Thinking person's action hero Renner takes on Bourne Legacy

Aug 13, 2012

It might be time to end the Bourne movie franchise, but it goes out with a bang not a whimper


What you need to know
The latest instalment in the Bourne film series, The Bourne Legacy, sees scriptwriter Tony Gilroy take over the directing role from Paul Greengrass (director of the two previous Bourne films). The popular spy-thriller franchise, based on a series of novels by Robert Ludlum, has earned almost $1 billion at the box office worldwide.

The Bourne Legacy also sees the lead role, previously played by Matt Damon, taken up by Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker, Marvel's The Avengers) as a new, chemically enhanced field agent. Renner is joined by other series newcomers Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton and Stacy Keach. Bourne veterans Albert Finney, Joan Allen, David Strathairn and Scott Glenn reprise their roles.

The story follows the aftermath of former CIA agent Jason Bourne's destruction of Operation Blackbriar, as the agency tries to shut down its black ops programme. This means killing off their field agents, including Aaron Cross (Renner). But Cross has other ideas.

What the critics like
"Complex, unexpected and dazzling", the Bourne Legacy alternates relentless tension with resonant emotional moments, says Kenneth Turan in The Los Angeles Times. This is an "exemplary espionage thriller" that knows what it wants to achieve. It doesn't try to replace Bourne, but heads off in a different direction entirely. It is also "impeccably cast, from stars Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz and Edward Norton on down".

"Jeremy Renner is really good, better as a Bourne-y agent than Matt Damon," says Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian. It's easier to imagine the "tougher and more grizzled-looking" Renner going rogue than smooth-faced good-guy Damon. Renner is emerging as "the intelligent person's action star". It might be time to halt the Bourne franchise, but this fourth instalment has "plenty of energy and drive" and is "much more of a bang and less of a whimper".

It's a solid salvage job for the film series, says Manohla Dargis in The New York Times. Gilroy's script has given him a lot to wrangle
- locations, characters, hardware, franchise expectations. "If that worried him, it doesn't show." The action flows nicely, zipping from Renner fending off wolves, to a tense, unnerving shootout in a house. "Renner handles the action scenes persuasively", and Gilroy cleverly manages "the overlap between the new Bourne reality and the old".

What they don't like
Most of the negative comments about the film surround the issue of whether Renner is a worthy successor to Matt Damon's legacy or whether the series lacks a soul without him.

The Time's Wendy Ide also questions whether this action film has enough action. The "staccato editing, whiplash action and churning handheld camera" of the previous films is replaced by "crane shots and swooping aerial camera", but it isn't until 90 minutes into the movie that Renner "gets a proper fight scene", says Ide. This Bourne is "workmanlike where the previous two were game-changing".

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