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Bourne Legacy, The (AF)


Stars: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Oscar Isaac, Joan Allen, David Strathairn, Albert Finney, Scott Glenn, Corey Stoll, Tony Guida, Dennis Boutsikaris, Donna Murphy, Michael Chernus

Director: Tony Gilroy

The first question that needs to be answered – do we miss Bourne himself?

Obviously I must apologise to Matt Damon, but my answer is an emphatic “No!”

Which is not to denigrate Damon’s eponymous hero in the first three films. He was first rate. But here Renner’s character – an agent in deep trouble and on the run from sinister government would-be assassins because of his part in a top secret ‘super-soldier’ project – dumps Damon’s boyishness for that of a cold, calculating and essentially conscience-free character ready to kill to survive.

Tony Gilroy (who scripted the first three ‘Bourne’ entries and here supplies the original story and co-writes the wide-ranging screenplay with his brother Dan) goes behind the camera for the first time and does an impressive job of telling a complex story without losing audience attention.

In one sense, the movie might be summed up pretty accurately as ‘around the world in 80 scenes’ with the action opening in freezing Alaska where Renner faces death from wolves and government drones sent to eradicate him and subsequent scenes ranging from several US locations, notably Washington with grim, driven Norton – who sums up his job with “We are morally indefensible and absolutely necessary - directing the destruction of Renner and sequences set in London, Karachi, Manila and, memorably, Bangkok where Gilroy stages one of the most exciting chase scenes ever…

The story is complex and, at the start, sometimes seems to resemble a mosaic that requires putting together. Gilroy knows just what he’s doing however. Slowly, but effectively the story comes together with a key scene – a shootout in a top secret US laboratory with programme scientist Weisz as the intended victim – as the catalyst for the increasingly strong and telling suspense that mounts as, after a brilliantly staged shoot-out with government forces in her isolated house – she and Renner have to flee for their lives…

The key performances are first rate. Renner, in particular, creates a character who is both compelling and conflicted but able to rise to the occasion when an action hero is needed and Weisz has never been better. Norton is the best he has been in a long time. His sustained chilling characterisation happily helps eradicate memories of his queasiness-inducting turn in Wes Anderson's embarrassingly whimsical Moonrise Kingdom, an unexpectedly bloated Keach chews the scenery very effectively and there’s a good character contribution from Stoll, recently seen in the sadly short lived television series ‘Law and Order: Los Angeles’.

All concerned on both sides of the camera deserve praise. “Bourne” has been potently and excitingly rebooted.

The franchise lives to fight another day.

Alan Frank

USA 2012. UK Distributor: Universal. Colour by deluxe.
135 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 11 Aug 2012