I love Matt Damon. I think he’s extremely talented and versatile. His turn in The Bourne Identity convinced me that he could do nearly anything. Prior to that movie I never would have pegged him as an action star or deadly super spy. He ushered in that franchise and made Jason Bourne a household name. I couldn’t imagine the series continuing without him, yet any plotline involving his character seemed to have been exhausted with the last installment in the trilogy. Acknowledging that the Jason Bourne plot had run its course, I was receptive to a new take on the franchise. Enter Jeremy Renner (MI: 4 Ghost Protocol), who has seen a steady increase in popularity since his award-winning turn in The Hurt Locker.
Renner stars in The Bourne Legacy as Aaron Cross, one of many covert spies working for the same entity that produced Jason Bourne years ago. I can’t say with certainty whether this entity is a government agency or a private defense company, because I honestly can’t keep up with all the intricate plot details. When we last saw Jason Bourne in the The Bourne Ultimatum, he was tied up with Blackbriar and Treadstone, with the on-again off-again assistance of Pamela Landy (Joan Allen). Those covert operations are present once again in The Bourne Legacy, only this time the Powers That Be want to disavow themselves from the program all together. This means that any agents in the field must be eliminated, as they clean house in advance of a very-much-alive Jason Bourne blowing the whistle. Bourne knows too much and still poses a threat, especially after the way he was betrayed and hung out to dry when we last saw him. Once the decision is made to 86 the program, past and present agents are systematically destroyed. This includes Aaron Cross, who was enduring a hellacious training exercise when his bosses sent a missile to obliterate his wilderness checkpoint, killing a fellow agent. Cross narrowly escapes, eventually making his way back to civilization.
Like Jason before him, Aaron is extremely resourceful and resilient. His first order of business is to retrieve some “chems,” pills that he took to sustain himself as he completed the training exercise. If he doesn’t get another one soon, his body may begin to shut down. A large pharmaceutical company works with the agency in the development of its internal medicine, and Aaron must travel to the plant where it’s manufactured to retrieve some tablets. Rachel Weisz (Dream House) features as Dr. Marta Shearing, a chemist who works for the company. She treats the agents and has treated Aaron previously, though she doesn’t remember him. He seeks her out in the hopes she can get him a pill, but she explains that they have been transitioning agents off the pills. Aaron was unaware because he had been completing his training exercise and was in remote locations for several months. His continued ingestion of the pills has made him a more physically imposing spy. For some reason that isn’t entirely clear to me, Aaron still wants to obtain some new chems. From what Shearing explained, it sounds like the chems aren’t necessary for his survival. Yet Aaron is still determined to go to the plant where they are manufactured in the Philippines and get more. If it were a life and death situation, I would understand that – but it’s not. Aaron says something about having witnessed what happens when you go off your meds, and he doesn’t want that to happen to him. Yeah, ok. Furthermore, it wasn’t realistic to me that there wasn’t a single pill anywhere in the United States. Nevertheless, Aaron must get more chems and figure out what’s going on, all while trying to evade his murderous employer.
There were some effective elements of the movie, and some that were less successful. The aforementioned plot point annoyed me, because it just didn’t make any sense. It’s important to know what drives your protagonist. The need for survival is a no-brainer, and I got that. I also understood his need to protect Dr. Shearing, once they became caught up with one another. But why is he going to the Philippines if she just told him that he basically doesn’t need the chems anymore? That seems like a lot of trouble to go through just to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Aren’t you being hunted? Shouldn’t you lay low? Despite that plotline, there were some very good scenes – particularly a workplace shooting that occurred at the pharmaceutical company. It was a chilling scene that had particular relevance, considering the times in which we live. At any rate, Jeremy Renner was convincing in his role. I can’t say that he can fill Matt Damon’s shoes just yet, but he is promising. He nailed every physical aspect, but I didn’t get a sense of his character’s underlying personality. Jason Bourne was a more layered, tortured character, and I feel like we only scratched the surface with Aaron Cross. I’m willing to see what’s in store for the future. Grade: B.