With a gap of five years since The Bourne Ultimatum and numerous attempts at continuing the franchise that, in my opinion, forced the makers of the Bond films to up their game, we finally have a new chapter in this saga.
Rather than recast the character of David Bourne, when Matt Damon stated his reluctance to return as Jason Bourne if the original writer/director David Greengrass wasn’t on board, the film-makers took a rather unusual approach. They decided to shift focus to another program mentioned in the previous movie, Blackbriar and an agent named Aaron Cross.
This movie is set during the previous movie and it is the murder of The Guardian journalist, Simon Ross (played by Paddy Constantie) and the exposition of both Treadstone and Blackbriar, that is the catalyst for the events in the film.
It opens with Renner’s character, Aaron Cross, seemingly going through some sort of training exercise. He is out in the middle of nowhere, when everything is coming out about the program. He manages to make it to a rendezvous point, where another agent is staying. There is some banter between the two and you don’t really know whether this other agent is really an agent, or if he has been sent to kill Cross.
Meanwhile, back in civilization, we begin to see the ramification of both Treadstone and Blackbriar coming out into the public domain. Nortons character, Eric Bryer, is charged with terminating the program as quickly and quietly as possible. We find out that there are numerous agents all around the world. One by one, each is eliminated seemingly having dropped down dead, until all that is left is Cross.
One other loose end is the laboratory that has been carrying out research and developing the drugs that has been creating these super agents. This was a bit that was never really explained. It “seemed” as though one of the employees had snapped and started to kill all the top scientists in the program. Though it was really well shot and you could feel the terror within the lab, I was still left not knowing why it was him. There was speculation that it was due to some sort of switch being activated, but I just don’t know.
The actor who played this turncoat played him really well. You didn’t know if this was voluntary or if he was being forced. The ruthlessness in which he killed his colleagues was so brutal, yet you never saw any blood splatter. The executions were always carried out off screen, which can be much worse as your imagination can be worse than what is shown in screen.
This incident, somehow results in Rachel Weisz, Dr Marta Sheering being the only survivor. We think that she could be out of the woods, but those in high places don’t want this potential leak to be left alive. It forces both Cross and Marta to join forces. He needs the medication that made him the super-agent he is, she needs his protection. Thus the cat and mouse game begins.
Now while Bourne was trying to regain his memory, Cross is aware of who he is and how he came into the program. His motivation is all to do with getting the medication in order to help him function. He has an interesting backstory that is hinted at, though never fully explored.
For me, this is one of the biggest pitfalls in the film. We are teased with some interesting backstory that could have pulled this film up from a good film, to a great film. Relationships are briefly touched, but never fully explained. You are left to surmise quite a bit. Now whether this is due to editing, I’m not sure. I just felt that somewhere on the cutting room floor there are answers to some of the unanswered questions I had.
The plot was really engaging and the writer managed not to go over too much similar ground. You believed that Blackbriar was some off shoot to Treadstone. The fact that writer was the same person who wrote Ultimatum, meant that there was consistency in the series.
Renner is excellent in this role and seems to be going from strength to strength as an actor. He shows that he can more than carry a film as a leading man. Renner brings out the human side to the character of Cross.
A big surprise is Nortons character, Eric Bryer. Rather than be the moustache twirling villain in the other film, he is just a guy doing his job. He can’t afford to be emotional, even when he realises who this rouge agent is. Norton is a very hit and miss actor to me, but this role really let him shine.
Weisz character was really just a convienent way for Cross to get the meds he needed. She fills in some of the missing details and gives a big speech. If anything, Weiszes character is the weakest of the film. You can’t help but compare her to Julias Styles agent in the previous films. That’s not to say that Weisz doesn’t make the best of the material given, but I just didn’t seem to root for her in any way. It’s a shame really, as Weisz is such a strong actress and she seems almost wasted in this role.
What I am most thankful about is the fact that the film didn’t pursue the whole leading man falls for damsel in distress plotline that they could have. You do see that Renner’s attracted to her, but Weisz’s character rebuffs him. There is a trust built up between the two as each needs the other to survive.
Overall, it’s a really enjoyable film and I do hope that they make a sequel. My dream would be to have Bourne and Cross, cross paths.