The narrative architect behind the Bourne film series, Tony Gilroy, takes the helm in the next chapter of the hugely popular espionage franchise that has earned almost $1 billion at the global box office: The Bourne Legacy. Building on the foundation of the Bourne universe created by Robert Ludlum, the writer/director expands the saga with an original story that reveals a larger conspiracy.
Twelve years ago, audiences were introduced to Jason Bourne when he was pulled unconscious from the Mediterranean. Over the course of three films, they followed his journey to survive and discover his identity. They watched his CIA handlers mount an increasingly desperate worldwide manhunt. They learned about the Treadstone program and Bourne’s special skills and abilities, and at the trilogy’s conclusion, they may have even felt the story was complete. The Bourne Legacy pulls back the curtain to expose a darker layer of intrigue, a deeper mythology, and a new hero who must battle to stay alive when his program suddenly becomes a liability.
The Bourne Legacy is exactly that—the legacy—the aftermath—of what’s come before. Bourne’s public exposure at the end of The Bourne Ultimatum sparks a bonfire that threatens to burn down decades of research and development into the building of better spies and warriors. Audiences will discover that there are actually a variety of intelligence programs, that the CIA’s Treadstone was but one of the early developments and that Bourne’s actions are creating a tremendous anxiety that other programs may be exposed.
Enter the new “Bourne”
Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is one of six agents in a program called Outcome. Unlike the CIA’s Treadstone, Outcome agents have been developed and trained for use by the Department of Defense. More than assassins, Outcome agents are designed for use in isolated, high-risk, long-term intelligence assignments.
The behavioral science that was suggested as the underpinning of the Treadstone agents has been upgraded and advanced, but it’s the shared origins of these two programs that makes Outcome so vulnerable as Bourne’s story becomes public knowledge.
The reason Jeremy’s such an amazing actor is that he is a complicated guy, He’s sweet and he’s hard, and he lets himself draw on all of that, all the time.
Any concerns that the filmmakers might have had about Renner’s ability to transform into an action star were instantly assuaged. In fact, the director calls his leading man a “movie athlete.” Gilroy says: “Jeremy came to us at a really high learning curve. When they took him out to the track the first time, the reports were: ‘Oh my God. Wow. He can do this and this…and this…and this. We don’t have to double this!’ Jeremy’s so good that he actually was at the level where the insurance company got nervous.”
The New Additions
Edward Norton (The Illusionist, The Incredible Hulk) plays ret. Colonel Eric Byer, the director of a black-line agency, NRAG (National Research Assay Group), at the heart of the Bourne universe. Byer is the man who’s built these programs, fought to keep them funded and shopped them to a variety of eager U.S. intelligence services in the vast, post-9/11 espionocracy.
Pulling back the curtain, we realize he’s been there all the while, watching as the three previous films have played out. It’s Byer’s world that’s being threatened as the CIA fails to contain Bourne and, with the realization that Treadstone’s fall will expose the close working relationship between two of his chief medical directors, Byer has no choice but to sacrifice Outcome. That means eliminating everyone involved, including the science and medical researchers who helped to create it. He must now bring to bear every resource possible and erase the infected program to preserve the rest of his work.
Academy Award winning actress Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener, The Mummy) stars alongside Renner as Dr. Marta Shearing, a research scientist with top-security clearance and a high-paying job in the Maryland laboratory of corporate pharma-giant Candent. It’s the groundbreaking science developed in her lab that’s responsible for Outcome, and her job includes monitoring the Outcome agents on the rare occasion that they pass through the area.
She knows Aaron as she knows the rest of them: as a number, as a clinical subject, as a guinea-pig. She’s ignored the ethical conflict of her work, but when the entire program needs to be terminated and it’s her life in jeopardy, she’s forced to confront the morality of her choices as she fights to stay alive.
The Future of the Franchise
Many have wondered whether or not Cross can carry his own series of films in the vein of his predecessor. Plus producers are always careful when approaching spinoffs.
But it seems that producers are confident in the power of Renner’s character and that they created a new franchise. It’s a new character and perhaps the first of a new trilogy of Bourne films.
This should be exciting.
The Bourne Legacy opens in cinemas 8 Aug, catch our review of the movie later this week
Images courtesy of United International Pictures
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