It appears Matt Damon wasn’t the only reason fans of the ongoing Bourne series flocked to theaters.
The fourth Bourne film, starring Jeremy Renner, brings back the same fast-paced, action-packed world of covert operations as its predecessors without sacrificing the quality acting and plot line fans have grown accustomed to.
For the avid Damon fan, there is still good news. The film doesn’t eliminate or duplicate his character as Jason Bourne, meaning Damon could return to the series if he and producers desire.
Still, “The Bourne Legacy,” proved to do just fine without him, nabbing first place at the box office over the weekend by raking in $40.3 million, which was good enough to beat out new releases “The Campaign” ($27.4 million) and “Hope Springs” ($15.6 million).
The film resumes where “The Bourne Ultimatum” left off, with Bourne having exposed the CIA’s top -secret operations known as Black Briar and Treadstone. As CIA officials go under investigation by the FBI, they call on former Air Force Colonel Eric Byer (Edward Norton) for assistance. Byer resolves to eliminate all traces of the CIA’s black ops programs, including its newest addition, Operation Outcome.
Renner, who stars as Outcome agent Aaron Cross, is one of nine agents whose physical and mental abilities are enhanced by the consumption of lab-made pills, and who finds himself facing assassination attempts as the CIA tries to cover up its illegal operations.
Renner, on a training mission in Alaska, is presumed dead by Byer after he sends in unmanned aircraft to drop a missile on Cross’ tracked location.
But unbeknownst to Byer and his support team, Cross’ training and quick wits have allowed him to escape.
In his quest for answers, Cross teams up with Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), a scientist formerly responsible for treating Outcome agents, and whose colleagues have since been executed in an effort to blanket the program.
Lacking the pills necessary to keep up his mental and physical superiority, Cross convinces Shearing to accompany him to a Philippines laboratory, where she agrees to viral him with the necessary chemical to eliminate his reliance on the pills.
Alerted by the dead bodies left behind by Cross along the way, Byer discovers Cross is still very much alive, and resumes his plan to take him out at all costs.
Directed by Tony Gilroy, who wrote the screenplays for the previous three Bourne films, “The Bourne Legacy” has much of the same look and feel to it as its predecessors.
Despite having a tough act to follow in Damon’s performances, Renner does an outstanding job in the lead role, with any shortcomings being more than made up for by Norton’s introduction to the cast.
The dialogue throughout is smooth and natural, and the emotions felt by the individuals in this high-stakes matter of life and death are well-portrayed and believable, particularly in the supporting role of Weisz.
The action scenes, which have become such a crucial element in these films, continue to be well-timed, complementing the building plot at the appropriate moments and preventing the war of mental strategy between Cross and Byer from growing stale.
But with the action comes the film’s biggest problem. The anticipation created by the fact these Outcome agents, through chemical supplements, are supposed to be mentally and physically superior, is only somewhat portrayed in the film, and might have the audience expecting more than it will get.
Viewers expect Cross to know how to weave a dirt bike in and out of traffic. They expect him to be able to take on two or three guys in a fight, and to shoot down a plane, and to jump between buildings. And the reason they expect these things is because it’s exactly what Jason Bourne did for three films.
The fact that Cross doesn’t stand out as superior to Bourne brings into question the need for much of the film’s plot minutes.
Why waste so much time on creating a buildup that not only doesn’t show Cross as slightly more-than-human, but climaxes with Shearing saving Cross from the so-called tough guy?
Perhaps it is buildup for the next film, which one can only hope.
However, the most important element of the film, and the reason the film has likely been successful, is because of its ability to tie in a new and believable plot without reintroducing Matt Damon as Jason Bourne. The film strays from the story of Jason Bourne enough to allow it to carry on without Damon, but makes the necessary references and answers any preconceived questions that viewers might have when they take a seat at the theaters to watch this flick. As a result, it doesn’t feel like the studios are simply trying to convince viewers to invest more money into the series without justification.
Overall, the film is good enough to justify its box-office success, and it should see more of the same based on word of mouth.