Starring: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, David Strathairn, Joan Allen, Paddy Consadine & Albert Finney.
Running Time: 126 mins.
Seen At: Didsbury.
On: Saturday, 25th August, 2012.
Originally based on the pulpy series of bestselling novels by Robert Ludlum, in 2002 - when Matt Damon burst into the intelligence sub-genre with an unusually intelligent bang with The Bourne Identity – rivaling Pierce Brosnan’s ultimate exstravagant last outing as Bond (the spectacular Die Another Day – my personal favourite Bond movie; fantastical in every sense), Damon and director Paul Greengrass instead opted for gritty realism and brutally visceral fight sequences. Bond produces obviously took note of the surprising impact it made, as they of course then followed suit, choosing to next introduce Daniel Craig.
Damon and Greengrass though, after the phenomenal success of Bourne’s Identity, Supremacy and Ultimatum respectively, chose not to have the above-poster top billing, passing the mantle onto the increasingly popular Jeremy Renner – importantly though, not playing Jason Bourne, but rather in the role of brand new renegade agent Aaron Cross.
For my money, Renner’s a far more unassuming presence on screen than Damon is, it’s just a shame that, rather like Damon, he appears so devoid of emotive facial expression, that it’s very difficult to, in turn, emotionally invest in his fate in almost any ensuing jeopardy.
Incidentally, those distinctly intermittent, yet frenetically involving bursts of set-piece are extremely few and far between. For the most part this is driven on a fuel of dialogue, only with more of the dialogue and much less of the drive. James Newton-Howard’s only occasionally punchy score is often glaringly present to only act as ominously-strung padding from one action sequence to the next.
The director is the very smart choice of Tony Gilroy. His film, Micheal Clayton is a fantastic, quiet, slow-burner of a thriller, full of superb performances – (in my opinion it was George Clooney’s finest ever dramatic performance).
The action sequences themselves are actually extremely well-staged, make great use of bullet-ricocheting sound effects, and are similarly brutal to Damon’s, with Renner proving to be in fine physical shape – (he’s an increasingly dominant action star: Hawkeye in Thor and The Avengers - and he’s previously played morally ambiguous agents already, in 2003’s S.W.A.T. and the fourth Mission: Impossible: - Ghost Protocol, so he would be. It’s just a rather ironic shame that, as Aaron Cross, he gives us his least engaging performance to date. It’s to the screenplay’s plodding detriment, not his own fault, which spends much of its very overlong running-time pre-occupied with what is often highly scientific expositional terminology, all concerned with how Cross is genetically engineered.
Edward Norton is reliably terrific, equally morally ambiguous as a cool-headed manipulator, and Rachel Weisz is extremely strong in the somewhat thankless role of a scientist, but she is given a singularly affecting scene under house-arrest, where a suitably frantic infiltration follows.
From the outset, the screenplay treats this installment very much as a continuation of the previous trilogy, with endlessly elusive reference to ‘Tredstone’ and the so-called urgent prospect of ‘Burning the programme to the ground’ without ever even remotely attempting to explain what the ‘programme’ actually is, or, more to the point, why Edward Norton and his shadow-lit team want to do that so badly.
Previous, brilliant supporting talent such as Joan Allen, the fantastically eclectic David Strathairn, and even Albert Finney, are only there to make fleeting, blink-and-you’d-miss-them appearances.
There is an excellent climactic, beautifully-shot red motorcycle chase, with Renner as always looking super-cool in simple, black sun-shades, and it’s good that Gilroy, as he did with Clooney for Micheal Clayton, gives his central protagonist of Aaron Cross, a surprisingly intriguing, and fairly dark back-story as to exactly why he is the way he is.
This, solidly entertaining as it is, could be a potential reboot of the Bourne franchise, with Renner possibly in future sequels – if today’s Hollywood franchise factory is any accurate yardstick. If so, lets hope the next one’s screenplay sees that Renner packs a little more punch emotionally, as well as physically, with a lot less long-winded dialogue in between…
Rating: * * *