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Born Again

It helps that contrary to all the misgivings about Matt Damon having decided not to return as Bourne,Renner does a great job of taking it further.


DIRECTOR: Tony Gilroy

CAST: Jeremy Renner,Edward Norton,Rachel Weisz,Stacey Keach

Rating: ***

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We are the sin-eaters. Morally indefensible but totally necessary” — says National Research Assay Group’s Eric Byer (Edward Norton) to Aaron Cross,a soldier with moral quibbles played by Jeremy Renner. He could well have said it about this fourth instalment in the Bourne series — morally indefensible,but given the success of the previous three Bourne outings,some would say,totally necessary.

It helps that contrary to all the misgivings about Matt Damon having decided not to return as Bourne,Renner does a great job of taking it further. Gilroy,who was the screenwriter in the first three Bournes,wisely understands and acknowledges Jason’s (Bourne) presence in this narrative of another CIA special agent under a secret programme who has gone rogue. However,Renner wears that legacy lightly — he is more human,more roiled,more vulnerable than his well-known predecessor,as professional but not as mechanical. Yes,he doesn’t bear the burden of a man trying to find his identity,but being chased by drones in the sky and hungry wolves in the Alaskan snows must carry its own weight.

What Cross has been subjected to is a programme involving use of viruses to deliver gene-enhancing chemicals into the body. There are nine such chemically enhanced agents,including Renner. Byer,the guy running this programme,however,has decided that they are too compromised to have around following the Bourne scandal. He decides to have them “terminated”. That’s how Cross finds himself in the cross-hairs. At the time he is undergoing presumably a refresher course in Alaska and,given the mountains he clambers atop and jumps across,it’s no wonder he has been running real fast through those pills issued to him for genetic enhancement. Byer next targets the lab where these agents drop in for check-ups. In a chilling scene coming so soon after two bloody shootouts in the US,a scientist at the lab kills six of his colleagues as they beg for life before turning the gun on himself. Marta (Weisz) is the only survivor.

As she gets a visit from a CIA “clinical psychologist”,the film again surprises with how cleverly it deploys routine interrogation as a tool of rising tension. Before long,the psychologist is trying to kill Marta,Cross saves her,and the two are now on the run. It is here that the film enters familiar Bourne territory,involving endless chases and jumping over rooftops,with Cross crashing into and emerging out of homes of perplexed Filipinos. Midway through,as Norton keeps the entire US machinery trained on one rogue agent,an agent created from another secret programme,‘Larx’ (“Treadstone without the complications”),joins the hunt.

In parts the chase is thrilling,as such chases are wont to be,and one scene of Cross dropping down a narrow corridor is impressive. However,it’s not long before fatigue has set in about this born-again Bourne. It’s evident that he won’t be killed while many,many others die,and it’s evident that the CIA won’t stop — at secret programmes dubbed Treadstone,Blackbriar and Larx,or at genetic modification,behavioural modification and viral mapping. Perhaps it’s time to heed another thing Byer observes,“How many people even understand all this?”

First published on: 11-08-2012 at 03:38:02 am
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