Movie review: 'Bourne Legacy' tough to follow
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Tony Gilroy may be the smartest man in the room, but that does him no good when he makes a movie that is often difficult or impossible to follow.
That is what "The Bourne Legacy" is. Yes, we miss Matt Damon as Jason Bourne -- seen only in photos and mentioned by more than one character -- but we miss the filmmakers' acknowledgement that five years is a long time between movies, and the gap isn't helped by throwing all sorts of agency code names (Treadstone, Blackbriar, Outcome, National Research Assay Group) at us.
2.5 stars = Average
- Starring: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton.
- Rating: PG-13 for violence and intense action sequences.
Maybe every ticket should come with a blister pack of the blue and green pills that select agents in the movie take. In their case, they're tucked into a rectangular metal box about the size of dog tags and worn around their necks.
The pills juice mental and physical powers and are designed to make the takers better suited to isolated, high-risk, long-term intelligence assignments. Agent Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is training for just such an event as the movie opens in the scenic wilds of Alaska, where he battles frigid temperatures, snowy mountain cliffs and snarling wolves.
He is part of a program, Outcome, which counts Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) as a brilliant researcher. Her work at a pharma giant helps to make the guinea pigs/super soldiers possible, but she comes under literal fire at her lab and home.
She and Aaron end up on the run as shadowy figures, including Edward Norton as a retired colonel running the show, want to shut down programs and people. Somewhere late in the game we get a couple of signature Bourne chase scenes, across clattering rooftops and on motorcycles, but this is a more cerebral, intrigue-filled effort.
There is nothing wrong with that if the story is coherent or pays attention to all of the details, including one about a key card that probably would have been deactivated under these circumstances, but this does not.
Tony Gilroy, who wrote or co-wrote the three previous "Bourne" movies and made his directing debut with the excellent "Michael Clayton," directs "Bourne Legacy" and wrote the story with his writer-brother, Dan Gilroy ("Real Steel"). He may be too close to the material to know we need more explanation about the genetic machinations and a better sense of how "Ultimatum" and "Legacy" are linked.
Ms. Weisz has no trouble playing a brainiac who insists, "Look, I was there for the science," while a properly buff Mr. Renner ironically was given a better showcase in "The Town," "Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol" and "The Hurt Locker."
In the end, though, a Bourne movie without Bourne is like a party without the guest of honor.
First Published August 10, 2012 12:00 am