It's déjà vu all over again in the latest installment of Robert Ludlum's Bourne franchise. The Bourne Legacy is essentially a pilot for a new story set in the Bourne universe. We are introduced to another elite government assassin, Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner). Cross, and others of his ilk, are caught up in a betrayal by their clandestine masters. It seems Jason Bourne's antics have started a media firestorm that threatens to burn the whole operation down. Pursued by a quietly cutthroat villain, Byer (Edward Norton); Cross teams up with a doctor (Rachel Weisz) to free himself from the medication that enhances his abilities. So for those keeping score at home, we have another secret agent, on the run with another hapless babe, being chased by baddies that have unlimited resources and power. It's also a given that The Bourne Legacy is chock full of close camera chases on rooftops and cars. Sound familiar?
The Bourne Legacy is written and directed by Tony Gilroy. He wrote the previous three films; with this as his first turn as director. Apart from the retread of storyline, Gilroy does a decent job. Legacy develops slowly and is fairly well acted by the new cast. Gilroy plays it safe and sticks to the style developed by Paul Greengrass, director of the last two installments. I can hammer on the similarities, but am going to give Gilroy a break. He's making a certain kind of product for the studio. The Bourne series has been highly successful. In studio parlance, that means we have a good formula and we'll stick with it until the numbers say otherwise. Think of the James Bond series, you're pretty much watching the same general plot over and over again. The fact that Gilroy's film is somewhat entertaining and doesn't fall apart under convention is praiseworthy.
Jeremy Renner is deceptively good here. The character of Aaron Cross is a physical mirror of Jason Bourne. It's the personality and how he's played that holds this film together. Renner's take on Cross is to make him quizzical. The character is curious, knows there's something rotten, and handles his business in a quieter tone. I always say that playing a quiet character well is one of the most difficult things an actor can do. Focus on facial expression, verbal inflection, the way the character physically looks at a scene. Renner has made his career on playing that character that's a bit off, but still relatable. He's in good form here and a hope that the inevitable sequel will be better.
My final take on The Bourne Legacy is to draw a comparison to fast food. Every time you go to Burger King, you know what the whopper tastes like. It can get boring, but you never hate it after you're done eating it. I wish there was more creativity with the plot here, but The Bourne Legacy is certainly not a bad movie. It's decent enough for a recommendation. That said, they really need to stir the pot a little more for future incarnations. Put a little hot sauce on that whopper next time.