Review: The Bourne Legacy

(M) ***

Director: Tony Gilroy.

Cast: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Stacy Keach.

A BOURNE movie without Bourne? Surely it can't be done.

Well, Tony Gilroy - who wrote all three of the movies which actually had Bourne in them - thought it could be done and he jumped into the director's chair to prove it.

Gilroy has done an admirable job. With the help of his screenwriting brother, he's crafted a good plot that keeps Bourne involved in the story without Bourne being in the film, while simultaneously digging deeper into the franchise's mythology.

Bourne's actions in the third film - The Bourne Ultimatum - caused a serious case of nerves for some higher-ups in the CIA and the White House, sparking the decision to shut down some of the more morally dubious projects, including the super-spy programs that followed in the wake of Bourne's creation.

But in their effort to wipe out all the evidence of the program (ie. kill everyone) the suits miss two key players - the Bourne-like Aaron Cross (Renner) and scientist Marta Shearing (Weisz).  Together they go on the run, trying to keep one step ahead of the bad guys.

It's as good a story as you can hope when you're trying to keep a franchise afloat without the main character, but it still feels a little underdone. An anti-climactic ending doesn't help, but the severe sense of deja vu hampers what is an otherwise decent addition to the series.

Renner, very adept at playing spies and soldiers by now, is great as Cross, Weisz gets some good scenes, and the always-excellent Norton is right at home as a CIA man of questionable ethics. It's also nice to see Aussie actor Shane Jacobson in a small role.

Gilroy keeps up the Bourne-isms - the close-quarter fighting, the handheld action scenes, the makeshift weapons - although overdoes the choppy editing and shaky camerawork, almost ruining the climactic chase sequence.In between the excitement, the film gets occasionally bogged down, partly because we know where this is going and it seems to be taking its sweet time to get there.

The cast and crew have done a good job with Legacy, but they can't escape the fact we've seen a lot of this before. Troubled spy goes on the run with woman who helps him - it's all too familiar if you've watched the first three Bourne movies.

Which brings us to the reason why many thought this couldn't be done. Legacy is probably as good as it possibly can be. For the sake of consistency, there had to be similarities to the rest of the series, but by having to bring in a new character, the story is laboured with feeling too much like a re-run. It's a fine line to walk and The Bourne Legacy keeps its balance admirably but it hardly matches the spectacle of its predecessors. It's enjoyable and reasonably solid, but it's still unneccesary.

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