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The Bourne Legacy – Tony Gilroy Keep taking the little blue, and green pills


Now you're making me Cross



The Bourne Legacy – Tony Gilroy

Fast, furious and slick. Gilroy’s extends the Bourne franchise neatly with enough narrative linkage to the absent Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) and the ending of The Bourne Ultimatum to carry credibility and engage us in the exploits of Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) number 5 operative in the secret, off-the-books operation Threadstone within Project Blackbriar. Like Bourne, Cross is a specially selected highly motivated individual drawn into the elite corps of special agents described in Legacy as “totally morally indefensible and absolutely necessary”. What I guess we might call the ‘Dirty Harry pitch’.

At the end of The Bourne Ultimatum, helped by sympathetic CIA Operations Chief Pam Landy (Joan Allen) Jason Bourne appeared to have defeated the secret conspirators in the CIA hierarchy Noah Vosen (David Strathearn) and Ezra Kramer (Scott Glenn). Details of the secret illegal black ops projects to develop super-agents through brain-washing and mind-control are in the public domain thanks to Landy and Bourne. However Landy’s credibility has been systematically undermined and as the issue drags through congressional hearings the CIA hierarchy decide to close down all the blown projects and eliminate all the other Threadstone agents – including Cross. In this Kramer is now aided by ruthless retired USAF Colonel Eric Byer (the excellent Ed Norton) and a somewhat super-numerary Stacey Keach

One weakness of the new Bourne over its predecessors is that Gilroy shifts the emphasis on the training of Threadstone agents from the brain-washing, mind control methods of Dr Hirsch (Albert Finney) to a simplistic blue pill, green pill genetic enhancement regime. While this device helps drive the plot along and brings in Rachel Weisz’s Dr Marta Shearing as a geneticist and virologist, it does undermine the relatively straight thriller tone of the other Bourne sagas. Popping pills induces a little less empathy than systematic brain-washing.

Cross as yet unaware of the threat, Legacy opens with him on a training mission in Alaska. Great use is made in the tense opening sequence of sinister unmanned drones. Now hunted, events leave Cross needing to replenish his supply of ‘Chems’ the Blue (mind-enhancing) and Green (physical-unhancing) tablets without which he’ll fall apart. This leads him to seek out Marta Shearing who has conducted many of the on-going tests on him over the years.

Meanwhile Shearing is now at risk herself and Cross propitiously arrives in time to save her from a death worse than fate. She explains that the scientific side of the treatment has developed a viral carrier that can make the genetic enhancements permanent – no more pills. The good news is that Shearing can ‘viral him out’; the bad news is the virus is kept in Manila.

So the chase is on. Pure Bourne adrenalin: near misses, last minute escapes, narrow squeaks etc etc; and including a motorbike chase with a bit skateboarders will love. Having had so much trouble with the residual personal consciences of agents like Bourne and Cross – in a secret, secret, secret experimental project, Larx agents are being programmed to remove empathy and moral sentiment. As a last resort agent Larx0-3 is sent after Cross and Shearing in Manila.

It’s all good fun: mayhem duly created; hold-your-breath chases brilliantly edited. Renner is excellent, making Cross a bit more charismatic than Damon’s somewhat dourer Bourne – though I rather liked that downbeat, calm counterpoint tone in the Bourne trilogy. Weisz is as usual a safe pair of hands and does well as Renner’s foil. Ed Norton is a big plus as he carries an innate menace on screen which is perfect for the ruthless hunter role in this.

The Bourne Legacy, itself a refusal to kill the goose that had already laid three golden eggs, ends with this feathered asset safe and sound and gestating at least one more egg – maybe more.

Legacy is simpler, less layered and more unvaried in terms of pace and tone. Gilroy, excellent writer though he is, doesn’t match Paul Greengrass as a director. If the previous films resembled a roller coaster ride with more variations in pace; Legacy is more like a snowball set off down the mountainside – it just gets bigger and faster until it hits the ending. Exciting but at times a bit too breathless, too one-paced, indeed occasionally scenes held a touch too long. But it grabs you at the start and doesn’t let go until 135 minutes later.

Investment-wise – for this is an entertainment product after all – I’d do another with Renner/Cross then get Damon/Bourne and Renner/Cross to team up for a final denouement that could require a double-yolker from the Golden Goose – who by that time I think, I hope, will be all out of eggs.


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