The Bourne Legacy is the fourth in the highly successful series of films adapted from Robert Ludlum’s spy novels, featuring Matt Damon as renegade intelligence agent Jason Bourne.
But don’t look for Damon in this film. You won’t find him—or Jason Bourne, for that matter.
Damon took a pass on this one, as did series director Paul Greengrass. So the film is a continuation of the series in name only, and dwells in the twilight world; not so much a remake as a rebooting.
The new director is Tony Gilroy, who wrote the screenplays for the preceding films in the series.
There’s passing references to Bourne, but the action centres around an entirely different agent, Aaron Cross, involved in the same program as Bourne, but unaware of his existence.
Cross is played by Jeremy Renner, who was superhero Hawkeye in this summer’s The Avengers, and starred in 2008’s Oscar-nominated The Hurt Locker.
As the film opens, Cross is scaling mountains in Alaska (in reality Alberta’s Kananaskis Country, west of Calgary), to meet with another agent involved in a training exercise with him.
When the agent’s cabin is blown up by a missile launched from an unmanned drone, Cross narrowly escapes.
It turns out that he’s being targeted for death, along with anyone else who has worked for the top-secret CIA programs Treadstone and Blackbriar and its successor, Project Outcome.
It’s a program designed to develop highly efficient super-agent assassins, genetically programmed for enhanced combat skills, along with superior mental and physical prowess.
The programs are about to come under public scrutiny, as a result of Senate hearings initiated through the disclosures of Jason Bourne.
Rather than risk exposure, CIA brass is determined to go for a scorched-earth policy and wipe out any record of the programs, including terminating all of its participants and the scientists who developed the related technology.
Research scientist Doctor Marta Shearing has worked on developing medication for Project Outcome agents. A blue pill gives them physical strength, and a green one enhances their mental alertness.
Shearing is caught up in the subsequent violence, as a programmed co-worker wipes out her lab, and she’s subsequently thrown together with Cross, who needs her to supply him with the medication that keeps him in top form as an agent.
She, in turn, has no hope of surviving the deadly machinations of her superiors, without the aid of the battle-scarred Cross. They end up in Manila, Philippines, where the drug is produced, and undergo one harrowing escapade after another.
The Bourne Legacy is an intelligent, well thought-out film, although its action is somewhat hard to follow for those with no previous familiarity with the Bourne series.
Rachel Weisz (The Whistleblower, The Constant Gardener) is superb as Dr. Shearing, and has good filmic chemistry with Renner. Their action sequences together, most notably in a deadly but overly long motorcycle chase through the crowded streets of Manila, are marvels to watch.
Director Gilroy has an inquiring mind that is conversant with the intersection between science and the intelligence world, and says that all of the technology in the film is based on either existing spycraft or work that’s currently under development.
He conveys a chilling sense of the sinister world of the intelligence community, where the ends always justify the means, and everyone is ultimately expendable.
The Bourne Legacy plays at 6:45 and 9:30 p.m. at the Qwanlin Cinema, and is rated PG.
Brian Eaton is a cinema buff who reviews current films and writes on other film-related topics on a regular basis.