There was a lot of talk about how the Bourne movies based on the novels by Robert Ludlum re-engerized the action movie genre. We got a main character played by Matt Damon who didn’t automatically come to mind as an action star and who was more than muscles and/or an agenda of revenge. We got tightly plotted story arcs and carefully orchestrated fight sequences. Even the chase scenes were well done. And it turned Matt Damon into more than “that guy who won an Oscar with Ben Affleck”.
So there was some concern about whether this quasi reboot with Jeremy Renner and directed by Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton, but no real action flicks) would carry on in that great tradition.
Answer: Ehhhhhhhhh, almost.
The biggest problem that The Bourne Legacy has is the goal of reinvention. The movie spends most of its pretty hefty running time (over two hours!) establishing when this story takes place and putting all the characters in the right spot for the action to occur. But by the time everyone is set up and the story is set, there’s very little movie left. They wasted most of the movie on the set-up and didn’t leave enough for the payoff.
I don’t think I’m alone in saying that when the movie actually ended I just sat there in disbelief and kept waiting for the REAL ending. I actually muttered under my breath “No. This isn’t the end. You’ve got to be kidding me.” And then I shook my head when I realized that I was mistaken and yes, this IS the real ending.
This actually points to the fact that the basic story they set is pretty interesting: in a program similar to Treadstone, the government program that created Jason Bourne, there are other men and women who are being modified to be the perfect spies. Because The Bourne Legacy takes place concurrently with The Bourne Ultimatum, so it is Jason Bourne’s actions in that third movie that set in motion everything in this one. In order up the mess that might ensue once Bourne’s story goes public, Ed Norton’s amoral Eric Byer orders the death of all other operatives in the field, including our friend Jeremy Renner.
Renner is an interesting actor. He’s not classically handsome like Damon, but he’s got an attractive restless quality and piercing eyes that serve him well. Renner can easily portray a character where there is more under the surface than on, again something that comes in handy here. But he’s not asked to do much more than the basics here, much the situation that he faced as Hawkeye in The Avengersearlier this summer. Renner’s Aaron Cross ends up partnering with Rachel Weisz’s Doctor Marta Shearing, a member of the scientific community that gave Cross his medically boosted physical prowess and cognitive functions. Weisz’s role is mostly exactly what you think it is, but she and Renner have some good chemistry. Both are being hunted and go on the run together.
There are a few great set pieces in The Bourne Legacy, one in Shearing’s house, a ramshackle mansion with great bones, that ends up the locale for some great hand to hand combat. As with many of the other Bourne movies, there is also an extended chase scene in Manila. That goes on for a little too long, honestly. But there are some nifty motorcycle moves…
But in the end, I just wished that they had taken a few minutes from that chase scene, a few minutes from each of the set-up scenes we get in the first hour of the film and added them to the end to give us a really satisfactory ending. Yes, this sets them up for a sequel, but do you really want to wait that long for resolution to this anecdote?
Why do they do this? Just why? I’ve loved Renner since The Hurt Locker and he did a brief stint in a quirky cop show on TV (with Amber Tamblyn as Joan of Arcadia with a smart mouth)–why give him such a limited role? The great thing about Matt Damon in the Bourne films is that so much of the action was interior and we could feel his conflict so keenly. (I haven’t seen this one, yet, so I may be casting aspersions prematurely. Mea culpa). But damn…Jeremy does that inner turmoil thing so brilliantly. Let him do that.
No, you’re right. They didn’t give him enough to go on. And they should have. The man seethes excellently. But seriously, he was the absolute best thing about The Town and no one is giving him roles like that now. It’s a shame.
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