'The Bourne Legacy' review: Keep the brain food coming

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'The Bourne Legacy'

'The Bourne Legacy' (August 7, 2012)

*** (out of four)

To fill Matt Damon’s/Jason Bourne’s shoes, an actor/character must be fleet of foot, squeeze into tight spaces and possess badass hand-to-hand combat skills.

No problem.

As Aaron Cross, another special operative feeling the heat of pursuit from his superiors once they issue ghost protocol (no, they don’t call it that) to cancel his program, Jeremy Renner (“The Hurt Locker,” “The Avengers”) transitions smoothly into leading man status. He’s scrappy. Athletic. Real.

So despite Aaron’s ability to take down four guys at once or wrestle a wolf, when he and a terrified scientist (Rachel Weisz) take off running and start to bond, “The Bourne Legacy” establishes a crucial, convincing human element. They become two relatable people, alone together, in a story about high-ranking officials who don’t want their deadly employees experiencing something as inconvenient as “original thought” or “emotions.”

Yes, this is another story about a spy organization chasing its tail, and sometimes “Legacy” suggests what “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” might have been had anything actually happened. Traveling from Alaska to Chicago to the Philippines, Aaron does not endure a truly taxing, extensive chase until late in the movie, but it’s a doozy with a strong, explosion-free resolution.

Delivering the first “Bourne” movie not based on a Robert Ludlum novel, director/co-writer Tony Gilroy (“Michael Clayton” and writer of the previous “Bourne” films) maintains the series’ knack for making you feel like you have no idea what’s going on for a while, but eventually manages to thread together a lot of pieces he juggles all at once. In fact, the plotline about a possible medical breakthrough leaves you wanting more.

Even if “Legacy” may feel like more of the same chronological criss-crossing and ultra-high clearance levels and blah blah blah, it’s great when a franchise can expand intelligently and entertainingly while still just scratching the surface.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com. @mattpais

 

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