OUT OF 4
Director Tony Gilroy(Michael Clayton), working from a screenplay he wrote with his brother Dan, has borrowed story components copiously from original author Robert Ludlum and has crafted a solid action thriller. The film stars Jeremy Renner as the alpha project operative known as Aaron Cross who replaces Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) as the focus of our attention. The fate of Bourne and Cross are identical as they both are haunted by a super secret U.S. government project that spawned a handful of genetically modified super spies. The beginning of the new film cleverly overlaps the conclusion of the last one which saw Jason Bourne upending NYC and his identity going public. Now, the chain reaction set off by Bourne off-screen is what sends Cross into crisis. Eric Byer (Edward Norton) working out of a Virginia based crisis center is shown in an around the world montage wiping out each of these spies with the exception of Agent Cross.
The film’s opening images show Cross plunging out of icy waters in a training exercise in Alaska. Early on, a cool sequence which captures the imagination unfolds: Cross traps a wolf and forces it to swallow a tracking device that he removes from his own leg, making the wolf susceptible to a missile sent by Byer intended to kill our hero. It is this type of cerebral activity that puts a new trajectory on the revived franchise.
In the original, Jason Bourne was seeking out his own identity while in this iteration Aaron Cross is a “junkie” of sorts seeking out the “meds” (green and blue pills) which change his genetic make-up into a super human one so he can escape Byer’s cold blooded designs. In his world-wide journey for a “fix” he teams up with Dr. Marta Shearing (a lovely Rachel Weisz), a Ph.D. research scientist for a giant pharmaceutical company, who survives a workplace shooting massacre at her laboratory. The chemistry between Cross and Shearing is excellent, and, even though they have no lovemaking scenes, they make an engaging couple.
The last thirty minutes or so takes place in Manila and finds Cross and Shearing in a thrilling climactic chase sequence with a team of Swat officers and a “beta project”. Cross traverses tin roof tops before sliding down into a narrow alley and bare handedly saves Shearing,
Academy –award winning cinematographer Roger Elswit lenses some of his finest work but Aaron Cross is still no match for the visceral energy of Jason Bourne but good enough to keep this episodic mega-movie franchise for Universal up and running!