By Monte Lazarus
From the opening majestic shots of Alaska this is a different take on the Bourne series of films. Gone, regrettably, is Matt Damon. In “The Bourne Legacy” Jeremy Renner is Aaron Cross, ostensibly a Bourne-type successor. Renner is different; not as subtle an actor as Damon, but good enough as an action oriented, genetically altered super spy.
Matt Damon was slated to do another Bourne episode, but he and director Paul Greengrass departed over apparent disagreements on the project. The new film is therefore set up with a different lead, cleverly injecting just enough cuts of Damon to create a bridge to the familiar script.
The action is virtually non-stop, but a bit less cerebral without Damon. Jeremy Renner, remembered for “The Hurt Locker” is serviceable enough, and reportedly did his own stunts, and they are spectacular. From the majestic mountains of Alaska to the back alleys of Manila the movie flashes from scene to scene vividly.
Instead of Bourne’s constant quest for identity while under pursuit by the CIA, Cross knows who he is, but does not understand why the government is out to destroy him. It’s all rooted in another program – this one dubbed “Outcome” – run by former military types such as Turso (a much older, heftier Stacy Keach), and Byer (the usual first-rate Edward Norton). They, and their minions, are worried about the public airing of the program, so they decide to wipe out all traces of it, and its operatives.
This time they throw everything technical at their spies including a very efficient Predator drone. There’s a remarkable scene in which Cross uses a wolf, of all things, to try to outwit the drone.
From Alaska, Cross crosses nations and continents to discover why a chip injected into his body together with the provision of certain daily rations have caused him to become addicted, and why he’s been targeted along with others in the project.
The bad guys rely on high tech, while Cross is the foot soldier attempting to thwart technology. Enter Rachel Weisz as Dr. Marta Shearing, one of the hired hands who have developed the chemistry used to produce the new breed of super-spies. Once she realizes the magnitude of the situation, and that she is also a target, she becomes an accomplice to Cross in his mad dash to freedom and vengeance. Weisz is an appealing actor who transmits a lot of emotion.
There’s even a remarkable, and long, motorcycle chase (suspend disbelief in watching it) to ratchet up the action. Throughout the film, Cross is a physical force without raising the moral questions that Bourne faced. That makes “The Bourne Legacy” a different type of movie. It may not satisfy all the lovers of Bourne/Damon, but it is satisfactory enough to warrant viewing.