When Matt Damon announced that he was signing off from the Bourne series, I thought it was all over. For an entire generation of moviegoers, Damon defined in just three films what it took Sean Connery twice that: Damon's Bourne has become synonymous with complete and utter bad-ass. He travels around the world unnoticed, speaking all of their languages, can outrun a man on foot, car or motorcycle, he can even kill a knife-bearing man with a towel. Bourne is Hollywood's ultimate real-life superman.
It doesn't hurt that all three Bourne films are enormously entertaining. Where espionage dialogue often becomes lost among the average audience, Paul Greengrass' shaky camera and quick editing style pull you into a suspenseful world of intrigue. I don't think I'll ever be able to walk through an international city without imagining that an espionage thriller is happening around me.
Thankful for us the saga is not over. As the tagline says, "There was never just one." Bourne was just the tip of the iceberg. And as "The Bourne Legacy" reveals, the CIA has quite a few Bourne spies up their sleeves. But when Jason ousts the Treadstone project, some uncomfortable questions for the big guys in charge begin to arise. In one fell swoop they eliminate Treadstone and its sister programs entirely -- wiping out not just the agents themselves but the scientists who have been working on viral mutations to create abnormal strength and intelligence.
One agent survives, our new hero Aaron Cross. Tony Gilroy was smart to know that Jason Bourne could not continue with another actor. He expanded on the Bourne story in ways that the books never did, creating a web that grows infinitely outward. Jeremy Renner is well cast as Cross. As he already demonstrated in "The Hurt Locker," he has an intensity about him that doesn't require words. You can tell that there is something boiling underneath those fixed eyes.
The new story requires a lot of set-up, and if there is one complaint it is that Gilroy focuses far too much on setting up the plot's complexity without giving enough attention to the physicality of the previous films. There are in comparison few action scenes: two shoot-outs and a car chase through Manila, nothing when you look back at the previous "Ultimatum." Although in the end it is a disappointment in comparison, both Gilroy and Renner give us enough to look forward to the next installment.