THE BOURNE LEGACY (Tony Gilroy, 2012)
Matt Damon made Jason Bourne so iconic that it is impossible, or rather a mortal sin to replace him with another actor. Imagine what the suits at Universal exclaimed when Damon said he won't do Bourne 4 unless Paul Greengrass is at the helm once more.
But the franchise had to be saved, and what Tony Gilroy did with THE BOURNE LEGACY is quite an achievement, although not completely at par with the first three films. He managed to introduce a main character who's running away from the same CIA operatives that are Pontius Pilating their way into our consciousness, and one might say that Jeremy Renner's character Aaron Cross mimics the same struggles Bourne had to endure to fight for his life. They were both test subjects by the government that are easily expendable the moment the program goes haywire. As the new protagonist in the same Bourne universe, Renner is muscular, gritty and able, yet he possesses that certain gentleness evident even in intense situations. It wouldn't be fair calling him a toned down Bourne, because Aaron Cross is another victim trying to survive, in his own universe.
After Treadstone and Blackbriar, lo' and behold there's another covert program called Outcome, of which Cross is a part of (but wait there's more covert programs where that came from!). After Bourne's actions publicly hauled Treadstone and Blackbriar into light, Outcome is immediately shut down. Its head, Eric Byer (Edward Norton) orders all field agents terminated to erase all traces of the project. Cross survives, as well as geneticist Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) who goes on the run.
Outcome's agents are genetically enhanced, and in need of constant intake of chems dubbed "blue" and "green". Cross is out of supply and he badly needs them, otherwise he dies. Marta is the only one who can "viral off" or flush out's Cross's dependence on the chems for survival and increased abilities, and such must be done using live virus stored in Manila, Philippines.
A lot of viewers, especially those who saw the first three films noted the considerable decrease in fight scenes in THE BOURNE LEGACY. In fact, Gilroy concentrated his grand fight/chase scenes in the finale, where Renner and Weisz elude cops and a contract killer on the streets of Metro Manila. The entire Metro Manila chase sequence was beautifully shot, tightly-edited, and gave off an adrenalin rush, yet the geography did not make sense. Perhaps, this is production-wise necessary in order to narrate the story and still look coherent, and we may not know whether or not films shot abroad made geographical sense (I'm sensing, no), but a Filipino, especially an urban dweller will tell you there's no way you can run on foot from San Andres Bukid to Pasay Rotonda, hop on a motorcycle then speed to Sta. Mesa then to Marikina market (at least the market looked generic) then end in Navotas fishport. If you did not get this reference then you should be pulling a map now. This is not necessarily a bad thing, just something funny to note in case you didn't know. Besides, the story is fiction.
And I cannot believe that woman who called Rachel Weisz's character a thief. If you see a white woman in your house, do you call her a thief? Amazing. Weisz is too pretty to be a thief. I did not understand where that woman is coming from.
Norton exercises control beneath the cool and the charisma, and perhaps after a string of ruthless head honchos (Chris Cooper as Alexander Conklin in IDENTITY, Joan Allen as Pamela Landy in SUPREMACY, and David Strathairn as Noah Vosen in ULTIMATUM) in the previous films, perhaps it's time to portray the man who's in control in a subtle fashion, without huge gestures, or emotional bursts. I just hoped Norton and Renner would have had time to face each other. The ensuing dialogue would be a blast. Perhaps a follow-up movie? For me, THE BOURNE LEGACY ended properly. Move on. Matt Damon, we need you back.
And I had hoped for more Pamela Landy.
With the action toned down, and the narrative seemingly representing a speck in the grand scheme of things, THE BOURNE LEGACY will disappoint if you loved the franchise so much you already know how to fight like Jason Bourne. However, it is notable for coming up with a semi-parallel story that does not attempt to replace or humiliate Jason Bourne, and what the series has achieved so far.
Damn it! I want to see what happens to Bourne and Nikki (Julia Stiles) in the next installment. Somebody chain Damon and Greengrass' names back on paper again.