The Bourne Legacy

14 August 2012 | 9:11 am | Christopher H James

A potential victim of its own success, The Bourne Legacy faces two essential challenges: firstly, no Bourne. Having failed to persuade Matt Damon to reprise what many consider to be his defining role, Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) plays another anti-hero super agent. Differences between the protagonists? Well, Damon's Damon, Renner's Renner and that's about it to be honest. They're both lone wolves who suffer woozy flashbacks and have to outrun shadowy intelligence agencies who seek to eliminate them so that their dirty secrets remain hidden. Bourne's mugshot and name occasionally float by in the early stages to remind us why we bought the ticket, until high ranking CIA spooks slam their fists on tables and exclaim disavowals like “forget Bourne; we've got bigger problems now”.

The second challenge lies in how to tactfully re-employ the techniques that made Bourne such a hit in the first place; the continuously moving camera work, claustrophobic close-ups, bullet-speed editing etc. Legacy's immediate predecessor, The Bourne Ultimatum, stretched these stylistic devices to such knife-edge extremities that trumping them might have led to incomprehensibility. Hopping into the director's chair, Bourne series writer Tony Gilroy exercises comparative restraint. There's still plenty of disorientating bang for your buck, but there are also distinct rest periods, little oases of calm, that allow for reflection. Gilroy mostly stays faithful to the tested customs. The global gallivanting continues, albeit at a slightly reduced pace, opening in Alaska where a lonely, blue-eyed Renner searches the wilderness for the precious caffeine pills he needs to survive. Certainly it wouldn't be a Bourne film without intense close quarters combat using improvised weapons and chase sequences over rooftops. On both counts Legacy lives up to expected high standards of resourcefulness and innovation.