Saturday, 22 December 2012

Movie review: The Bourne Legacy, dir Tony Gilroy (2012)

Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross
in The Bourne Legacy.
A leak via Congress of information about a secret US government program causes the authorities to begin killing the agents the program spawned. Using genetic technologies, the program caused the genetic make-up of selected individuals to be enhanced, intellectually and physically. Fear of embarrassment due to the leak causes the shadowy figures in charge of the program to shut it down before an even bigger scandal emerges. Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), one of the program participants, is due to be eliminated but escapes unharmed.

Meanwhile, at the lab where the gene work is carried out to develop the drugs used to generate the genetic changes the program requires one of the technicians runs amok, shooting a number of people then killing himself. One who survives the rampage is Dr Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) but her safety is compromised when a posse of CIA agents arrives at her house and try to kill her, attempting to make it look like a suicide. Cross intervenes, despatching the CIA operatives efficiently and going on the run with Shearing. Cross wants Shearing to help him receive an injection to ensure his survival and make the changes that the program had always caused using pills, to be permanent. To get to the drugs Cross and Shearing must travel to the Philippines.

Retired colonel Eric Byer (Edward Norton) and his team assume control of the crime scene that Shearing's destroyed house has become, picking through the rubble to learn who helped Shearing to escape. Using all of the resources of the most secret state Byer and his colleagues track down Cross and Shearing to their aeroplane flight. Not content to rely on the local constabulary, they summon another product of the program, Larx #3 (Louis Ozawa Changchien), who moves in on the fugitives in Manila. A long motorbike chase ensues. The ending is indeterminate, with Cross and Shearing fleeing on a small fishing boat into the hazy distance and to freedom.

With this ending there is plenty of scope for the film-rights holders to produce further episodes in the Bourne franchise. Jason Bourne, who gave it its name, does appear by name only in this film, and it's this ability to evade capture, or worse, at the hands of the US authorities that makes for the franchise's appeal. These rogue operators like Bourne and Cross are given seemingly insurmountable tasks to achieve in open conflict with the secret state, and film watchers eagerly consume the plotlines that result from this scenario. There is something so abhorrent about the secret state, and something so noble about elite men who flaunt its strictures and come out on top.

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