Jeremy Renner storms into the franchise as the new agent in peril in Tony Gilroy’s new film THE BOURNE LEGACY.
“How many of us are there?” asks Aaron Cross, part of the now expanding CIA special ops programmes, first seen in embryo in the brilliant trilogy based on Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne exploits. But ‘There was never just one’ we’re told on the film’s poster and so this time in THE BOURNE LEGACY we see Aaron’s story of another military recruit who realises his life is not his own and that he wants to turn the tables on his puppet spymasters and say “No more”. We also see that without Bourne star Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass, the franchise can and does pretty successfully move on via this new instalment.
Series writer Tony Gilroy now also steps into the director’s chair and presents us with a film I felt more in tune with Doug Liman’s The Bourne Identity than with the subsequent two Greengrass-helmed actioners The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum. It’s measured, understated and when it eventually let’s rip, it does so with powerful and focused efficiency.
Much like its new star, Jeremy Renner. I’m a real admirer of his performances, which from S.W.A.T. and 28 Days Later to The Hurt Locker and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, from The Town to Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol have always balanced between a quiet menace and a flinty resolve. One review for THE BOURNE LEGACY has mentioned his similarity to Steve McQueen but for me, he’s more James Coburn – a fantastic mixture of strength and contained emotion, offset with a great line in dry humour. Think of Coburn as Britt in the knife fight in The Magnificent Seven and you’ve got it. Renner’s a great choice for this series.
Every hero needs a nemesis who’s out to get him through and here we have the formidable Edward Norton, delivering another ruthlessly brilliant performance as Eric Byer, the head of another group of agents. In one brief scene Norton, in a white shirt that glows with intensity from Robert Elswit’s superb photography, verbally demolishes a colleague who’s not quite on board their ‘mission’. He rules the scene, as he does almost every scene he’s in and it’s a shame that he and Renner only share one tiny moment together, to square off against each other and set up their fractious connection. Perhaps we can see more of them in the next movie.
Gilroy has called up a super-strong cast to power him through THE BOURNE LEGACY. Most importantly for Aaron, we have the ever-brilliant and Oscar-winning Rachel Weisz as Marta Shearing, the doctor who he needs to track down, as she will help him unlock exactly who he is. In other supporting roles, there’s Stacy Keach as a grizzled senior CIA honcho, Donna Murphy nicely counterpointing the male CIA support that’s been in previous movies and in particular, Oscar Isaac (outstanding as always) as another agent who you (and Aaron) just don’t know whether to trust.
The film doesn’t have the frenetic jump cuts that were so indicative of the Greengrass instalments but there is a punchiness in the editing as the movie reaches its climax, that matches the excitement of what’s come before and bodes well as a jumping-off point for a sequel. There is perhaps a little too much connection with the previous trilogy for the film to wholly stand out and make its own mark and I thought the inclusion of the famous Moby track (albeit remixed) was a mistake. The movie didn’t need it and should have stood aside from that.
Let’s hope the next one either joins the two strands – as rumours abound that we’ll see Matt Damon and Jeremy Renner brought together – or allow Renner, Norton, and Gilroy to really strike out and bring us something new. Time and the success of this movie will decide.