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The Bourne Legacy - DVD Review

The Bourne Legacy

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

AT A time when it’s fashionable to reboot film franchises at the drop of a hat, or the departure of a leading man and director, the creators of the Bourne movies deserve credit for thinking a little more ambitiously.

Rather than starting out all over again (a la Spider-Man) or merely getting a new actor to play the central character (a la Bond), they’ve decided to expand the universe. And they’ve done it by tying directly into the events that took place throughout The Bourne Ultimatum.

In doing so, The Bourne Legacy cleverly achieves two objectives – to make viewers believe there was never only one, while setting things up for the mouthwatering possibility that we may have two Bourne-like agents one day meeting up in the same movie.

A lot of the credit for this goes to writer-director Tony Gilroy, who had a hand in the scripts for the first three films, and who wrote and stepped behind the camera for this fourth outing.

He furthers the story in intriguing, believable fashion, while seldom attempting to compete with previous director Paul Greengrass in terms of frenetic pacing. Rather, this is exposition heavy at times, deliberating operating at a pace more reminiscent of the gritty thrillers of the ’70s.

But when the time comes to throw in an action sequence, the director also proves adept at making sure viewers know they’ve stepped back into the Bourne universe.

Credit, too, deserves to go to new leading man Jeremy Renner, who works hard to ensure that his Aaron Cross maintains his own identity rather than operating as a mere Bourne clone. Again, it adds to the intrigue.

That’s not to say that The Bourne Legacy gets away with things completely. The more deliberate pacing may be something of a letdown to die-hard Bourne fans, while Renner’s Cross shows a fallibility that Damon’s Bourne never did.

The main villains are under-used, too, which rather squanders the potential offered by the likes of Edward Norton in particular, while an open ending certainly feels a little too presumptuous of further offerings.

But Gilroy has laid solid groundwork upon which to build, while engaging the brain and exciting the senses along the way (even if he does, on occasion, get a little too caught up in the scientific jargon).

The plot picks up in the aftermath of the shooting of Paddy Considine’s Guardian journalist in The Bourne Ultimatum, who was about to blow the whistle on the CIA’s Treadstone operation (which spawned Bourne).

Hence, while Bourne heads to New York, a separate department of the US government responsible for a similar scheme to enhance agents intellectually and physically by supplying them with drugs (Outcome) bids to cover its own tracks for fear of being caught up in Treadstone’s mess.

Enter Colonel Eric Byer (Edward Norton), who takes the ruthless decision to terminate everyone associated with the programme, including Renner’s Cross and the genetic scientist (Rachel Weisz) who helped to engineer him.

Once Cross learns of this decision and narrowly escapes death, he sets about doing what’s necessary to keep one step ahead of his pursuers, while attempting to secure enough of a drug supply to keep him going. This inevitably means finding and teaming up with Weisz’s scientist.

Admittedly, the relationship between Renner and Weisz is the weakest element and ultimately serves to undermine the film’s conclusion by depriving audiences of a potentially exhilarating confrontation.

But there’s plenty more to savour along the way, especially in the early character-building scenes involving the emergence of Norton as a worthy nemesis and the unveiling of Cross as a second generation Bourne.

Cross’s early scenes, in particular, are terrific, placing the super-assassin on survival training in Alaska where he gets to pit his wits against the elements and wolves… who eventually prove an invaluable, if unwitting, aid in helping him to escape the government’s first attempt to kill him off.

But there’s also an outstanding sequence involving Cross and Weisz’s scientist coming together, which involves a brutally staged showdown at the latter’s woodland house.

If the film threatens to lose momentum at several points thereafter, Gilroy still tosses in a nifty rooftop and motorcycle chase in Manila that should satisfy most franchise fans, even if they do serve to show that Greengrass remains the better action director.

Norton, too, maintains the interest whenever on-screen but is given too little to do in the film’s latter stages, which feels like another missed opportunity.

That said, The Bourne Legacy remains a hugely enjoyable affair that never detracts from what’s come before, nor feels like a lame cash-in. Indeed, a lot of care has been taken to ensure that the franchise has a healthy new direction to go in should it wish to take it.

Renner, for sure, deserves a second shot, while Gilroy now has several options at his disposal for potential future endeavours (with the one involving Damon’s return the most exciting).

In that regard, and taking its flaws into account, The Bourne Legacy is a smart piece of filmmaking that has to go down as a successful passing of the torch, even if it can’t quite match the out and out brilliance of the films that have come before it.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 135mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: December 3, 2012