With a new protagonist in Jeremy Renner, this is the fourth film in the Bourne film franchise.
There’s a lot of action on display here. Sadly, not much substance!
The film takes place during the same time as the climax of the third Bourne film, ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’. Jason Bourne’s (Matt Damon) public exposure at the end of that film had its repercussions. This action sparked an outrage that threatened to burn down years of research and development into building of efficient spies and warriors. Following Jason Bourne’s dismemberment of Operation Blackbriar, the CIA tries to do away with their other black ops programs as well, which also includes the execution of their field agents. At the helm of this termination operation is ret. Colonel Eric Byer, the director of a black-line agency, NRAG (National Research Assay Group). Byer, responsible for building the various programs, feels threatened as the CIA fails to contain Bourne, and that Treadstone’s fall will expose the close working relationship between two of his chief medical directors.
Hence, he has to sacrifice Outcome. Contrary to CIA’s Treadstone, Outcome agents have been developed and trained by the Department of Defense. Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is one of six agents in the Outcome. Cross escapes from being executed and, with the help of an Outcome scientist Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), sets out to expose the crimes of his superiors.
There are flaws in the plot of every action film. However, the plot itself should be engaging enough for the viewers to ignore the plot holes. There is no real ‘antagonist’ in the film. Edward Norton’s character would qualify as one, but then his character isn’t menacing enough. The film, despite having multiple side-tracks, fails to substantiate a basic premise. During the major part of the first half, the film shuffles between several places such as Chicago, Moscow, Pakistan, and Seoul etc. There is a glimmer of hope just before the mid-way mark, when Dr. Marta Shearing is attacked by assassins pretending to be investigators, as a part of the clearing-up operation by the CIA. One does feel that the battle-lines have been drawn. However, nothing really happens henceforth. Just a whole lot of action!
The performances by the cast are terrific. Usually, you do find mainstream popular actors sleepwalking through ‘espionage’ films but there’s serious talent on display here. Jeremy Renner of ‘The Avengers’ fame impresses and how! He is intimidating while doing action and subversive while doing drama notwithstanding the marvelous screen presence. One does miss Matt Damon in a Bourne film, but Jeremy is a worthy replacement. Despite the intense looks and the brooding eyes, the actor has got the swagger to pull off an engaging performance. Academy-award-winning actress Rachel Weisz too, is spot-on with her acting. Her character was not very well written but Rachel does do justice even with the limited opportunity.
Edward Norton is just brilliant. No matter what film he does, he has this amazing ability to look and sound convincing for any character that he portrays. His ‘antagonist’ act could have been more menacing but that would be the shortcoming of the writers and not the actor. Stupendous line-up!
With such brilliant performances, one wonders why the film went haywire. It’s the lackluster writing that lets the film down. No matter how many breathtaking action sequences you fill in a film, you do need a basic and understandable plot to make it work. Writers Tony Gilroy and Dan Gilroy fail to retain the soul of the previous Bourne films. Director Tony Gilroy has packed the film with picturesque locations, mind-blowing action and superlative performances, but he could have done better with a well-defined story line.
Watch it for the amazing performances by the cast (Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz and Edward Norton) and the exceptional visuals (action and cinematography)! Nothing much else on offer here!