x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Film Review: dense with plot, Bourne Legacy is a satisfying romp

The latest in the Bourne franchise, starring Jeremy Renner, doesn't quite live up to the quality of the first three films, which starred Matt Damon.

The Bourne Legacy
Director: Tony Gilroy
Starring:
Jeremy Renner, Edward Norton, Rachel Weisz, Joan Allen
***

For the fourth time around, the Bourne series finds itself in a quandary. Its lead star, Matt Damon, has bailed, feeling that a trilogy of top-notch espionage action was enough. In his place steps in the considerable talents of one Jeremy Renner, supported by his fellow newcomers to the franchise, Edward Norton and Rachel Weisz. Furthermore, this latest energetic dash – the first not to be based on a Robert Ludlum novel – has the chief adaptor Tony Gilroy assuming directorial duties.

Wary of such shortcomings, Gilroy wisely focuses on Renner’s renegade agent, who wants to be free of a mystery virus that has boosted his immune system, tying his story to the previous three. Weisz provides the necessary eye candy (and science pointer), Norton the steely agency face determined to catch his prey.

For the first hour, we’re mired in a sometimes laboured dissection of round four, in an attempt, it seems, to prove this is worthy of the Bourne name. Damon is acknowledged as the mere seed of a far greater, top secret op that even he, we imagine, knew little about. The nerve-centre Washington has, naturally, a disturbingly swift means of dealing with a renegade problem, no matter where in the world it may pop up.

Which leads us, neatly, to the second half of the film, which feels more satisfactory and far more – well – Bourne. Aaron Cross (Renner) is on the run, racing against time to rid his body of the government-sanctioned virus. Dr Marta Shearing (Weisz, affecting an unnecessary American accent) is by his side as they wind up in Manila for the grand chase-off to end all.

If you can survive the first hour’s complexities – you’ll need to focus hard on the narrative to keep up – a pay-off, of sorts, awaits. Renner is excellent at being the underdog under fire – his turn here reminiscent to the soldier he played in The Hurt Locker – and clearly can ride a motorbike better than most (as can his stuntman). Weisz is solid if unspectacular, as is Norton: a rare treat, these days, to see him grace a studio picture of this magnitude.

Yet, for all its efforts to paint itself as a Bourne reborn, one can’t help but feel that its former star is casting a long, intimidating shadow on Renner. Try as he might, he’s not quite able to flex his leading-man chops here, given the legacy (no pun intended) that precedes him. That may well change in time, of course.