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Movie Review: The Bourne Legacy

September 14, 2012


Tony Gilroy, takes the helm in the next chapter of the hugely popular espionage franchise that has earned almost $1 billion at the global box office: "The Bourne Legacy". — Courtesy Photo

A super-soldier on the run! Man, the headline is going to look bad on the news.

“We are morally indefensible and absolutely necessary”, validates Edward Norton to his group of tech-flunkies in a scene in “The Bourne Legacy”.

Norton, who is mostly confined to darkened offices and low-keyed war-rooms, slides in and out of the very pretzel-y narrative of Legacy — the new spin-off, running near and parallel, of the “Bourne” trilogy that co-stared Matt Damon, visual kinesis and Disneyland-ride worthy narrative corkscrews.

Norton plays Eric Byer, a new corporate-minded head of super-secret government project — which we later learn, breeds fresh a new type of near-indestructible mission specific, no-question-asking agents. And while he may say things that sound morally weighty, we can see, sometimes rather plainly on Norton’s expression that he doesn’t really believe in the saintliness of his own words. To his character, the words may just be a part of his day-job.

Byer’s other significant task is tailoring. He snips-off loose ends and human-lives (meaning Black assets and missions) with a nearly invisible sigh.

Legacy’s agent on-the-run (part of Eric Byer’s snipping) is Aaron Cross – but while you may not remember his name, because Damon’s “Jason Bourne” and his still-lingering ghost rules most of original running time.

Regardless of missing ghosts, Cross is the new magnet transfixing most of the hovering story-slots in place.

As the story gradually starts making sense, we learn that Cross is part of project Outcome, a program both like and unlike the Bourne-producing Treadstone project (whose snippets – which include cameos by David Strathairn, Joan Allen and Albert Finney – are, again, nicked by Norton and co.).

Cross is the new Captain America — or his nearest and more realistic super-heroic equal. He can out-fight, outrun and outthink mean mercenaries. As an unwilling action hero, Cross gets lots of chances to test-drive his skill-set during the film’s two-hour sprint across the globe — and especially during the brawny, kinematic climax in Manila.

However, when we first meet Cross, he has a half-grown beard to save some of his face from the brazenness of perpetual Alaskan winter.

Running from the elements, and a pack of hounding wolves (which he himself accepts is unnatural), Cross makes his way to a secluded cabin in the woods where an agent, Number Three(Oscar Isaac),is ghettoized for insubordination. We discover two things here: Number Three is thrown here because he fell in love; and that Cross asks a lot of questions.

It is also in this brief moment here that co-writer (with Dan Gilroy)/director and chief Bourne “architect”, Tony Gilroy, takes a bit of breather from the howling franticness embedded in Bourne’s movie bloodline, before the movie revs-up its engine again.

Renner plays a different man than Damon. And while their objectives may be similar (meaning, staying alive), their progress couldn’t be more horizontal (well, apart from the running away and staying alive bit).

Renner’s Cross doesn’t want Treadstone, or Outcome. What he wants is super-soldier dope (of course, illegally created for nefarious government deeds), and the only doctor who can cook-up the formula is geneticist Marta Shearing (an effective, if ancillary Rachel Weisz).

As the film wounds up, she ends up running away from the government as well — and for now their relationship is held-back in building-block stages.

As they run, story-worthy momentousness is sidelined during the two-hours of this very urgently-paced movie. And still we are methodically mesmerized, flabbergasted, and intellectually hoodwinked into unconscious submission. Suddenly, and enigmatically, “hooked” becomes a less significant verb.