"The Bourne Redundancy"
THE BOURNE LEGACY is an expertly shot and acted, yet at times confusing, attempt to continue the popular series of BOURNE movies. When the original star Matt Damon backed out of the new movie, they changed the character and much of the story from the original novel, a sequel of sorts by novelist Eric van Lustbader of the late Robert Ludlum’s most famous spy series. With new star Jeremy Renner replacing Damon, the BOURNE LEGACY has a Romantic, humanist libertarian worldview that hinges its entire plot around the CIA trying to cover up a program of genetically enhanced super-soldiers by any means necessary, including murder.
As Aaron Cross, Renner is first seen living in the Arctic wilderness, with surprising skills revealed to be the result of a series of “meds” he’s taking as one of very few elite super-soldiers created in an experiment by the CIA. The series’ prior lead, Jason Bourne (played by Matt Damon in the prior trilogy), is reported as having escaped from government control and is on the loose in New York City.
As the CIA and other government forces try to keep the now-unseen Bourne from reaching the public with his story, a confusing number of plot threads occur in locations around the globe. These plot threads establish that the spy agency is killing off these super soldiers as part of an attempt to cover up the program that controlled Bourne and the other agents, including Aaron. Aaron is able to cleverly survive as the mastermind behind the murderous cover-up sends a couple drones carrying missiles after him.
Cut to the CIA lab that tests the meds given to the super-spies and that monitors their progress. A fellow scientist mysteriously goes on a methodical shooting rampage in the lab. Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) is the lone survivor. Marta thinks her colleague was somehow acting in an altered state of mind when he committed the murders. She mentions her suspicions to two other government agents, who claim they’re visiting her to help her recover from the shock of witnessing the killing spree. Suddenly, the agents try to kill Marta and make it look like she committed suicide.
Just at that moment, against all plot logic, Aaron, who was treated by Marta, bursts into the room and proceeds to kill her attackers with an inventive array of punching, kicking, shooting, and utter destruction. Torching Marta’s house to provide a distraction and appear dead, the pair flee and set off on a chase that leads them to the Philippines, to another branch of the labs that created the meds enhancing Aaron’s abilities and those of the other dead agents. Aaron has run out of the pills allowing him to keep the super-intelligence the CIA gave him after he suffered a head injury during action in the Middle East. By going to the lab in Manila, they hope to get Aaron a shot of the original virus that will ensure he never will lose his super-intelligence again (Marta informs Aaron he’s taken enough of the pill enhancing his physical abilities so he no longer needs that pill). Without the virus injection, Aaron’s mental faculties will deteriorate, and he will probably even die.
The odds seem stacked against Aaron and Marta, however. The CIA officials in charge of the super-spy program have seemingly dozens, if not hundreds, of agents waiting to stop them. [SPOILER ALERT] The odds get worse when the mastermind behind the murderous cover-up decides to unleash another super-spy. This super-spy is supposedly an improvement over Jason Bourne and Aaron Cross, because he’s had his emotions completely suppressed by an advanced drug program. So, the question becomes, can Aaron and Marta survive this new threat?
THE BOURNE LEGACY takes nearly an hour to really kick into high gear. Thus, it sets up a seemingly endless series of plot strands that are only brought together when Aaron saves the doctor’s life at her house. Renner handles the tough-guy duties ably, but lacks the full-on charisma of Damon. The movie also suffers by occasionally mentioning that Damon’s Bourne character is on the loose and wreaking havoc elsewhere in New York City. Mentioning the other character so much only leaves the audience wishing to see the missing character in action.
However, the movie’s second half is richly satisfying as action entertainment, with inventive means of infiltrating and escaping from the Philippine lab. [SPOILER ALERT] There’s also an absolutely astonishing motorcycle chase sequence during the climax. The performances during all this, including Renner’s as the new hero, are very solid. After all, any desire viewers may have to see Matt Damon is beyond their control.
THE BOURNE LEGACY also suffers, like the rest of the BOURNE movies, from a persistently negative attitude towards the CIA and the US government. Rather than noting the many noble things America does around the world, even in wartime or on espionage missions, the movie continues to hammer home the bad side of the agency’s doings. On the one hand, it goes a bit overboard in its depiction of top American officials being capable of cold-blooded murder, even of their own agents, scientists, and employees. On the other hand, the movie’s Romantic, humanist worldview is rather libertarian. Thus, it has a healthy moral skepticism of big government power. This is combined with an interesting reference to the sinfulness of man, and the need to expiate this sinfulness, or keep it suppressed. Ultimately, like all lovers of liberty (not just libertarians), the movie’s hero just wants the government to leave him alone. Even so, this leads to some final Romantic images.
However, it’s in the lab massacre scene, where a scientist abruptly goes haywire and shoots or kills numerous colleagues, that the filmmakers need the most chastisement. Of course, the filmmakers could never have known about the massacre that occurred at THE DARK KNIGHT RISES screening in Aurora, Colorado, but in hindsight the movie’s extensive and coldly dispassionate depiction of a madman killing people methodically and without mercy is excessive and should have been severely trimmed in either editing or the script stage. It serves as a horrific distraction that almost brings down the movie, which thankfully rebounds with its highly entertaining second half, but surely we can hold the MPAA ratings system accountable for allowing a scene this graphic, intense, and long to be rated a mere PG-13, where there are no restrictions on children seeing it.
MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution for this violent scene and a high amount of foul language, including some strong profanities. Thankfully, though, there are no sex scenes or explicit nude scenes.
(Ro, H, AP, B, C, AC, LLL, VVV, N, A, DD, M) Somewhat Romantic, humanist libertarian worldview with a negative view of top covert operations in the CIA where the top officials are willing to cover up a top secret program even by coldly murdering their own agents in the program, but this is balanced by some moral elements (in the end, the hero just wants the government to leave him alone), some Christian/redemptive references to man’s sinfulness, and a libertarian/conservative message against big government power; 30 obscenities, nine strong profanities, seven light profanities; much strong and some very strong action violence with numerous shootings, chase scenes, vehicle crashes, fights, man traps vicious snarling wolf and wrestles a human tracking device into it so that a drone plane missile will explode the wolf rather than the man, with surprisingly little blood but one excessive shooter stalking/massacre scene that’s somewhat disturbing but extremely suspenseful where a scientist whose mind is altered commits a series of cold-blooded shootings against his colleagues even when they beg for mercy; no sex; upper male nudity; drinking; no noticeable smoking but man has to use drugs to maintain his physical and mental recovery from war injuries; and, stealing, lying, cheating, espionage, secrecy, and doctoring identification.
THE BOURNE LEGACY is a high-class, but sometimes confusing, effort to continue the BOURNE spy movies starring Matt Damon. This time, Jeremy Renner plays super-spy Aaron Cross. A top CIA official is trying to cover up the super-spy program by killing all the super spies, including Cross. A woman scientist in the program helps Cross, who’s running out of the pills that enhance his abilities. Another lab in the Philippines is the only place left where they can get the chemicals so that Cross can keep them alive.
THE BOURNE LEGACY takes a while to kick into high gear. That changes in the second half. Especially when Cross rescues the woman scientist from government assassins trying to kill her too. Despite some moral elements and a Christian reference to the sinfulness of man, THE BOURNE LEGACY has a Romantic, humanist worldview. The movie makes the CIA look bad, but it also has a conservative/libertarian warning about the dangers of big government. Extreme caution is advised for some intense violence and plenty of foul language.