Review: The Bourne Legacy
The Bourne Legacy poster claims “There was never just one”. We know this. We’ve seen the Bourne trilogy. Those assassins sent to take Jason out after his memory problems? Pretty sure they’re all part of the programme. But hey, that’s just a silly poster. The film won’t make those types of mistakes… will it? Read on.
Jeremy Renner replaces Matt Damon as the series new protagonist, Aaron Cross. Set during the fallout from The Bourne Ultimatum, Cross goes on the run when he and his fellow assets are targeted and terminated in the wake of the Bourne scandal. The clean-up, headed by Eric Byer (Edward Norton), is ruthless in its efficiency, even taking out the scientists that worked on and developed the supersoldiers. One manages to survive the purge, Dr Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), and agrees to assist Cross.
The original Bourne films had a smartness to them. Yes, it may have been about brainwashed soldiers robbed of their free will doing the dirty work of the secret service and corrupt Government officials, but Bourne’s quest for self, the search for who he is, added something. His words upon discovering the truth “Look at what they make you give”, echoing a line by Clive Owen’s character in The Bourne Identity, made you question how much you’d be willing to give, and how much is too much.
Now, I understand they can’t tell the same story again with The Bourne Legacy and nor would I want them to, but to have the same level of intelligence and thought going into the tale would have been nice. A Treadstone/Blackbriar operative who’s aware of who he is, what he has done, and simply doesn’t care would have been interesting. A different perspective from Bourne. What we get instead is a retread of what went before, but with the completely unnecessary addition of genetic enhancement to the plot. And this accounts for the majority of the long and boring middle section of the film. You see, Aaron’s mission upon surviving the attempt on his life is not revenge, it’s to get his chems (pills that enhance physical and mental attributes of the assets, and a means of control by their handlers). This is why he tracks down Dr Marta Shearing (the last surviving scientist who worked on him) and why he flies to Manila (where the pills are manufactured). So it’s Jason Bourne’s “Who am I?” versus Aaron Cross “Where’s my next fix?”. There’s only one winner.
The Bourne Legacy, now directed by writer of previous Bourne films Tony Gilroy (Duplicity, Michael Clayton), is amiable enough but lacks the vim and vigour of Doug Liman and Paul Greengrass’s entries into the franchise. The shaky cam effect that became a trademark of the series is lessened for Legacy (though not entirely dropped) and the film loses a sense of immediacy and urgency as a result. As for the stars, Jeremy Renner does a fine job in the punching, kicking, shooting, and killing aspects of the role, but his character Aaron Cross simply isn’t as interesting or as engaging as Damon’s Jason Bourne (as I state above). Rachel Weisz adds a little emotion to the movie, but not enough to save it from falling into the usual action fare, and Ed Norton’s bad guy presence is barely felt.
I’d be lying if I said The Bourne Legacy wasn’t a disappointment. It is. The chance to take the franchise in a new direction has been wasted and, at its worst, it feels like it undermines the original trilogy. That’s a legacy no-one wanted.