Jeremy Renner’s franchise worthy action man performance breathes life into Tony Gilroy’s over complicated and cold espionage thriller The Bourne Legacy.
Gilroy – who co-wrote the first three Bourne movies – takes over directing duties from Paul Greengrass, who gave the Bourne franchise its energy and forged such a strong relationship with star Matt Damon that he refused to make another Bourne film without him.
So where to take the Bourne series without Jason Bourne? In the case of The Bourne Legacy you widen the canvas and go deeper into the conspiracy, with Jason Bourne’s actions in The Bourne Ultimatum (the best film of the series) opening a can of worms that forces behind the scenes big wig Eric Byer (Edward Norton) to kill off the remaining CIA super agents and cover the intelligence community’s tracks.
Staying one step ahead is Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), a morally conflicted agent whose high intelligence and lethal weapon-esque skills (imagine MacGyver meets Chuck Norris) makes him a force to be reckoned with, and he has no intention of handing himself in.
For Renner The Bourne Legacy caps off a year that has seen the Oscar nominated actor become a bonafide action star after playing side kick (and heir apparent?) to Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and play a vital part in the superhero movie juggernaut known as The Avengers.
Aaron Cross is a franchise leading role deserving of Renner’s talent both dramatic and physical, and as an action character it is well composited. Yet Renner is not the problem with The Bourne Legacy. In many ways he is the hero of a film which wanders through a thick fog of ultra-serious conspiracy fiction that without Renner’s presence would have been a cold empty shell of a movie.
In many respects Gilroy is a fine filmmaker. His Oscar nomination for Michael Clayton was no fluke and ushered the talented screenwriter to a permanent place in the director’s chair. Yet when it comes to action filmmaking Gilory still has much to learn, namely: don’t expect underwhelming action sequences to be a life preserver in an ocean of complicated plot devices.
With the ever looming shadow of the original Bourne trilogy, Gilroy had to make a better, tougher and more accessible action machine. Alas he could not, leaving the door open for Damon and Greengrass to save the day once again.