The Bourne Legacy: A new director, a new hero and a new run

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Aug,11 2012 12:20 02 IST

by Gautaman Bhaskaran

The Bourne Legacy, the fourth edition in the series, has a new actor in Jeremy Renner with a new screen name, replacing Matt Damon who played Jason Bourne in the first three films, and Tony Gilroy steps into Paul Greengrass’ directorial shoes in the latest spy adventure. While Greengrass helmed the second and third parts, Doug Liman was in charge of the first.

Gilroy, who wrote all the four though, takes his agent, Aaron Cross (Renner), into a highly secretive operation in a story inspired by Robert Ludlum’s novels on Bourne. But before Cross can get his hands on and find his feet, he has to battle ferocious wolves (which also fight amongst themselves) in the icy wilderness of Alaska and survive a deadly drone attack.  Cross is as smart as Jason Bourne was — the man who gave American intelligence agencies a hard time.  Here was an action hero who had scruples, did not kill for the fun of it (or like Bond had no licence to do so) and did not cavort with bikini babes.

A still from the film.

Cross is a strong and highly lethal operative— his phenomenal strength resulting from a hush-hush scientific experiment called Outcome. But Cross, perhaps having outlived his usefulness, is no longer welcome by the American agencies, who want him dead.  And they think he is after the drone assault,  when Cross remains undetected for a while. Gilroy puts us on a fast track where Cross having understood that he is now the target, begins to play  a tease and taunt game with the head of the experiment, Edward Norton’s Colonel Byer, who has the uncanny (and unbelievable) ability to track his enemies through surveillance cameras. Watch the way, he has one of the scientists on Outcome, Dr Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), followed through roads and airports, finally nailing her in a decrepit Manila hotel.

Gilroy, who co-wrote this movie with brother Dan, pulls us into a thrilling chase-and-escape journey that has much of its action taking place in the Philippines’ capital. The Bourne Legacy has been marvellously shot and mounted with a daredevil motorcycle chase that leaves the viewer as breathless as Cross and his pretty companion, Shearing, whom the agencies want to get rid of as well. Why? Because she has been the only one among the Outcome group to have escaped being gunned down by a mad colleague.   Do we smell something here? In a Bourne drama nothing is as it appears.

Having proved his directorial ability with Michael Clayton and Duplicity, Gilroy creates a canvas of excellent intercuts (we are all over the world and that includes Karachi), of layered duplicity and of a hero who needs critical medication to survive. This is what leads Cross to seek out Shearing in the first place, and he crashes into her house (so Bollywoodish!) just as she realises that she is being trapped by her seniors during a seemingly harmless interrogation after the shootout.  The pair then takes off on a long and dangerous run.  Not quite like Bond though, but perhaps more in the Hitchcockian tradition. Remember Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint in North By Northwest?

Gilroy is certainly impatient to put his own stamp on the Bourne series. He does not take much from the franchise,  introducing fresh characters and new places in what could be the beginning of several more runs with Cross and Renner. This is appealing in itself.