Published Thursday, 16 August 2012
The Bourne Legacy is a fourth big screen adventure for the super spy but sadly one without a plot, a point and most incredibly Jason Bourne. I was hoping to be Bourne again but sadly ended up Bourne to run from the cinema.
The three previous Bourne movies, Identity, Supremacy and Ultimatum, based on Robert Ludlum's best selling novels, redefined the action film genre and grossed almost a billion dollars at the global box office. They were natural Bourne thrillers which made Matt Damon a megastar and showed creaky old James Bond how to exhilarate a modern audience.
This new film begins with a classic Bourne image, the silhouette of a body floating face down. This time it's our new hero Aaron Cross (played by Jeremy Renner) who emerges from an ice cold lake in Alaska. This is Bourne survivor with our bearded agent as Bear Grylls climbing cliffs, battling wolves but sadly not drinking elephant dung.
What happens next, smells like elephant dung, as The Bourne Legacy stinks into a series of frankly boring and incomprehensible scenes. "Maybe you're in the wrong meeting" says Colonel Eric Byer (played by Edward Norton). Yes I think we are. "I don't care how" snaps the Colonel later "How does not matter". Judging by how this film is going, I think how is very important, how this baloney got made.
The mystery here is that this new Bourne film is not a prequel, sequel or reboot. Nor bizarrely is it based on the 2004 novel The Bourne Legacy, which was the fourth story in the series, written by Eric Van Lustbader three years after the death of creator Robert Ludlum. Legacy the novel features Jason Bourne battling terrorists intent on biological armageddon. Surely a better plot?
But with no Matt Damon and therefore no Jason Bourne, another 'legacy' was born. This film version is explained as an expansion of the Bourne universe. An original story triggered by the events of the first three films. This means that the action on screen is taking place at the same time narratively as The Bourne Ultimatum, with Jason Bourne, a constant presence in the story but gapingly absent from the screen.
This makes no sense to me but is the brainchild of Tony Gilroy, who's described as 'the narrative architect' behind the Bourne film series. Which really means screenwriter on the previous three and writer / director of Legacy. Narrative architect or not, Gilroy is building on flawed foundations with inadequate materials. Jeremy Renner is a fine actor but lacks the muscled charm of Matt Damon. His character Aaron Cross can run, punch and forge passports but he's no Jason Bourne. The Cross Identity? Cross-eyed more like.
The other new cast members to the Bourne franchise hinder more than help. Firstly Edward Norton, who has become the most intensely tedious actor working in cinema today. There is a smug blandness about every performance, a look at me acting approach with a send you to sleep delivery. Then there's the unconvincing Rachel Weisz, who plays the romantic lead and research scientist Dr. Marta Shearing. Do I really believe that Weisz is a cunning chemist? Not for a minute, And even a pair of nerd glasses doesn't make her any more believable.
Only in the last half hour does director Tony Gilroy wake us from our slumber and remember he is making an action movie. Then, he ditches all the pointless meetings and baffling dialogue for a good old twenty minute rooftop and motorbike chase around Manila.
Finally, a thrilla in Manila but it's too late.
All I can hope is that, like Jason Bourne, I can temporarily suffer from extreme memory loss and forget I ever saw this.
The Bourne Legacy (12a) is now on general release.