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Movie Review: 'The Bourne Legacy'

New hero Jeremy Renner replaces Matt Damon, but despite great chases and fights, plot is MIA

Director: Tony Gilroy
Rating PG-13. Running Time: ‎2hr 15min
Stars: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Stacy Keach 

Spoiler Alert! Here's how The Bourne Legacy ends: It has no ending!

After 2 hours and 15 minutes of spectacular chases, dense dialogue and more than a few blind alleys (literal and figurative), the movie simply shuts down with not a single loose end tied, not one villain dealt with, not one lesson learned.

See also: James Bond, the spy who entertains us, slideshow

The end comes with such unexpected suddenness — and that's saying a lot, given the long running time — that I was reminded of the finale of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, in which the film reel simply unspools as the cast, dressed in Medieval garb, is arrested by London bobbies.

It's too bad, because for the most part The Bourne Legacy is dandy entertainment.

Let's first clear up some confusion: The film's star, Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker), does not star as Jason Bourne, the guy Matt Damon played in the first three Bourne movies. He plays Aaron Cross, a U.S. government operative who is participating in a top-secret project — alluded to in the previous Bourne movie — in which mere humans gain super-sharp minds and incredibly nimble reflexes thanks to some advanced drugs.

Now the government must shut down the program and that, of course, means tracking down and killing all the participants, including Cross. (One interesting insight into the sentiments of the filmmakers: Rather than risk attributing nasty intentions to the current administration, the framed photos on the villain's office walls are of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney).

JEREMY RENNER in, The Bourne Legacy

Jeremy Renner in 'The Bourne Legacy.' — Photo courtesy Universal Pictures

The ensuing chase ranges from deep-frozen Alaska to Washington, D.C., to Manila, Philippines. Along the way Cross picks up Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz, sporting a pair of truly alarming eyebrows), a scientist who knows too much about the program and is likewise marked for death. Some of the set pieces are absolutely heart-pounding, as director Tony Gilroy shows an uncanny knack for keeping the viewer oriented amid a whirl of frantic action.

Damon apparently wasn't interested in continuing in the Bourne franchise, so The Bourne Legacy is a desperate attempt to soldier on without him. It seems the events of this movie are supposed to unfold during the course of the series' previous installment, The Bourne Ultimatum, but you'd need to have written a masters thesis on that film in order to make all the connections we're expected to comprehend here. Damon's character is referenced several times, and we even see a mug shot of him. We also get to hear weird non sequiturs, like, "Bourne has just escaped from a New York hospital!" What? Really? Which theater is that movie showing in?

Just why we're all keeping tabs on the movements of a character we never see isn't made clear, and it's an awkward reminder that The Bourne Legacy is, at its heart, a cynical attempt to continue a successful film franchise.

The abrupt end — which comes just short of the cast turning to the camera, waving good-bye and chirping, "See you in the sequel!" — only bolsters that depressing sense of Hollywood marketing at its cheapest.

You may also like: Bill Newcott's appreciation of film critic Judith Crist.

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Your Scoop on Cinema

Movies for Grownups is focused on films with distinct relevance to a 50-plus audience. In reviews, previews and interviews, we look for actors and themes that speak to the experiences of older moviegoers. Find more about us on:


100 Must-See Movies for Grownups

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A treasure trove of delightfully offbeat recommendations for discerning moviegoers, from the beginnings of film right up the present.

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