Have you ever been deemed expendable? I have. I had worked for a radio station in the Panhandle of Florida for three years when the station was sold. The new owners had plans to increase the station’s power and move it to new, more modern studios. I was very excited at the prospect of actually having some resources that we couldn’t afford under the previous ownership. Then I heard a rumor that the new bosses planned on letting me and the rest of the staff go and replace us with a satellite format that only required a few people to keep it running. The way the building we were in was constructed, there was an air vent connecting the general manager’s office and the news studio. I stood on a chair and listened as I heard the new boss inform one of the staff that he would be kept but I would be let go. They say information is power and I decided I would go on the offensive. The next day, I went in the GM’s office and said I was aware I was being let go and needed to know when my last day was so I could make arrangements to pack up a moving truck and head back to Knoxville, Tennessee, my home town. The boss looked like he has seen a ghost and told me my last day would be at the end of that month. I said thank you and went back to work knowing I had about three weeks to get ready to move back home. Fortunately when we’re considered expendable, we only lose our jobs. In “The Bourne Legacy,” when you are no longer useful or a possible hazard, you are targeted for death.
Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is a special ops soldier who has been genetically modified to improve his cognitive abilities and his physical strength, pain tolerance and endurance using two different viral therapies delivered in a green and blue pill he must take at regular intervals. The program, called Operation Outcome, is overseen by CIA director of covert operations Eric Byer (Edward Norton) along with Mark Turso (Stacy Keach) among others. With the revelations about Operation Treadstone leaked by Pam Landy (Joan Allen) involving Jason Bourne (Matt Damon seen only in still pictures), Outcome is also likely to be exposed. To prevent this, Byer and Turso order everyone associated with the secret project eliminated, from the field agents like Cross to the genetic researchers at a major pharmaceutical company who have conducted blood tests on the agents and designed the drugs used to modify them. One of those researchers is Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) who survived unhurt after a fellow researcher opened fire at the lab, killing most of the people responsible for the drugs used in the project. Cross, who survived two attempts on his life while on survival training in Alaska, steals a plane and returns to the lower 48 to figure out who is trying to kill him. He sees a newspaper report about the shooting at the pharmaceutical lab and a picture of Dr. Shearing and decides to track her down. Cross arrives at Shearing’s home just as a team of assassins is about to make it look like she committed suicide due to survivors guilt. Saving Shearing, Cross and the doctor escape through the woods to his car and attempt to form a plan to save their lives and make his genetic modifications permanent.
Last week, I reviewed “Total Recall,” a film with terrific action scenes but a thin story and dull characters. “The Bourne Legacy” also has terrific action but is blessed with very interesting characters and an abundance of story. If anything, the movie has perhaps a little too much story due to the interweaving of elements from Matt Damon’s last appearance in “The Bourne Ultimatum” and the exposure of covert shenanigans. The story requires you to pay particular attention as all the layers of cross and double-cross is exposed. It also would help to understand genetic engineering to fully appreciate the explanations given for what has been done to Cross and the others in the program but isn’t required to get the basics.
Jeremy Renner gives Aaron Cross a calm intensity one would expect from an agent that is supposed to be able to blend into the background and handle any situation with quick thinking and quicker reflexes. Renner has an everyman face that is more worn and weary than Matt Damon’s while having piercing eyes that see everything around him and is able to assess his position and his next course of action. While Rachel Weisz plays a fairly typical damsel-in-distress, her character rises to the occasion when she’s needed on those few instances she must save her savior. Weisz is so beautiful yet so seemingly approachable I wanted her character to be protected at all costs. She didn’t do anything wrong and yet she’s still a target for assassination. That unfairness and the apparent omnipotence of the government thugs pursuing her make the audience want her and Cross to survive that much more. The heavies of the film are those government thugs played by Edward Norton and Stacy Keach. Both men have no problem ordering the deaths of dozens of people. They have no problem because they don’t have to get their hands dirty, ordering underlings and nameless operatives to carry out their vile plans all in the name of national security. Of course, the real reason is so they aren’t themselves made the target of congressional hearings or federal grand juries should their covert programs become public knowledge. They’re engaged in a massive game of CYA (If you don’t know what that means tweet me or send me an email). Both actors play their parts with the kind of moral detachment you’d expect from such characters. While there’s nothing particularly unique or groundbreaking about their performances, both Norton and Keach fill their characters with cold ruthlessness and professional bureaucratic efficiency. If there are people like this in our government, I hope they never turn their attentions towards me.
The action scenes in “The Bourne Legacy” are tight, tense and riveting. The final big chase across the rooftops and through the streets of Manila, Philippines will cause your stomach to tighten, preparing for the violent impact you know is coming. It is expertly shot and edited to maximize the tension while minimizing the apparent space the vehicles and bodies occupy. While the fight scenes have some of the same too close and too shaky camera work that was one of the issues I had with the previous “Bourne” films (and several other action movies), there are times when the hand to hand combat is perfectly framed with a steady camera. Why some are shot jittery and some are not is a mystery. If I could get the shaky camera outlawed, I would.
“The Bourne Legacy” is rated PG-13 violence and action sequences. There are numerous shootings, beatings, fist fights and other mayhem. There’s also a fight between one character and a wolf. While blood is fairly minimal, we do see several people who have gunshot wounds along with some people who are poisoned with blood streaming from their nose.
Matt Damon said he wouldn’t be part of another “Bourne” film if previous director Paul Greengrass wasn’t involved. That doesn’t mean Damon will never again be Jason Bourne. It just means that a great deal of money and control will have to be given to him and his favorite director to merge these two storylines into what would, I believe, be a blockbuster action picture. Considering just how calm, cool and efficient both Bourne and Cross are, the bad guys at the CIA, NSA and every other agency wouldn’t stand a chance and that’s a movie I’d love to see.
“The Bourne Legacy” gets five guitars out of five.
Four new films ranging from sweet Disney family fare to hardcore action are new to theatres this week. Vote for the next film I see and review.
The Expendables 2—What looks like an easy paycheck for the Expendables goes very wrong and one of their own is viciously killed. The mercenaries are compelled to seek revenge in hostile territory where the odds are stacked against them.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green—A childless couple who has a young boy suddenly appear at their home learns that sometimes the unexpected can bring some of life’s greatest gifts.
ParaNorman—Norman, a boy who can speak with the dead, is the only one who can defend his town against a centuries-old curse that causes zombies, ghosts and witches to attack.
Sparkle—Musical prodigy Sparkle (Jordin Sparks) struggles to become a star while overcoming issues that are tearing her family apart.
Stan’s Choice—Stan sees and reviews any film currently in theatres.
Release dates are subject to change and not all films may be shown in Knoxville, TN.
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