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New Release Review - The Bourne Legacy

Directed by: Tony Gilroy
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Stacy Keach, Scott Glenn, Zeljko Ivanek

Following the events of "The Bourne Ultimatum", Treadstone attempt to cover their tracks by eliminating their agents but one, the chemically addicted Renner, escapes with chemist Weisz on a quest for answers.

When the producers of "Dallas" decided to bring Bobby Ewing back from the dead, writing off an entire season of episodes as a dream, the TV watching public reacted with scorn and viewing figures for what was once TV's biggest show fell dramatically. Personally I thought it was a brilliant move. Audiences complained of Bobby's absence so here's the only way possible of bringing the character back, what's the problem? Of course people so often like to cut off their nose to spite their face. Because of this, the fourth in the Jason Bourne series has been ridiculed from the start. Why? Because it doesn't feature Jason Bourne. Matt Damon was disinterested in a return and rather than simply recasting the character the decision was made to introduce another of Treadstone's agents, this time played by Renner. 
I had quite a bit of hope for this film. Sure, it would miss Damon's presence but at least the original writer of the first three films, Tony Gilroy, was returning. The fact that he was replacing the ADD suffering Paul Greengrass as director was another reason for hope. A quality cast had also been assembled so this should be pretty good, right? Er, no, this is actually a mess thanks to a script by Gilroy which is bad enough to remind you he once wrote "Armageddon". Gilroy must be reading the same scriptwriting manuals as Damon Lindelof as this shares the same basic problems as "Prometheus", every character behaves like an idiot and plot points are plucked out of thin air at the writer's convenience. 
The strength of the original trilogy was how grounded in reality the whole saga was. Damon didn't rely on any sci-fi type gadgets and his pursuers were convincing as members of the intelligence gathering community. For this reason, the producers of the Bond franchise rebooted their character to give us the more grounded Daniel Craig version. Things seem to have now come full circle as this film has more in common with a Roger Moore 007 movie than the trilogy it succeeds. The amount of suspension of disbelief required here would be a struggle for an eight year old, let alone an adult expecting an intelligent thriller. Gilroy is trying to make a point about the evils of the pharmaceutical industry but mis-handles it so badly that his message becomes laughable. We're asked to believe that there are drugs so sophisticated they control your mind in a manner specific enough to make you follow explicit orders and identify precise targets before blowing your own brains out. The movie is meant to be occurring at the same time as "The Bourne Ultimatum" yet the technology at Treadstone's disposal is vastly superior. There's also a revelation in the final act of a more advanced agent who gets sent after Renner which brings up the question of why he wasn't sent after Bourne. This is what's known in writing terms as a "Deus Ex Machina" which roughly means the writer suddenly plucks something out of his ass to resolve a tricky plot point. The movie ends with a terribly filmed action scene involving this super-agent which resembles "Terminater 2" filmed by a cameraman suffering with Parkinson's.
What's most irritating is how exceedingly dumb every character behaves. Treadstone come up with a plan to dispose of their agents by changing their medication from green and blue pills to a new triangle shaped orange one. Every agent stupidly takes the new drug resulting in their deaths. Give me a break. You work for a shady government agency who suddenly give you a new pill, wouldn't you be a tad suspicious? Despite all the resources at their disposal, Treadstone make mince meat out of their attempts to capture Renner. One particularly dumb moment sees the local Filipino police force catch him before they can. This could be the worst commercial for the American intelligence community ever filmed.
The original three films were highly enjoyable, blockbusters for adults which revitalised the spy genre. This is no legacy worth leaving.
4/10

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