THE BOURNE LEGACY sidesteps the initial Matt Damon trio of Jason Bourne epics with this meanwhile-at-the-same-time entry from 2012, taken from the first of author Eric Van Lustbader’s novels continuing the series begun by Robert Ludlum. Tony Gilroy, who wrote the scripts for the first three, having proven his director chops with Michael Clayton and Duplicity, takes over that job this time out as well as writing, sharing the screenplay chore with his brother Dan (Nightcrawler). Well driven down each avenue.
Cross-pollinating with the events of The Bourne Supremacy, linking cameos from Joan Allen, David Strathairn, Albert Finney and Scott Glenn, we find ‘Operation Outcome’ agent ‘Aaron Cross’ (Jeremy Renner) and other members of that hit team targeted for elimination when the truth about Operation’s ‘Treadstone’ and ‘Blackbriar’ are exposed thanks to Bourne. Surviving a drone attack, the masterfully resourceful Cross goes after whoever is after him, despite being subject to possibly fatal withdrawal from the enhancement “chems” the program used on him. Securing the aid of also-threatened biochemist ‘Dr. Marta Shearing’ (Rachel Weisz), Cross/Renner bruises his way through locations in Canada (Alberta subbing for Alaska), The Philippines (Manila and Palawan) and South Korea (Seoul) while back in D.C. and New York mastermind bastards go into Deep State overdrive to save the program and their butts by squashing the two fugitives.
Gilroy’s filming style is direct, absent the camera-fiddle of two previous outings, but delivering the same sort of propellent, often spectacular action. The script is complicated but smart, the casting shrewd. The self-styled “patriots” are well-drawn by Edward Norton, Stacy Keach and Dennis Boutsikaris, with effective underlings given to Željko Ivanek, Elizabeth Marvel, Corey Stoll and Donna Murphy. Oscar Issac gets in his typical intensity early on and Louis Ozawa Changchien goes fierce as ‘LARX #3’, an opponent who will just not quit.
Many critics were not as kind to this entry and it didn’t have the hoped-for box office success, grossing $276,100,000 against the $125,000,000 budgeted. To this armchair agent, it vies with the first, The Bourne Identity, for quality, and is blessed with more humor and humanity, allowing you to actually care for both Cross and the frightened scientist. Renner’s excellent; brawny, confident, disarming—he’s not playing the morose Bourne, so ‘purists’ can waste their miff supply stewing that he isn’t Matt Damon. Weisz is a great choice as his scared but smart accomplice; she aces the best role for a woman in the series, nudging even the fine work from Franka Potente and Joan Allen. James Newton Howard took over scoring duty from John Powell, and delivers his usual deft touch, and, as in the other entries, the Moby number is employed at the finish. Beautifully lensed by Robert Elswit. 135 minutes, unfairly underrated.