Thursday, 16 August 2012



Can you make a Bourne movie without Jason Bourne? Is it actually honest to do so? Matt Damon isn't in this movie except in still photographs and numerous references in the dialogue, but others have returned (even if only briefly) including Scott Glenn, Joan Allen, Albert Finney and David Strathairn, so does it actually count as a Bourne film? Certainly there is enough continuity for it to qualify as part of the franchise even though the main star and main character is absent - but I wouldn't want it to set a precedent otherwise we could end up with, say, a "James Bond Film" focussing exclusively on the exploits of "Mike Turner, 004". It's more like one of those episodes of Moonlighting or Doctor Who where the main leads are off that week and the plot is handled by second banana characters or complete unknowns.

The basic thrust of The Bourne Legacy is that Jason Bourne wasn't the only one: this time it's Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) who narrowly escapes being killed when his masters pull the plug on all their dubious projects in the wake of the potential scandal caused by Bourne. Cross is on medication to enhance his physical and cognitive abilities and without continued access to the pills he'll become a gibbering idiot - but then one of the doctors shoots up the laboratory without any warning and the only survivor is Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz). Can she save Cross with a viral infusion (or something), and can he protect her against the evil CIA goons seeking to terminate everyone who knows of the operation?

Most of the movie - as indicated by the "news" of Paddy Considine's Guardian journalist being killed in Waterloo Station - appears to be running in parallel with the events of The Bourne Ultimatum, and frankly it might have helped if I'd rewatched it as for the first fifteen or twenty minutes I had absolutely no idea what the hell was going on: we're cutting back and forth between Alaska, Korea, Washington, hither and thither. Once the movie gets going it becomes a standard race against time thriller - Cross only has a short time before the last of his meds wear off - and there are a couple of noisy extended action sequences to break things up.

Sadly the action scenes are shot in the same jittery, handheld, fast-edited manner as the two Bourne movies by Paul Greengrass, but not done as well so in the case of the shootout in the farmhouse I got completely lost since all the men looked vaguely alike, none of them were clearly visible for more than a fraction of a second and for most of that sequence I genuinely had no idea which, if any, of those guys was Jeremy Renner. The big climax is an extended foot and motorbike chase which is much better, but still could have done with nailing the camera down a bit rather than rushing hundreds of shaky snippets of films past my eyes too quickly for the mind to actually take in. Presumably they want to emphasise the chaos and confusion, but not at the expense of us in the cinema losing track of the action. Maybe it's for that reason that I tend to prefer Doug Liman's first Bourne movie to the Greengrass sequels.

Still, it's okay: it's perfectly enjoyable after the first fifteen or twenty faintly baffling minutes and provides a decent amount of thumping action, particularly in the last act and James Newton Howard's score owes something to John Powell's terrific soundtracks for all the previous entries (although Powell is conspicuously not listed in the credits). But if they are going to do another one, which I'd be entirely happy with, drop Bourne from it. It's Cross' franchise now.


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