By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
There may well be craven financial motives for continuing the “Bourne” movies, the hyperkinetic spy trilogy that gave Matt Damon a secure career in the first part of the 21st century. Damon himself has opted out of the new one.
But let’s put aside motives and look at the movie itself. Does it deliver? Is there enough espionage juice to justify the mission this time?
Get 10 minutes into “The Bourne Legacy,” and you won’t be worrying about motives, you’ll just be thinking about how the hero is going to avoid a missile-packing drone plane. The movie’s a potent blend of spy-movie basics: good headlong plotting, sinister government conspiracies and plenty of scenes of people talking in rooms.
The key holdover from the trilogy is writer Tony Gilroy, who also takes over the director’s chair for “Legacy” (he helmed the excellent “Michael Clayton”). The key addition is the new Bourne, Jeremy Renner, the tough-enough actor from “The Hurt Locker” and “The Avengers.”
How can there be another Bourne? That’s not his name, but Renner’s character, Aaron Cross, has been created by the same spy program that launched Jason Bourne. We meet him on a kind of Outward Bound training mission in Alaska, which at first glance looks like a 007-style opening sequence but turns out to be integral to the story line.
We won’t give away too much of the plot, but Cross is left to figure out quite a few things on his own; one of the most pressing questions is why people keep trying to kill him.
He goes to a scientist (Rachel Weisz) for some answers, and she gets swept into the drama. Their meeting — in a big empty house she’s renovating — is a taut piece of suspense, and just the way you ought to introduce two lovebirds in an action flick.
Renner doesn’t need to give a great performance — these roles tend to be blank, by design — but he comes up with some quirky line readings. There are small moments for previous players in the “Bourne” films, but the main government operatives are played by Edward Norton, Stacy Keach and Donna Murphy.
The final act is dominated by some tense cat-and-mouse stuff in the Philippines, and then a bravura motorcycle chase.
“Legacy” then ends with odd abruptness. The plot stuff has been sorted out, but somehow you want a couple of extra beats at the end. But maybe it’s a deliberate choice. Like the unsuspecting agents of the series, we’d better learn to be ready for whatever happens next.
“The Bourne Legacy” (3½ stars)
No more Matt Damon, but the spy-movie stuff continues with Jeremy Renner as a confused agent wondering why everybody’s trying to kill him. Director Tony Gilroy keeps the storytelling headlong (up until the somewhat abrupt ending), and Rachel Weisz proves a worthy adventure companion.
Rated: PG-13 for violence, language.
Showing: Alderwood Mall, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood, Pacific Place, Sundance, Thornton Place, Woodinville, Cascade Mall, Oak Harbor.