Movie Review: THE BOURNE LEGACY (2012) - Pacy Action but lacks aim and purpose of earlier 'Bourne Movies'

bourneidentitypapaerbacI have read all three of robert Ludlum's Bourne novels, right from "The Bourne Identity (1980), "The Bourne Supremacy (1986) and "The Bourne Ultimatum" (1990), however the series has been further extended by Eric Van Lustbader after the death of Robert Ludlum on the 12th of March, 2001. 

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However, coming back to the film, before even this new movie on the block- “The Bourne Legacy” gets the attention of hard-core Bourne (played wonderfully by Matt Damon) followers, and here Jeremy Renner playing the role of another agent Aaron Cross, who comes out of the Alaskan wilderness to take refuge in a cabin, he meets another of his kind, a superspy with a scowl and enough artillery to invade a small country. By the time they’ve grudgingly warmed up to each other an unmanned drone is blasting everything to bits. It’s an effectively blunt opener for a series that from its start has tracked a different military drone, this one a man fighting to recover first his identity and then his humanity. That you may not remember the name of Jeremy Renner’s agent, after all the dust finally settles, suggests that the fight goes on.

Less a thrilling franchise reboot than a solid salvage mission, “The Bourne Legacy” is the fourth installment in a series that until now starred Matt Damon as the eponymous spy who, with his near-uncanny wiles, smarts and strength, ran circles around American intelligence agencies and box office rivals both. Superior industrial entertainments, the three previous titles — the first was directed by Doug Liman, the second and third by Paul Greengrass — injected new energy and sense into American action cinema, which like many of its aging stars had been suffering from blockbuster balloon. The Bourne movies put certain human stakes into the action equation, along with a sense of flagrant moral fury, politics and, under Paul Greengrass’s keen sense of observation and watch, it definitely increased its torque. With a running time of more than 120 minutes, this movie's crew packs quite a punch; namely -director of photography, Robert Elswit; edited by John Gilroy; great music by James Newton Howard; production design by Kevin Thompson; costumes by Shay Cunliffe; produced by Frank Marshall, Patrick Crowley, Jeffrey M. Weiner and Ben Smith and released by Universal Pictures. The cast: Jeremy Renner (Cross), Rachel Weisz (Dr. Marta Shearing), Edward Norton (Ret. Col. Eric Byer), Stacy Keach (Ret. Adm. Mark Turso), Oscar Isaac (Outcome #3), Joan Allen (Pam Landy), Albert Finney (Dr. Albert Hirsch), David Strathairn (Noah Vosen) and Scott Glenn (Ezra Kramer).

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Coming back to the review here, then, was an American hero who didn’t wreak random destruction, who didn’t simply light the fuse with a wisecrack and walk away but dug deep into the mystery of why there was a chip in his body and blood on his hands. Both Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon were slated to make another “Bourne,” but when that project fell apart Tony Gilroy, a writer on all three earlier movies, was tapped to take the lead on the franchise. Here the director has only two other directing credits, including “Michael Clayton,” a low-key, low-action thriller in which the biggest bangs were from an exploding car and Tilda Swinton’s savage show as a lawyer.

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So here Tony Gilroy’s script for “The Bourne Legacy,” written with his brother Dan, has given him much more to squabble — locations, characters, hardware, — than he’s had to deal with in the past.

If that worried him, it doesn’t show in the movie’s hyperventilated opening stretch, which zips from Cross battling wolves, doubts and military drones in Alaska; to Scott Glenn and Stacy Keach as a couple of military men who go alpha male to alpha male about a covert operation and its consequences in a darkened room in the D.C. power corridor; to Edward Norton, as Colonel Bryer,  can pull up high-definition surveillance images from across the globe with a few phone calls and strokes on a keyboard.

In between the abbreviated dissonance and grimace, a story emerge involving yet another secret intelligence campaign, this one called Outcome, which has produced better operatives — like Cross — as ingenious and lethally skilled as Bourne.

Little by little and somewhat dimly Tony Gilroy lays out how Cross ended up wrestling with wolves in Alaska only to play a more savage game of cat and mouse with Colonel Bryer.

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The concerned Mr. Renner handles the action scenes believably, but Tony Gilroy never turns the fight sequences, as both Doug Liman and Paul Greengrass did, into occasions for a amazingly reverberating sense of lament and even grief.

Cross have his own reservations, as flashbacks reveal, but none of Jason Bourne’s deeply felt agonies or his strong sense of purpose. This character of Alan Cross is NO MATCH for Robert Ludlum’s unforgettable personality Jason Bourne, who was so real, so human and so believable!

As Tony Gilroy whips from location to location, jumping into scenes without much or even no explanation beyond a nod to the location, it can feel, especially early on, as if he’s trying too hard to match the accelerated tempo of Paul Greengrass’s movies. But he has failed miserably in trying to do this.

However recklessly paced, each of the three Bourne movies sprang more or less coherently from the one before it, and because Paul Greengrass was building on the same story with the same hero and other familiar faces, his feverish crosscutting and globe-trotting never got in the way of narrative logic. By contrast, while Tony Gilroy retains some of the Bourne inheritance, he’s also created a tricky parallel universe with a new agency that has its own clenched-jawed, closed-door complications and a hero who nearly becomes lost among them. This movie is like a maze, you don’t recognize it, and it gets complicated with passing time and finally its only adrenalin all the way, without the brains and stuff that movie-sparkle is made of. However, the background music by James Newton Howard simply creates the atmosphere and yes, it sounds superb!

Regarding the s cript though the director Tony Gilroy cleverly handles some of the overlap between the new Bourne reality and the old by folding characters from the earlier movies into this one; he even stitches a bit that looks as if it’s from “The Bourne Ultimatum,” with a shot of Colonel Bryer on the phone, a concurrence that suggests that he’s been casting shadows over Bourne’s world for a while. Yet Tony Gilroy, perhaps impatient to establish his own Bourne legacy, doesn’t work off the franchise’s foundation for long, instead veering off to juggle his many new faces and places. By the time Rachel Weisz, as a scientist called Dr. Marta Shearing, showed up, I stopped trying to parse every plot twist and just went with the action flow.

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Some of that action flows nicely, as in a tense, unnerving shootout in a house, even if Tony Gilroy can be disappointingly arrogant when it comes to racking up bodies. One of the pleasures of this series is how well its ever more kinetic visual style has served its stories. With its frantic fragmentation of time and space, the filmmaking has conveyed a sense of urgency that mirrored Bourne’s shattered being and his propulsive, convulsive journey from unenlightened self-interest to accountability, from the existential question mark of his identity to a hard moral reckoning. Through all three movies Jason Bourne was still trying to find the answers. Now with Bourne gone, Tony Gilroy needs to find other questions worth incorporating in his script and also locate suitable answers related to the questions. Otherwise his 'other' legacies will simply fall flat on their face, repeatedly!

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