The Bourne Legacy

The question I had before seeing this film was: does the world really need a fourth Bourne film? The answer, I now know, is no.

Genre(s): Action, Thriller

Director: Tony Gilroy

Actors: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Joan Allen, Albert Finney

Year: 2012

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Country: USA

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Yet, there it is, hitting screens with a clunk thanks to a meh leading man, a needlessly confusing plot and the kind of storytelling that would be great if you were hoping to nod off for a while, but not at all great if you’re trying to convince people the movie you made should be categorized as “action.” I may not have loved the previous Bourne films, but I don’t think I could have fairly called any of them “boring.” Not so here.

Jeremy Renner, whom Hollywood keeps trying to foist upon audiences as a leading man when he’s actually a character actor, takes the reins from previous Bourne star, Matt Damon. Though Renner is playing a completely new character – genetically tweaked super-spy Aaron Cross – he and his onscreen alter ago lack their predecessors’ charisma and likeability. Cross, for reasons that are never really clear because they’re buried in piles of overly extraneous dialogue, is the last of a dying breed. Literally. The agency responsible for the program that created him (and Jason Bourne) is terminating the project and all its participants.

But when Cross gets a whiff of this dastardly plan, he goes into desperate-survival mode, taking with him a comely doctor named Marta (Rachel Weisz), who might hold the key to saving his life. In the process, the duo find themselves chased by the Feds, criss-crossing the globe and getting under the skin of a seriously peeved Edward Norton, who delivers a performance that never dips below 7 on the I’m Taking This Role Way Too Seriously scale.

Unfortunately for all involved, it takes a good hour before the first genuine action sequence kicks in (I know because I checked my watch when it did). And then, once those action sequenes start, they don’t really stop… except that every pursuit or fight feels exactly like the one before it. Yes, there are a few “wow, cool!” moments that had the audience muttering in approval but, overall, everything felt sort of tired and stale. As if it had been done before, and better, in other movies.

In addition, there is scene after scene of people arguing. So much talking, and yet no one says anything comprehensible or meaningful. At one pivotal moment early on, while they’re on the lam and being chased by gun-toting ne’er-do-wells, Cross and Marta actually stop their car, get out and start debating on the side of the road. While the earlier Bourne movies left me nauseated because of their excessive hand-held camerawork, this one left me rolling my eyes repeatedly because the whole thing was moving at a glacial pace. And a dull one, at that.

I had my doubts when it was announced Jeremy Renner would be starring in this film. I’m happy to say: I was right. There’s no meat to his performance, and his Aaron Cross comes off as an uninteresting and fairly two-dimensional character. He was miscast and, I think, the producers misjudged how appealing he’ll be to the ticket-buying public. It’s not even that I didn’t like him – worse, I was indifferent to him, which doesn’t exactly make for a compelling reason to follow someone’s adventures.

What was perhaps most telling was the fact that the filmmakers gave The Bourne Legacy’s biggest, most exciting takedown and most gasp-inducing moment of vindication not to Renner, but to his co-star, Weisz (!). Wait. What? The hero of the movie doesn’t get his proverbial money shot? Oh dear. To me, that was a great big serving of “yeah, she’s way more interesting” served up with a side of “let’s be honest, people won’t cheer for you, but they’ll cheer for her.”

Though I pray there’s no sequel, if there is, I hope Weisz’s Marta gets top billing and Aaron Cross is just a fleeting memory. Or, better yet, recast with someone much more engaging in the role.

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