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Review: The Bourne Legacy

There Was Never Just One… So They’ll Make Six

Above: Jeremy Renner as agent Aaron Cross in "The Bourne Legacy."

If you've been waiting for the next chapter in the Bourne series, then wait no longer. "The Bourne Legacy" opens this week (August 10 throughout San Diego). Check out the review from Cinema Junkie's new guest blogger, Nathan John.

Matt Damon, while hitting the late night circuit advertising for what was then thought to be the final installment in the Bourne series said, "If they make a fourth Bourne movie, they'd have to call it the 'Bourne Redundancy.'" Well, redundancy has become reality and is now, "The Bourne Legacy." I am torn about this latest "Bourne" sequel. I love the Bourne films, and I always have, but the "Legacy" provides a sudden, perhaps lazy, ending and left me hankering for more action (look here and here for reference), a problem I never had with the prequels. Regardless of my unfulfilled expectations, the film is impressive.

In accordance with the three previous "Bourne" films, there are long chases down streets, across rooftops, and around the globe. Actor Jeremy Renner is the elite, biologically-altered agent Aaron Cross. He leads the subtly charming romantic interest, high-clearance biologist Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) around the world and just beyond their former employer's grasp. Another appreciated trait of the film is the extreme close ups to acquaint the audience with the actors' pores, pupils, and most subtle facial expressions. Though it's no Joan of Arc, it's up to the standard I expect from a franchise as revered as this.

Unlike previous "Bourne films," however, there was humor. The audience laughed out loud on several occasions. I was shocked and pleasantly surprised at the dry remarks that were well timed and mood lighting -- particularly as the romantic relationship between Cross and Dr. Shearing gracefully moved through its initial stages.

Beyond the surprising humor, intimate shots, and subtle romance, a highlight of the film for me was Edward Norton's role. Like Joan Allen (as Pamela Landy) in "Supremecy" and "Ultimatum," Norton has a powerful but controlled presence on screen. If Norton is in the shot, you feel what he's feeling. He plays retired Colonel Eric Byer, director of the agency that runs other agencies and super secret groups that control the "Bourne" world. He is now responsible for the mess made by Bourne and Landy in the previous films, and must tie up as many loose ends as necessary before all of his hard work is lost. I've never been disappointed by Norton, who fits in nicely here with the fast-paced, disciplined elites who deal the dirtiest business in the U.S.

Edward Norton's icy, calculating stare as Colonel Eric Byer in, "The Bourne Legacy."

Universal Pictures

Above: Edward Norton's icy, calculating stare as Colonel Eric Byer in, "The Bourne Legacy."

Great casting has never been an issue with the "Bourne" franchise. Matt Damon is consistently solid in his roles, and when I picture the suits of a secret agency, I picture the no-nonsense team that surrounds the Bourne story. David Strathairn as Noah Volsen in "Ultimatum" was brilliant. I was disappointed to see him and Allen's Pamela Landy in just one brief scene in the "Legacy." But I give special praise to directors Gilroy, Liman ("Identity") and Greengrass ("Supremacy," "Ultimatum") for their female cast choices. "The Dark Knight" trilogy and select "007" films come to mind when I think of casts that lack solid female presence compared to their male co-stars. I mean, Maggie Gyllenhall? Come on. "Bourne" doesn't disappoint in this regard, as our women with the most screen time, Weisz as Dr. Shearing, and Donna Murphy as Dita Mandy, Byer's right hand (wo)man, are perfect. Both deliver with just the right force for their scene their in and enhance the film overall. Even Elizabeth Marvel shined for her short 10-minute scene (one of the best in the film) as an agency psychologist. She was a perfect fit -- a collected, rigid, badass shrink who could have starred in her own film.

Rachel Weisz as Dr. Marta Shearing on set with director Tony Gilroy.

Universal Pictures

Above: Rachel Weisz as Dr. Marta Shearing on set with director Tony Gilroy.

"Legacy" does an admirable job integrating the films into one cohesive story. Gilroy and his staff use similar photography and production style, and footage from the previous films, to meld the storylines into the event that unravels before us and Col. Byer. And luckily, they've eased up on the shakycam that was excessively used in the last two films, which at times was so jarring I could hardly follow the mesmerizing hand-to-hand combat scenes.

And to those of who have seen the prequels (which really should be everybody everywhere ever) -- do you remember the car chase scenes? Of course you do. They were insanely long. But those chases, while lengthy, didn't feel like filler. They were relatively well placed. "Legacy's" car/motorcycle chase scene went on just as long, if not longer, but felt like useless footage. I would cut the final chase scene in half. I was expecting "Legacy" to be it for the franchise, but the chase scene was tofu for the "Bourne" goulash to last us at least one film longer (I'm guessing two, as one can never beat a dead horse long enough). So, many questions remain unanswered, and my action palet unfulfilled at the film's end. But don't get me wrong, all of the "Bourne" films are well made, at most times subtle and gripping, and streets ahead of the series like "Mission Impossible." I held "Legacy" to the standards of its prequels. Regardless, I will watch anything with "Bourne" in the title. I've contributed too much time to this franchise to disregard it now. It's like an old dog that doesn't fetch as well or smell as great. But I've put a lot of love and energy into it, so now I have to stick with it until it's dead.

"The Bourne Legacy" is rated PG-13 for violence and intense action sequences.

Companion Viewing: Obviously, the original "Bourne" trilogy (2002, 2004, 2007), Angelina Jolie fulfilling a female Bourne-like character, "Salt" (2010), Norton being awesome, "Red Dragon" (2002), Weisz as a charming romantic interest, "The Mummy" (1999)

*note: Do not watch "The Mummy" sequels. You will be disappointed.

Nathan John is a former KPBS Part Time Assistant and just couldn't stay away so now he will be guest blogging about movies for Cinema Junkie.

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