The Bourne Legacy (M) (135 min)
Directed by Tony Gilroy.
Starring Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton.
Bourne, again. Surely after 2007's The Bourne Ultimatum we had some right to expect that the franchise had run its course. Not that there had been a bad film in the trilogy.
Bourne has been credited by plenty of people - who think far too much about such things - as being the real reason behind the reinvigoration of the James Bond films.
By 2002, and the release of Die Another Day Pierce Brosnan was sliding irrefutably into Roger Moore style middle-age campery, while the idea of criminal masterminds killing thousands of people with diabolic plots had suddenly become very real and unfunny.
A few months before, The Bourne Identity had stormed the box office. The shooting was gritty faux-doco, the plotting was agreeably paranoid, nihilistic, and cynical, and in Matt Damon, all bunchy shoulders and troubled brow, surely post 9/11 Hollywood had found a hero who rendered Bond's escapism a bit...limp.
Bond went back to the drawing board for a few years, and re-emerged with Daniel Craig waving the Union Jack, every inch the modern sociopath, suave one-liners relegated to the bin, and looking just about capable of putting the smooth faced young upstart over his knee and giving him an old fashioned spanking.(Hey, 50 Shades of Craig. That'd sell, surely?)
In the years since, Bond has slightly reverted to form, while Damon's Jason Bourne has kicked, shot, and angsted his way across the continents, until the end of The Bourne Ultimatum, when he apparently found a measure of peace and justice. Fine. Wrap it up, clean up on the Blu-ray box sets, and move on to the next daft idea. Except in this instance, the next daft idea is to make another Bourne film, but Bourne free.
And so, The Bourne Legacy. Jeremy Renner steps into the franchise with superhero and box-office credentials already established. He's turned up and done good unflashy things in both The Avengers and Mission Impossible 4 in the last year. Add that to an Academy Award nomination for his work in The Hurt Locker, and a history of portraying difficult and troubling characters, and you could argue that Renner is a better choice to play a melancholic rogue super agent than Damon ever was.
It certainly all pans out on screen. Renner, next to Rachel Weisz, runs through a gratifying range of emotions, and yet still nails the physical side of the role perfectly.
Renner actually beats up a wolf at one point, which is surely a scenario studded with possibilities for unintentional comedy, and yet no one laughed. Not even me.
Around them, a story set in the immediate aftermath of The Bourne Ultimatum unfolds. The super-agent project is blown, and Renner's ''Aaron Cross'', along with all his fellow agents, are for the chop.
Cue a straight forward and very Bourne style series of scrapes and escapes, before a final show down with an implacable foe, which seemed to me to be over all too soon.
There's a lot of very silly business involving the agents getting all their powers from popping little green pills, which would surely have rated a mention on Damon's watch if it were so, but apart from that, this Bourne does OK. I doubt there will be a fifth film, but as a way to cash in on a good yarn one more time, I've seen worse.
- © Fairfax NZ News