September Issue 2012

By | Arts & Culture | Movies | Published 12 years ago

The tagline to the fourth Bourne chapter in this highly esteemed action-thriller franchise cleverly states ‘There Was Never Just One’, thus ensuring that any comparisons to the previous three films prove futile. This one, The Bourne Legacy, though it has similar themes and familiar scenes, is a different beast altogether.

Tony Gilroy, who wrote the first three Bourne movies, directs this one with assured confidence. The style is a clear departure from the Paul Greengrass-style of filmmaking which has become so synonymous with the Bourne franchise. No shaky cams this time around, but as much action and as many thrills.

Jeremy Renner plays Aaron Cross, a covert operative and a member of Operation Outcome. As part of his training programme, he is given pills to enhance his mental and physical abilities and he takes them purposefully, wherever he is. The distinction between this programme and others is that Cross has no identity crisis, he knows what he’s signed up for. This film runs parallel to The Bourne Ultimatum and Edward Norton plays Eric Byer, the quasi-villain who decides to shut down all programmes and methodically goes about killing all agents, once Jason Bourne goes public.

Aaron Cross, who Byer had handpicked for the programme, manages to escape. Dr Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), an Outcome scientist, survives a couple of assassination attempts before she is rescued by Cross. The agent needs her as she can provide him with further medication and so they set off for Manila, Philippines, where the pills are produced.

To say that The Bourne Legacy isn’t as good or up to the mark as the previous three is erroneous. In fact, this one is the most contemporary film in the franchise and speaking from a Pakistani perspective, it’s topical. The film doesn’t shy away from showing America exercise its unlimited power and scenes of such murky nature even lead us, for a very brief moment, to Karachi.

Matt Damon’s absence isn’t felt too greatly, because Jeremy Renner does a commendable job. He handles himself well in the action sequences, and is surprisingly vulnerable in the dramatic scenes. Edward Norton is the right choice for the role of Byer, because he knows how to appear menacing without trying. He definitely calls the shots behind the scenes, but there’s no maniacal laughter with this bad guy. Norton’s performance reminds one of his portrayal of King Baldwin in Kingdom of Heaven (Ridley Scott, 2005), where one doesn’t see his face but only hears his voice, yet he’s still very convincing. Rachel Weisz does well although she never shines, which is partly because she is somewhat underwritten. Zeljko Ivanek as a brainwashed scientist-turned-assassin is a scene-stealer.

The Bourne Legacy, true to its title, expands this complex universe even further; one which we thought couldn’t get more dangerous after a complete and fulfilling trilogy. It’s a highly verbose and cerebral film but entertaining at the same time. There are, however, some shortcomings as well. The second half has a couple of plot holes, especially in the Manila portions. Also, the film ends very abruptly, leaving several loose ends. Therefore, a fifth Bourne film seems inevitable. Perhaps Jason Bourne and Aaron Cross can unite in The Bourne Reconnaissance? Time will tell. But this one might be the precursor to the best Bourne film yet to come.

This review was originally published in the September issue of Newsline.

Schayan Riaz is a film critic based in Germany