Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Stacy Keach
By Kaushik Kashyap
LET’S GET one thing straight. Aaron Cross is not Jason Bourne. The film might have been named The Bourne Legacy, but this latest edition is not about the spy in search of his identity from the previous three instalments. Yet, this is also about Bourne, at least the first 30-odd minutes.
Confused? That’s what anyone who has not seen — not closely seen — the three Bourne movies would be.Legacy starts around the same time where the last movie ended. In fact, the first 30 minutes of this film overlap with the last 30 minutes of The Bourne Ultimatum. Jason Bourne’s reappearance has caused a flutter in the CIA. Col (retd) Eric Byer, played by Edward Norton, wants to burn to the ground Outcome, a programme of the Department of Defense that threatens to expose the system.
Here’s where it gets fuzzy. The first half of the film ploughs through so much jargon that it would put John Le Carré to shame. It’s quite difficult to understand why all agents — or assets, as they are called — have to be killed in order to shut down a programme. Byer puts it down to patriotism.
That, in a nutshell, is the larger question of The Bourne Legacy. Norton’s Byer represents that central question of what constitutes patriotism. Like in the other three films, here too, one can see that it is not love for the country so much as self-preservation that “forces” these decisions.
In a brilliant piece of cinematography, the film begins with Cross (Jeremy Renner) in the Alaska Yucatan engaged in either survival exercises or a training facility navigation. The CIA’S Treadstone programme has been exposed and Byer wants to burn everything that can explode.
After that, it becomes a question of three pills — blue, green and yellow.
Cut a long story short, the blue and green pills the agents pop make them physically and mentally strong. As Dr Marta Shearing (the Rachel Weisz character who has “a PhD and two postdoctoral fellowships”) explains, they were all part of a very complicated genome research programme that changed behavioural patterns to make them stronger. Cross survives the attacks on the agents and, together with Shearing, finds the one medicine that virals him off.
Norton’s character represents the central question – what constitutes patriotism? Is it love for the country or self-preservation?
The film has been directed by Tony Gilroy, the scriptwriter of the earlier Bourne films. This one is an original screenplay and not adapted, like the other three. Gilroy has taken extra care to seamlessly merge his film with The Bourne Ultimatum. Renner brings his own brand of angst to the role of Cross. Norton sleepwalks through his part of soldier-turned-bureaucrat Byer with his misplaced patriotism.
However, it is Weisz who stands out for her at-times-catatonic-at-times-cool Dr Shearing. Amidst the bullets and the computers, she is Cross’ link to the normal world. Much of it has to be credited to Gilroy, who does not reduce her to a shrieking cardboard character.
The dialogues have been kept to a minimum and the action is consistent with the other Bourne movies. It is only in Cross’ quest for the truth that one can’t help missing Jason Bourne. In ways more than one, Bourne’s “who am I?” involved you much more than Cross’ pills do. Otherwise, Jeremy Renner is a worthy successor to Matt Damon.
One can’t help hoping the fifth part will be simpler. And yes, there’s going to be a fifth.