THE BOURNE LEGACY – The Review
The success of the original BOURNE trilogy meant the inevitable continuation of the franchise. This, despite what had seemed an end to the source material and Matt Damon’s exiting the franchise, would probe not enough to stop the Hollywood sequel machine. The directorial outcome from Doug Liman on THE BOURNE IDENTITY (2002) wound up with mixed reactions, primarily over the stylistically blurred and chaotic action sequences. This approach, however softened, was carried out through the following two sequels by director Paul Greengrass, both of which received relatively more favorable reactions.
THE BOURNE SUPREMACY (2004) and THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM (2007) round out the original trilogy of films, all of which star Matt Damon as the title character of Jason Bourne, a highly trained off-the-books operative, lost and searching to regain the truth of his own identity. Aside from the fast pacing and exhilarating action, the appeal of the original trilogy lies within the mystery, the journey we take with Jason Bourne as he seeks the truth of himself. As Bourne does not know where his journey will take him, nor does the audience know and must learn as we search and survive with the character.
This is the primary downfall of THE BOURNE LEGACY… there is no mystery. There is nothing to keep the audience guessing. THE BOURNE LEGACY is 2 hours and 15 minutes of chasing and talking. This is not to suggest it’s done poorly, but merely that what is done is light on plot and intrigue. Written and directed by Tony Gilroy, who also co-wrote all three of the original BOURNE screenplays, is no rookie to the story or the source material, but this fourth installment fails drastically to live up to its predecessors. With this said, I did not find myself bored or frustrated, but rather just terribly disappointed.
THE BOURNE LEGACY is essentially a race against time. Jeremy Renner plays another physically and mentally enhanced operative named Aaron Cross. Renner (THE HURT LOCKER) is most recently and widely recognized as Hawkeye from THE AVENGERS (2012). This fourth film takes place immediately following the events of THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM, in fact, the first act of THE BOURNE LEGACY actually overlaps with the third act of THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM. There is a brief tie-in of the Jason Bourne character, but we do not see a return of Matt Damon, except for his mug shot. Unlike the Jason Bourne character, Aaron Cross is fully aware of who he is and what he can do, but the procedure is significantly different. This plays into one half of the straight-forward plot that drives the movie forward.
In the original trilogy, Jason Bourne is said to have gone rogue as he hops from country to country, tracking down those in the program with answers as he survives one assassination attempt after another, led by the head honcho who wants him to disappear. In THE BOURNE LEGACY, this obstacle is revealed as Eric Byer, a retired colonel now responsible for keeping the Treadstone, Blackbriar and any other secretive black ops programs from going “sideways” and causing a catastrophic media storm. Byer, played by Edward Norton, is a world-class asshole with a one-track mind… to eliminate Jason Bourne, and now Aaron Cross. Norton is fabulous at portraying a head strong prick, as he proves again here.
Aaron Cross is on a mission of survival, not only from his would-be assassins, but to keep himself properly drugged on the program medicine, or “chems,” that keep him enhanced. As a necessity of this endeavor, Cross tracks down and drags Dr. Marta Shearing along for the ride. Shearing, played by Rachel Weisz, is a scientist in the top secret program and Cross hopes she can lead him to acquiring more of the all-important drugs. Weisz gives a commendable performance as an understandably neurotic and frantically frightened citizen, giving the film an extra little dimensional slice to make up slightly for the lacking plot. Jeremy Renner also hands in a quality performance, convincing us once again he at least looks like a total bad ass on screen.
THE BOURNE LEGACY is not a failure. That would be too harsh and inappropriate for a film that delivers well enough as a typical summer blockbuster action film. Unfortunately, this fourth installment gives us nothing new and lacks all of the elements that kept us on our seats in the first three films. If you choose to go see this film, you will likely be entertained by it’s popcorn movie value, but I would recommend not comparing it to the other films. Consider THE BOURNE LEGACY as you would any of Jason Statham’s TRANSPORTER films and you’ve got roughly the same entertainment value, but this film truly does nothing for the “legacy” of Jason Bourne.