The fourth installment in the popular Bourne espionage series hits the big screen this weekend without its old hero Jason Bourne. This causes some initial confusion, but director Tony Gilroy's astute decision to create a new story and new characters breathes new life into the well-worn franchise and leaves the door open for further installments.
Picking up in real time with Bourne on the run and key details of Treadstone and Blackbriar revealed, The Bourne Legacy (PG-13 for brief language and intense action) weaves a riveting tale about the shutdown of America's super secret spy program, the soulless officials who run it, and one spy who refuses to call it quits-Aaron Cross.
An American soldier who fought in Iraq and was mysteriously absorbed into "The Program," Cross is notably different than his predecessor. Jason Bourne was the international, tormented assassin, always in the right place at the right time, who could speak any language and kill anyone who got in his way. He was a finely calibrated weapon.
Like Bourne, Cross is superhuman, but he's more all-American-a masterful outdoorsman who leaps cliffs, wrestles wolves, and drives a motorcycle like nobody's business. He does all of this seriously, but with a wry wit and a quick smile. Jeremy Renner plays the part well, proving that he's more than capable of assuming the Bourne mantle.
Renner's female counterpart, Rachel Weisz, also gives a fine performance as myopic virologist Dr. Marta Sheering. The lone survivor of a terrifying shooting spree, Sheering is on the run for her life. She knows too much about the behavioral design of super spies but doesn't know enough to save herself.
That's where Cross comes in. With his practical survival skills and super-human abilities, he's an ideal hero, as long, that is, as he has his pills-pills that virally infect his body with enhanced mental and physical capacities. Unfortunately, the pills are running out and if he doesn't get a new supply soon something looms on the horizon.
What that something is not completely explained, but Cross and Sheering travel halfway around the world to Manila to prevent it. With the feds hot on their tail, the pretty doc and the athletic super agent have to steal a virus, escape a factory, and go on the wildest car chase of their life.
This chase scene is probably the highlight of the film and one of the best Hollywood has offered in recent years. Zigzagging through the tangled streets of Manila to avoid the human hound dog unleashed upon them, Cross and Sheering race for their lives. Whipping around corners, speed blurring the view, bullets flying, adrenaline pumping-it's fantastically unrealistic, but perfectly exhilarating.
The scene and the movie end, leaving us breathless and with a lot of questions unanswered. This could either be a gross oversight or a brilliant play. Either way, The Bourne Legacy succeeds as a good spy flick and manages to keep the series alive for another day.