SEQUELS and prequels are an unsubtle way of separating trusting filmgoers from their money, but The Bourne Legacy isn’t a son, a parent or even part of the Robert Ludlum family of books; it’s the Martin Guerre of movies, a film that greets you with cries of “Hey, remember me?” and hopes you’ll go along with the idea that this isn’t a complete stranger who has filched a friend’s good name and garb.
The Bourne Legacy (12A)
Director: Tony Gilroy
Running time: 135 minutes
The way Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is introduced in the Bourne reboot even mirrors our first encounter with Matt Damon in The Bourne Identity. Like Bourne, Cross surfaces in the middle of freezing water – a lake – and like Jason Bourne, we quickly learn what an efficient fighting machine he is. However, unlike Bourne, it’s established that Cross has both a memory and a sense of humour. He’s the Bourne upgrade because, like Liam Neeson in The Grey, he can punch out a wolf.
Cross is the next generation of Treadstone superwarriors, not just highly trained but chemically improved by regular doses of green and blue pills, although smart drugs were not made available to scriptwriters who created a high-speed chase around the streets of Manila, a city more infamous for gridlocked traffic jams
No wonder intelligence boss Colonel Eric Byer (Edward Norton) takes fright and orders the project shut down, which is spy-speak for killing all the scientists and spies involved. Thus Cross and the beautiful genetic scientist (Rachel Weisz) who engineered him are forced to go on the run together.
The rest of Tony Gilroy’s densely plotted thriller alternates between two plot beats: hyperactive who-is-it-this-time fights, and moody everything–I-believed-was-a-lie existentialism. Renner puts a lot of effort into briskly beating up things, in a manner that is impressively athletic, yet still not as emotionally exciting as watching the Olympics.
Still, a lot of work has gone into back-referencing the Matt Damon Bourne films, to the point that good Bourne actors such as Joan Allen, Albert Finney and David Strathairn show up just long enough to suggest series continuity, bark orders and make sure their cheques have banked successfully.
The open-ended finale also carries a hope that you will want more Bourne after Legacy. Well, maybe you will if you are a fan of Renner, spies on steroids or rather unsatisfying chase movies. But the best way to enjoy The Bourne Legacy is as a fast-moving drinking game. Gilroy and his brother Dan clearly had a lovely time dreaming up urgent science jargon. So why not take a swig every time you hear about “going viral” or “behaviour mapping”. By the third act I guarantee that, like Legacy’s superwarriors, you’ll feel no pain.
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