Synopsis: An expansion of the universe from Robert Ludlum’s novels, centered on a new hero whose stakes have been triggered by the events of the previous three films. (Source)
As a collective, the original Bourne films (Bourne Identity, Supremacy and Ultimatum) are a near-perfect, action trilogy. By that, I mean that narratively they boast a fleshed-out story arc containing a beginning, middle and end that not only function as a cohesive whole, but as individual chapters. Stylistically and thematically, they changed the face of modern action films with their uncompromising approach to hard-hitting action, post 9/11 themes, and above all, a broken anti-hero who was just trying to figure out his place in a world that was morally ambiguous at best. Despite the abundance of weighty, social and politically relevant themes however, the films still managed to be a perfect fusion between edge-of-your seat escapism, intelligent social commentary, and most important, a poignant vehicle of redemption for it’s troubled character’s dark, questionable deeds. With The Bourne Legacy, director Tony Gilroy (who penned the previous three films and this one) takes over the franchise, and instead of a reboot or straight sequel, the film smartly acts as a transition or a bridge to something new. This is both the film’s blessing and curse, as it’s attempts to inject new life into something that could’ve been neatly tied off are admirable and satisfactory, but ultimately can’t touch the brilliance of what came before it.
As you can guess, The Bourne Legacy is all about the consequences of Jason Bourne’s actions. The film takes place concurrently with the events of The Bourne Ultimatum, but this time pulls the curtain back on a larger conspiracy than what was originally revealed. Caught up in the middle of things is a chemically-enhanced agent named Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), who is part of yet another secret agency named Outcome. As Jason Bourne’s rebellion creates a path of collateral damage amongst the agency’s dirty secrets, Cross is forced to fend for himself and flee with a scientist named Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) before a shadowy character named Eric Byer (Edward Norton) can bury any evidence of Cross and project Outcome’s existence. It’s again a story of survival and humanity amongst moral ambiguity and opens up possibilities for a lot of new ground to explore.
Ironically, the film has a hard time of standing on it’s own, literally struggling to escape from the shadow of Jason Bourne. Given it’s interesting new directions, Legacy might’ve been better served if it had just completely severed ties with the Bourne name. As it stands, it fits into the universe just fine, but said ties always either seem nominal or only serve to remind you of how much better the original films were. Fittingly, Legacy plays out more like a 70′s paranoia thriller via slow, methodical pacing, and a more deeply mysterious plot. And while what I loved about the previous films were their inextricable mixture of smart, human drama and character-building relentless action, the story and tension here take a little too long to finally boil over. Thankfully, when the action does begin, the film’s tension nicely pays off, even if the action does feel like a series of added-on sequences suffering from the lack of previous franchise director Paul Greengrass’ inventive, dynamic and chaotic techniques. Ultimately, the action set-pieces are still memorable enough, and the film’s host of incredible actors always make the journey somewhat enjoyable in spite of itself.
As mentioned, since the film is littered with genuinely great actors, the characters are always engaging, despite none of them really having enough depth to truly stick out. As Aaron Cross, Jeremy Renner can be charming and genuine, but he lacks the innocence that Matt Damon had. His character is instantly not as relatable and is more of a stock, action tough guy, especially since his character is one in a line of many enhanced, super soldiers dependent on a set of pills. Conceptually, he may almost be in the same place as where Bourne was, but narratively, he doesn’t at all have the right situations to bring out any real emotional resonance. Rachel Weisz as Marta Shearing is mostly panicked all the time and seemingly there for the film to be able to flirt with having a love interest even if it never intends to really go there. Edward Norton as the film’s main villain is genuinely convicting. His character never once questions the terrible deeds he has to carry out, only truly believing that it’s the right thing to do for the safety of his country. He’s easily one of the best villains the franchise has seen. Lastly, it wouldn’t be right to not at least give Oscar Isaac as a fellow Outcome agent #3 a shout out, because in his short time in the film, he embodies a lot of the moral torment and emotion that made the first three films so great.
When the last bullet was fired, The Bourne Legacy left me in an interesting position; regardless of not being blown away by this immediate chapter, I was still sincerely excited to see where they could take the story next. On the plus side, Jeremy Renner can’t do wrong, and the film is quite different from the previous three, so if you can get your head around that, you can still have a good time. There’s genuinely a lot of earned merit here even if the Bourne legacy deserves much more.
Crome Rating: 3.5/5