come any duller than amnesia-stricken supersoldier Jason Bourne? The more this humorless cipher learned about his mysterious past—over the course of three brisk, mechanically efficient chase pictures—the less interesting he became. So it’s a relief, not a liability, that the titular operative makes only a photographic cameo in The Bourne Legacy, which passes the torch to a new CIA lab rat gone rogue. Introduced in the middle of an Alaskan training mission seemingly modeled on the plot of The Grey, chemically enhanced field agent Aaron Cross immediately registers as a more vulnerable and sympathetic protagonist than his predecessor. Much of that has to do with the fact that he’s played by Hurt Locker headliner Jeremy Renner, lending a human heartbeat to a franchise that has long trafficked in coldly impersonal spy games.
After a crowded first act, partially set during the events of 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum and featuring enough global setting changes to give audiences jet lag, Cross discovers he’s a marked man. Going on the run from his makers, he eventually joins forces with a government scientist (Rachel Weisz) also on the execution list. Director and series screenwriter Tony Gilroy makes these familiar plot points feel fresh again, staging the requisite set pieces—rooftop escape, metropolitan car chase—with the same clarity Steven Soderbergh brought to Haywire. (We’re a long way from the handheld incoherence of Paul Greengrass’s Bourne films.) Even the obligatory control-room sequences, featuring Edward Norton as the covert-ops bigwig barking orders at desk jockeys, gain a procedural fascination. A too-abrupt ending lays the groundwork for more Bourne adventures—not such a depressing proposition, if we can expect future sequels to be as satisfying as this one.