Reviews for the Easily Distracted

Reviews for the Easily Distracted:
The Bourne Legacy

Title: The Bourne Legacy

Remake? Prequel? Sequel? More like "simu-quel." The events in Legacy occur parallel to those in The Bourne Ultimatum.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant to the Film: Two and a half crayons out of five

Brief Plot Synopsis: Secret government agency decides to mothball black ops programs (with extreme prejudice) thanks to Jason Bourne. One surviving operative has other ideas.

Tagline: "There was never just one."

Better Tagline: "Like Flowers for Algernon, only with Predator drones."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) experiences a rather violent interruption in his elite soldier training when a missile strike destroys his Alaskan base camp. Curious, he tracks down Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), the one person he's interacted with in the secret military program (Operation Outcome). He wants to find out why he's suddenly persona non gratam and it turns out the CIA, in the person of Eric Byer (Edward Norton), is "dismantling" all of its black ops programs now that Jason Bourne has blown Operations Treadstone and Blackbriar wide open.

"Critical" Analysis: The first three Bourne movies make up one of the more successful action movie franchises to date, grossing almost a billion dollars worldwide. This was thanks in no small part to Matt Damon's portrayal of the titular character, and the adaptations of Robert Ludlum's source material by writer Tony Gilroy, who -- in the first film at least -- managed to offer a statement about America's post-9/11 role abroad amidst the Cooper Mini chases and krav maga. Bourne's amnesia could easily be read as our nation's uncertainty about its future on the world stage.

Or I could just be whistling "Dixie." The point is, Damon, Gilroy and directors Doug Liman (Identity) and Paul Greengrass (Supremacy, Ultimatum) put together a trilogy that showcased some truly spectacular action sequences (the car chase at the end of Supremacy may be in my top five of all time) with an occasionally moving story about a guy trying to make peace with the fact he's a one-man killing machine.

Operation Outcome is a program in which covert operatives are inserted into (mostly) enemy governments and organizations like North Korea and Pakistan's ISI in order to gain intelligence. Cross is completing his training for this when Byer decides to burn it. Unlike Bourne, Cross knows who he is, or was; his real name is Kenneth Kitsom and he was brought into the miliatry even though his IQ was below the mininum required because his recruiter wanted to meet his quota. It's unclear how he was originally introduced to Outcome, but part of his onboarding involved getting drugs that boosted both his physical and intellectual abilities. Cross (aka Kitsom aka "Outcome 5") just wants to ensure a steady supply of brain meds to keep from slipping back into what he was.

For folks of my generation, it's the opposite of Moe hammering a crayon up Homer's nose.

There's about half of a good movie here. The opening acts, with scenes of Cross escaping the air strike and rescuing Dr. Shearing from CIA goon intercut with Byer methodically shutting down global operations, are what writer/director Gilroy does best and are fairly gripping. Most of the second half (and Legacy is a beefy two hours and 15 minutes long) is one protracted chase scene involving Cross, Shearing, most of the Manila police department, plus another operative (there's always another, even when - you know - all of these programs were supposedly shut down) even more badass than Cross.

Personally, I was more impressed by the speed and efficiency of the Manila P.D.

Cross is certainly a more engaging protagonist than Bourne ever was. Well, more smart-assed anyway, but definitely more likable, and I say that even with my perceptions of Renner permanently skewed by Dahmer. The Bourne Legacy works just fine as an action film, and sure, go ahead and slap "Bourne" on it to pique people's interest. It's a formula Universal can probably continue indefinitely, I just don't know if they're going to be able to engage audiences for what is essentially a Jason Bourne mythology subplot without invoking memories of Damon every 10 minutes like they do here.

The Bourne Legacy is in theaters today. Go ahead an rent it, it won't make you [much] dumber.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar