“The Bourne Legacy” needs a little less conversation, a little more action
Over the course of three “Bourne” movies, amnesiac super-assassin Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) has really made a mess of things.
He’s bungled a major murder. He’s shot, stabbed and strangled several spies. And he’s forced one of the Central Intelligence Agency’s biggest covert operations to go public.But as “The Bourne Legacy” is fond of reminding us, Jason Bourne is “just the tip of the iceberg.” A large, complicated, rather boring iceberg.
Set during roughly the same time frame as “The Bourne Ultimatum,” the latest entry in the action franchise follows the adventures of Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), a black ops agent blessed with bravery, resourcefulness and chemically-heightened speed, strength and endurance.
Unfortunately, Aaron’s days as a field agent are numbered.
After the Bourne fiasco, CIA Director Ezra Kramer (Scott Glenn) and his clandestine cohort, Eric Byer (Edward Norton), are determined to close up shop. That means eliminating all the agents attached to Operation Outcome — including Aaron, who’s currently braving the Alaskan wilderness.
We watch as Aaron manages to evade a Predator drone, then miraculously brings it down -tendering his resignation, as it were.
After that effective opening sequence, however, “The Bourne Legacy” quickly loses steam.
Most of the movie is dedicated to Aaron’s endless search for “chems” — the blue and green pills that keep him sharp and combat-ready. Unfortunately, his main source for refills, researcher Marta Shearling (Rachel Weisz) is also on the run from the government.
As the pair travel from her Virginia home to the Philippines, dodging government goons at every turn, the CIA resorts to more and more desperate measures to take them down — eventually dispatching an emotionless special agent (Louis Ozawa Changchien) to a final confrontation in Manila.
Like its predecessors, “The Bourne Legacy” has all the elements of a modern action thriller: cool chase sequences, lightning-fast stunts, shaky-cam fight scenes in cramped quarters. But for all its frantic phone calls and flashing computer screens, the movie is cursed with an unfortunate lack of urgency.
Why else would writer-director Tony Gilroy (“Michael Clayton,” “Duplicity”) dedicate an hour and 45 minutes to exposition, only to deliver a half-hour of solid action at the end of the film?
Why else would he spend so much screen time on convoluted confabs and chemistry lectures?
I can appreciate the fact that Gilroy, who wrote all three previous “Bourne” films, is fascinated by top-secret skullduggery. I understand his obsession with the nitty-gritty side of spycraft.
But while “The Bourne Legacy” may offer a more realistic view of covert operations than, say, the “Mission: Impossible” movies, watching people bark commands at lackeys is hardly as exciting as watching them scale the world’s tallest building.
In the immortal words of Elvis Presley, I could have used “a little less conversation, a little more action please.”
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