Pursued By Our Inner Damons
The "Bourne" series laterals the ball to another player in The Bourne Legacy, the fourth film of the series, which, by now, has nothing to do with the Robert Ludlum books on which they are titularly based (which is fine, as I read the first one decades ago and found it one of the worst reads ever).
When last we left Jason Bourne, he'd jumped into the East River to make a desperate escape from his pursuer/handlers, a nice turnaround from when the series started with him being fished out of the water with no clue as to his identity. We start there again, but this time, we're Bourne again in another body of water with Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) on a training mission way out in nowhere, Alaska (all the better to see Russia, apparently), while the events of the previous Bourne trilogy play out in the States, sending a panic through the intelligence community and an order to purge the Treadstone Project (or is it Operation Outcome...or Operation Blackbriar...only Tom Clancy could keep track of this...and then he'd start a book-series (ghost-written) on each one!). Whichever project is being scorched to the Earth, the talents from the previous movies (Scott Glenn, Joan Allen, David Straithairn) are dealing with the ramifications of Bourne's re-appearance, another intelligence head* (Stacy Keach-welcome back, sir) puts another middle-management type (Edward Norton) in charge of damage control (an impossible task in any recent spy film).**
As it becomes readily apparent on Renner's training mission, we didn't know diddly about the Bourne project (whatever name it was), as there are other agents like him, who are not only trained, but drugged to enhance their physical endurance, but also mental faculties (take the green and blue pills, but the yellow one you should really take with water or it gets stuck in your throat, evidently). Just as Cross is about to rotate stateside, he and another agent get a drone-launched nasty-gram stating unequivocally that the mission is over.
That's how it starts, and goes all over the world, subsequently, even while it doesn't really go anywhere. Oh, things happen, and things explode and people run around a lot (Rachel Weisz is a really good runner, by the way), but it's mostly just movement without any story momentum. Most movies have a beginning a middle and an end, but this one is content to merely have a beginning, a middle and a chase.
Tony Gilroy (who cracked the code for the first film—taking the germ of the idea and stream-lining it into a bare essentials man-on-the-run movie—directed the brilliant Michael Clayton and the disappointing Duplicity, one of those "I-get-the-drift-but-it-doesn't-work" movies) co-wrote this one and directed, employing the same kind of Paul Greengrass "run and shoot" style, but taming it down a bit, so it can be followed, as opposed to experienced in barely discernible flashes.*** It's a risk because the Greengrass adrenaline-fueled style keeps one from asking too many questions about the slowing-down factor of injuries and leaps in story-logic. All well and good, I suppose, but one still gets the sense that Legacy is half-baked, with the kernel of an idea, some complications to keep things from getting too stale and large holes in the script filled with "a fight breaks out," "a chase happens," and "hero jumps from a fire escape into a window." These all happened in the previous films, but I'll be damned if I can remember which specific ones—I suspect the answer is: "All of them." They all blur together as the most memorable things are the action sequences, and there's a remarkable...uh...consistency to them. The stakes are only the agent's own and most of the film's have very little resolution to them. Legacy has none. It just ends.
While one can admire the proficiency with which it is done, there's nothing all that memorable about this one...or the last one. Even with fresh faces and a new idea of two, it's the same old thing, hardly worth being "Bourne" at all.
The Bourne Legacy is a Rental
* You know, one could make a case for the excesses of "Big Gov'mint" just by noting the cast of good character actors in the "Bourne" series and all the different intelligence branches and mid-levels.
** Who fixes things in these films-and why haven't the unemployment rates dropped as a result?
*** This helped by a change in the style of Dan Bradley, who seems to have taken a film directing class in the interim, because his second unit direction in the chase sequences actually have some shots that feature relationship perspective going so far as to even including both participants in the chase in the same frame. That's some kind of break-through after his disastrous work on Quantum of Solace.