“Bourne Legacy” furthers successful franchise

Nearly 12 hours removed from seeing “Bourne Legacy”, the fourth installment in the successful Bourne franchise and first sans Matt Damon, I still don’t know what to make of the ending. Even after about 125 mintues, it felt like the movie could have gone on for another 60 or so and everybody in the theater would have been OK with that. In fact, when the score came up that signifies the end of any Bourne film, I had to look at my phone as if to ask “is it really over?”

I hope that is not something I have to ask myself in the coming months if developments in the series lead to that. While Jeremy Renner, who enters the series in “Bourne Legacy” as Aaron Cross, a highly trained — and even somewhat genetically enhanced — Outcome agent (or agent No. 5 as the doctors who administer routine tests know him) is quite imposing, he lacks the charisma that Matt Damon brought to the screen as Jason Bourne.

Even though Bourne never makes an appearance on the screen except for the occasional photograph as the CIA works to cover up everything that he exposed in the third film, the viewer still feels his presence from the very beginning. It’s as if the new breed of highly trained assassins are trying to live up to Bourne and his legacy. There’s even a shot midway through the film with Cross catching a glimpse of the news while waiting for a flight, where he sees Bourne’s photo on the screen and suddenly his interest is piqued. It’s as if he’s just seen his idol and by the end of the shot you get the feeling that Cross will do everything he can to further what Bourne started and perhaps even try to find the former Treadstone agent.

Where this film succeeds is in the intelligence. All three of the first set of Bourne films have smart plots i.e. they get the audience thinking and keep them guessing, I would say each is better than the last in that regard. Well it doesn’t stop with the fourth.

One of the major plot points through “Bourne Legacy” is what the doctors are doing with the new breed of agents in programs like Outcome and LARX among others. The idea of being able to genetically enhance the agents is something that you feel is either going on right now or very close to happening. It feels real and the intelligence doesn’t stop there.

We see some of how the CIA works to track suspects in the earlier films of the series but ‘Legacy’ goes further than any of the previous films. You’re kept on the edge of your seat as Col. Eric Beyer (Edward Norton) works with his team to try and discover what happened in a scene at a large house and track the two survivors.

They are more than 24 hours behind those survivors but as they use all the intelligence at their disposal, they are able to close that gap and find their suspects in their current location and work to apprehend them.

Seeing that in depth, seeing the way Cross went through his training assignment in the very beginning in an Alaskan outpost and how he leads Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) to safety not only keeps the viewer on the edge of his or her seat but enlightens you into the world of intelligence.

The film also works in its casting. Weisz, for her part, is extremely good. From the moment she hits the screen, she packs a powerful punch, holding the viewer’s attention better than Julia Stiles or Franka Potente ever managed in the previous films. And Norton feels like a CIA leader, cooly deciding to wipe out all remnants of the discreet programs no matter what the losses will mean to their intelligence and the resources that had been spent to develop those programs.

Much of the film plays as Cross and Shearing work to get away from the CIA and its attempt to dismiss them as part of the wiping out of their rogue programs. But once they appear to have done so, the film abruptly ends and viewers are left questioning as I did, “what’s next?” This is where the film falls a bit short. The story feels incomplete and outside of the action scene at the house, more is desired of Cross. What is his motive? Is it just to rid his dependency of the medication he was being administered, or is it more complex than that?

I have a feeling that it is more complex than what we see in ‘Legacy’. Director/writer, Tony Gilroy spent a lot of time researching the CIA and its programs to write this film and I believe he has written (or planned at least) enough to continue the series for at least one more film.

If I could make one suggestion to Gilroy, it would be this:

Don’t get away from Jason Bourne. I know Matt Damon isn’t getting any younger but if you could film the final film(s) of the series in two years, he should be able to manage a co-starring role and as such you could have Cross find Bourne and have them initially square off (as Bourne works to stay hidden) which would pit their skills against each other and then work together to clear their name once and for all.

Or maybe they want to do the good that they originally signed up for. Maybe some terrible event happens and the CIA needs to call upon Cross (and he eventually links up with Bourne, his idol) to help the U.S. escape the situation.

Whatever the case may be, the series is in good hands with Gilroy.

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