It has seriously been Jeremy Renner's time lately, hasn't it? The first time I ever heard of him was for his Academy Award nominated performance in "The Hurt Locker". Since then he was nominated for another Oscar for "The Town", starred alongside Tom Cruise in "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol", and assembled with the rest of the group as Hawkeye in "The Avengers". With all of the credits listed above, it's clear to see that Renner is a star on the rise, but I was still somewhat skeptical of another Bourne movie with him at the helm rather than Matt Damon. When I initially heard about the project (about a year and a half ago), I assumed he'd be playing the titular character of Jason Bourne, which definitely irked me. I am a fairly big fan of not just the Bourne movies, but of Matt Damon who I think is incredibly talented and charismatic. Whenever he's on screen you automatically root for the guy. So how was somebody else going to come into the franchise that really launched Damon's superstardom and take it in a new direction? Well, by taking it in a new direction...
Jeremy Renner plays Aaron Cross, a special ops agent for a secret government program called "Outcome". The movie starts out with Cross in a frozen wilderness, evading wolves and climbing mountains, all the while taking mysterious blue and green pills. Meanwhile, thanks to Jason Bourne's presence in Manhattan, one of the directors of Outcome (played by Edward Norton) is busy trying to keep the program from being shut down. However, due to the debacle, he is ordered to terminate their work - which means eliminating each of the Outcome agents in one fell swoop. They accomplish this through the blue and green pills (a requirement for each agent), switching them out during their routine physical for a poisonous version which kills each of them in turn. Thanks to his solitude, Aaron is able to evade the extermination and teams up with a doctor that developed the drug (Rachel Weisz) who is also being hunted down. Aaron has run out of the medicine and must find a way to restock before something terrible happens.
As you might be able to tell from the plot summary, this story and "The Bourne Ultimatum" take place simultaneously, though Matt Damon does not make an appearance. Not only did this movie experience a change of lead actor, but also of director. Tony Gilroy, who wrote the previous three installments, has stepped into the director's chair along with his typical writing duties. As such, this movie is steeped in Bourne culture, and viewers will enjoy and understand this movie exponentially more if they've seen the original trilogy. Having said that, this is a very different Bourne movie. It has the basic structure and formula (special agent evading the authorities with a love-interest in tow), but a slightly different tone. Gone are the edge-of-your-seat chase scenes that were replete in the previous three, replaced by a more intellectual puzzle. What are these pills? Why is Aaron so dependent on them? The story isn't as action packed (perhaps Gilroy didn't have the confidence of Paul Greengrass), but I wouldn't necessarily call that a bad thing.
Overall, I can't really discuss the movie too much without going into spoiler territory, but suffice it to say that this is a worthy chapter into the Bourne cannon. The movie does a great job of breathing fresh life into the franchise (though it ended on a great note with "Ultimatum"), and excites me about the possibilities of future sequels. There has been talk of a Damon/Renner team-up, which I would absolutely love. If you are a fan of action movies, particularly the Bourne series, check this movie out either in theaters or when it comes out on DVD. I debated going three stars, but eventually decided to give "The Bourne Legacy" three and a half stars.
THE BOURNE LEGACY is rated PG-13 for violence and action scenes.