“Bourne again,” only this time it’s Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) not, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) who has resurrected this series. Renner’s career has taken off like a rocket in recent years, moving nearly as fast as he was in the motorcycle sequences of this film, “The Bourne Legacy.” Since he secured the Oscar® nomination for his role in “The Hurt Locker” he has been on the big screen with regularity, most recently set up to continue the “Mission: Impossible” franchise with his successful co-starring role in “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.” Now, the reset button has been pushed once more on another successful franchise, and it’s Renner at the helm again.
There is not a whole lot to say about the film, other than it’s a formula that works. Based on my review of this film last evening, I will say that Renner is a well placed substitute for Damon, assuring the continued success of the franchise ($1 Billion strong). “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” comes to mind, and they didn’t. If you liked the first three films of the Bourne Series, you will probably like this one, with one caveat: it may be too violent. The plot remains the same, much like one in a typical 007 film, but Tony Gilroy, a writer on one of the earlier Bourne films has created an entirely new story—only this time—he is also at the helm as director.
Aaron Cross (Renner) is a genetically enhanced CIA assassin who was a part of a program similar to the one that created Jason Bourne, called “Treadstone.” As in the Jason Bourne series, Cross is targeted for assassination himself when it is decided that this additional secret program is to be shut down. Aaron is also cut off from his daily ration of special meds which sustain his biological superiority.
The film opens on Renner surviving the first attack on his life in a remote area of Alaska, where he fights off both wolves and a sophisticated drone. But his need for the drugs, to continue to survive, forces him to seek out Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), the only surviving scientist who may be able to help him. Predictably, they need to travel to another country to make that happen, and so the chase begins, with the unlikely couple charging through a series of unfortunate events with multiple murders and assassinations, ending in Manila with even more mayhem.
The men in charge of making this problem go away, along with the remaining vestiges of problems leftover from the story in the last film, are Retired Col. Eric Byer (Edward Norton) and Admiral Mark Turso (Stacy Keach). Each of them play their cold and calculating roles well, maintaining damage control in D.C., and doing what needs to be done, from their perspective.
While I heard at least 10 common phrases using God’s name in slang, along with a half a dozen uses of the “s” word and a dozen uses of “hell”, that wasn’t what disturbed me the most. It was the violence. I spoke to this in my final summary of “The Dark Knight” review recently, but it bears repeating. The violence is increasing in our films today, and there is little doubt of the desensitization that is occurring among viewers. There is a particular scene of workplace violence that is far too realistic and went on for several minutes in the film—which this reviewer believes was gratuitous and totally unwarranted. I believe Tony Gilroy went over the top by adding this to the script and to the movie. None of the previous films in the Bourne series had anything close to this kind of violence. We see this enough in our nightly newscasts—and with the recent Aurora, Colorado shooting, we need to ask ourselves—is life imitating art? At the very least, this film should have been rated “R” for the violence. It is extreme. I had to turn away and close my eyes during several scenes, something I had not done in the Bourne trilogy.
Caution: This movie is not suitable for children or even early teens. I would categorize it only for adults or mature teens—if you were going to see it at all. While the formula worked, and the adrenaline flowed, and although there are lots of motor cycle chase scenes and roof top jumps—enough to adequately sustain the action thriller junky—it comes at a cost: the imprint of extreme violence is written upon the tablet of the human heart. Truly, only God knows its final outcome. I normally give these action thrillers a pass on morality and end up saying “average” for its genre. Not this time. The violence pushed it well into the offensive category.