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story.lead_photo.caption Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is a medically enhanced operative in the spy thriller The Bourne Legacy.

— It’s too bad that Universal wasn’t content with merely letting amnesiac superspy Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) end his saga with dignity. The previous Bourne movies reignited the spy genre because they had a sense of danger that had been missing from James Bond movies for decades.

The Bourne Legacy

The Bourne story continues sans Jason. Starring Jeremy Renner. (By Courtesy of Universal Pictures)
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While Bourne could punch, kick, drive, shoot or stab his way out of just about any situation, he didn’t know why he was being hunted. The film ingeniously put viewers in his place, forcing them into his adventures. The widely imitated, jerky photography was remarkably effective because it made the audience experience the jolts along with Bourne.

The catch is that directors Doug Liman (who’s also a cinematographer) and Paul Greengrass could miraculously make all that shaky cam footage coherent and exciting.

Tony Gilroy, the screenwriter who contributed to all the films, is in charge for The Bourne Legacy, and he has trouble remembering what Liman and Greengrass got right. The absence of Damon’s everyman appeal doesn’t help, either.

This time around Bourne is referred to constantly but is never seen outside of still photos. He has, however, made the disgraced espionage program Treadstone a household term along with Watergate.

Retired Air Force Col. Eric Byer (Edward Norton) wants to remove all traces of the scandal before it hits congressional hearings. To ensure that no one can testify about the program, he orders a purge, which includes a permanent downsizing for all the agents involved. These folks have been taking viral drugs that make them super agents. Their revised meds are guaranteed to keep them from talking or doing anything else.

Curiously, Byer and his cohort, retired Navy Adm. Mark Turso (Stacy Keach) send a predator drone after Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) in Alaska. This drone has the aim of Dick Cheney.

Thanks to his meds, which are sadly in short supply, Cross can outwit or punch any fellow agent coming after him. But he also needs the doctor (Rachel Weisz) who administered them or he’ll wind up like the other deactivated assets.

While Gilroy has written and directed clever films like Michael Clayton and Duplicity, the script he and his brother, Dan, have penned is surprisingly light on thrills. The film begins with Cross showing off his survival skills in Alaska, but it’s not all that interesting to see him face the wild (especially after watching Liam Neeson give it a good fight in The Grey). The story stays moribund until Cross meets up with the doc.

Renner’s action hero bona fides are well established with The Hurt Locker and The Avengers, but the Gilroys give him little to work with, and his lack of meds isn’t as gripping as Bourne’s lack of memory.

Gilroy doesn’t stage the hand-to-hand footage well (the fights look like blurry games of patty cake), but the chases, which sadly don’t kick in until the third act, are worthy of the previous trilogy. Vehicle pursuits on congested Third World streets are usually good for a thrill or two.

The Bourne Legacy sends Cross all over the globe, but Damon’s mug shot, which routinely appears in the film, is a sad reminder that all the scenic backdrops in the world can get pretty dull if you don’t have a compelling figure like Bourne to occupy them.

The Bourne Legacy 72 Cast: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Stacy Keach, Edward Norton, Donna Murphy, Zeljko Ivanek, Corey Stoll, Joan Allen, David Strathairn, Albert Finney Director: Tony Gilroy Rating: PG-13, for violence and action sequence Running time: 135 minutes

MovieStyle, Pages 29 on 08/10/2012

Print Headline: The Bourne Legacy

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