“The Bourne Legacy” Movie Review

     Continuing on in a new direction with “The Bourne Legacy”, Universal pushes the tagline “There Never Was Just One” for all it’s worth in order to continue the world’s most lucrative spy franchise.  Yes, the previous installment which capped the trilogy, “The Bourne Ultimatum”, grossed more at the box office than any “Bond” or “Mission Impossible” film and thus meant the studio had to figure out a way to move forward without star Matt Damon.  Fortunately, they recruited one of the guys responsible for much of the success of the original films in writer Tony Gilroy, who takes on both screenplay and directing chores this time around.  What this means for a film like “Bourne” is a more conversation heavy narrative and less of the jerky camera wall to wall action Paul Greengrass brought to the previous two sequels.  For many, this is probably a welcome change.

     Filling Matt Damon’s shoes as the lead this time around is Jeremy Renner (“The Hurt Locker”, “The Town”), who plays another “Outcome” agent named Aaron Cross who is in training while many of the events in “The Bourne Ultimatum” are occurring.  This proves to be a nice and creative touch by Gilroy as the first act of this film overlaps with both the Waterloo and New York sequences in the last film.  Edward Norton plays Eric Byer who is set up as the villain of sorts, but is really just the mouth piece for the larger evil behind him.  To protect many in the highest areas of our government, he is forced to order the death of all “Outcome” agents because of the exploits of Jason Bourne.  Of course Cross is one of them and narrowly escapes death in a tour de force sequence in which he is targeted by a Drone in the air, while fighting off wolves on the ground in the Alaskan wilderness.

     Gilroy’s script focuses heavily on what exactly the government has done to Outcome agents that make them both smarter and stronger than your average man or woman.  Cross is required to take two forms of medication which he needs to sustain his abilities and he has run out, requiring him to seek out Dr. Shearing (Rachel Weisz) who works at a government lab that produces these drugs.  All of this is explained through a series of conversations between the main players, each with different motivations.  It was really a breath of fresh air to see a film like this play out with a higher degree of character development rather than the typical mindless action of most summer movies.

     Gilroy adapted all three of the previous “Bourne” films into screenplays, but with him at the reigns on this one, he’s able to also put his vision on screen and I felt that paid dividends.  He replaces action with tension and well timed plot twists which build up to a superlative climax.  Let’s put it this way.  Once everything is laid out, one of the characters says “Aaron run!!” and at that point it’s on.  An action sequence and finale that does justice to both the series, as well as this film’s story.  Some may say the finale is a bit too long, but I say it’s just right as a conclusion to all of the subtle cat and mouse games between the characters which populate this film.

     As for Jeremy Renner and his tall task of taking over the franchise, no need to worry.  Unlike the sad attempt by Colin Farrell to fill Arnold’s shoes in last week’s “Total Recall”, Renner plays his Outcome agent with the precision of a scalpel.  He eases on screen tension with humor, yet plays the role with an even more believable toughness than Matt Damon achieved.  After seeing Renner in previous roles, I’m not surprised by this at all and I expect the studio to reap the benefits with the continuing of this franchise for years to come.  I’ve even heard there’s a possibility he and Matt Damon may team up in the next installment as the only two Outcome agents left on the planet.  With the damage each of them can cause individually, I can only imagine the nightmares the dirty politicians in these movies will have when they are forced to deal with both of them.  GRADE: B+