Review of The Bourne Legacy

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The fourth film in the spy thriller series based on the Jason Bourne novels created by Robert Ludlum and Eric Van Lustbader, The Bourne Legacy is the first film to feature someone other than Matt Damon in its leading role. The story resumes after the conclusion of The Bourne Ultimatum, with a new cast of characters struggling to deal with the aftermath left by Jason Bourne. Jeremy Renner stars as the main character, Aaron Cross/Kenneth Gidson, an agent of Operation Outcome, while Edward Norton, Joan Allen & Rachel Weisz fill in the supporting roles.
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Movie Review: "The Bourne Legacy"

-- Rating: PG-13 (violence, action sequences)
Length: 135 minutes
Release Date: August 8, 2012 (Philippines)
Directed by: Tony Gilroy
Genre: Action/Adventure/Thriller

When it was announced that Matt Damon would not be reprising his role as Jason Bourne in the fourth film in the series, the news was met with quite a bit of negativity. When the main character in a series, especially one that was as good as the Bourne series leaves, that is a hole that usually can't be filled. Enter Jeremy Renner, who has built himself quite a career since "The Hurt Locker" proved that he could carry a film. He finally gets his chance to carry a big-budget studio film with "The Bourne Legacy."

This film in the series begins a new chapter that has a similar storyline with the first three films. Alex Cross, much like Bourne before him, is a highly trained government operative. The difference between Cross and Bourne is that Cross chose this path. That doesn't mean there won't be any tension or action, though. In fact, "The Bourne Legacy" lives up to the action sequence bar that was set by Damon. Fans of the first trilogy in the story, based on the novels by Robert Ludlum, will not be disappointed.

The movie's opening scenes are very similar to "The Bourne Identity," the first entry into the series. In that film, Bourne was fished out of the ocean before the freezing temperatures could cause hypothermia and kill him. Cross is likewise in a frigid body of water (this time a river), but for a very different reason. He must get a couple of mysterious pills from a supply hidden in the water and take them. At first, the audience isn't privy as to why Cross needs these pills so badly that he would brave certain death to get them. Soon after, they become one of the main focuses of the film.

Cross agreed to join The Project, a top-secret government program that uses genetic altering to turn nine ordinary men, including Cross and Bourne, into elite agents. Their brains and reactions become lightning fast, their muscles grow and their limbs become lithe. They aren't superhuman after being given these drugs, but they come pretty close. Cross previously was small and had a learning disability, so the chance to erase those genetic markers was something he didn't have to think twice about.

Unfortunately, Eric Bayer (Edward Norton), a retired Air Force Colonel, has been tasked with shutting The Program down. An enterprising reporter from The Guardian newspaper in the UK has been investigating and is about to expose all the secrets of The Program. She is murdered before the story leaks, but Bayer is still going to shut it down. That means murdering Cross and the eight other men who are scattered across the globe.

The action sequences take off in full force at this point in the film, with Cross crossing continents to stay one step ahead of the government goons at his back. He finds out that the lab where the pills that help keep him a super agent are produced in Manila. He goes there to either steal a cache huge enough to keep him from reverting back to his old learning disabled ways or to get a new experimental version that could give him the enhancement forever. He teams up with Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), who works at the lab and agrees to help Cross because she realizes that she is being hunted down, too.

Weisz turns in a fine performance as Dr. Shearing, portraying a woman who is equal parts brains and gumption. She is not the usual female sidekick, complaining about chipping a nail or how her feet hurt in her sky-high pumps. Instead, she is a true partner for Cross, who needs a pair of eyes to watch over him despite his genetic enhancements.

Writer/Director Tony Gilroy also wrote the previous movies in the franchise, though this is his first directorial effort. It is fairly obvious that he paid close attention to the other films, because he improved upon the few things they got wrong. For example, Paul Greengrass, who directed the last two Bourne films, used a handheld camera for some of the action sequences. This could get too shaky at times, making the scenes a little queasy. Gilroy is careful not to make that same mistake here, so he enhances the action greatly.

The film is a worthy entry into the lauded series. The ending of the film even sets up a sequel, one where Damon might or might not be back. Even if he chooses not to return, it is evident from "The Bourne Legacy" that Renner can hold up the franchise quite well on his own.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars