Director: Tony Gilroy
Writers: Tony Gilroy, Dan Gilroy (screenplay), Robert Ludlum (books)
Stars: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Stacy Keach
Release date: August 10th, 2012
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Running time: 135 minutes
Best part: Jeremy Renner.
Worst part: The wavering pace.
It’s hard to believe that four years ago Jeremy Renner was a character actor working through small roles, trying desperately to achieve A-list status. His career post-Oscar nomination for The Hurt Locker has deservedly paid off; now with his first blockbuster lead role in action thriller The Bourne Legacy. His talent however far succeeds the material here as this latest instalment in the Bourne franchise is a missed opportunity.
Continuing the dislodging of covert operations Treadstone and Blackbriar at the conclusion of The Bourne Ultimatum, Jason Bourne’s actions have set off a deadly turn of events for everyone involved in the programs. The CIA however fails to stop Aaron Cross (Renner) from acquiring the strength, agility and intelligence needed to escape his handlers while covering his tracks. His actions collide with Dr. Martha Shearing (Rachel Weisz), a scientist with knowledge of his much needed resources. The unlocking of his genetic biology will hopefully find them an escape from the special forces hunting them across the globe. Along the way, as Cross and Shearing run across the world together, we become trapped the clutches of CIA dark-horse Eric Byer (Edward Norton), US Navy admiral Mark Turso (Stacy Keach), and agency director Ezra Kramer (Scott Glenn).
This instalment shares many flaws with the similarly underwhelming and overrated original, The Bourne Identity. Tony Gilroy (co-writer of the original trilogy, director of Duplicity and Michael Clayton) replaces action with political intrigue; removing the distinct thrills and tight pacing of The Bourne Supremacy and Ultimatum. The loss of Paul Greengrass’ kinetic, claustrophobic style loses the quick pacing, energetic action-set pieces tension filled story-telling needed for a post-9/11 thrill ride. Legacy is unevenly paced, with a dull narrative and multiple elements unimaginatively taken from previous instalments. The film skirts between reality and implausibility, with tracking from CIA and FBI headquarters stretching credibility and interest, while scarcely providing a threatening antagonist. Action is sparse here, with time spent mostly on the blowout from Jason Bourne’s controversial actions. Unfortunately, this provides nothing but confusing exposition and small appearances from characters important to the original trilogy. It’s an unnecessary instalment, only expanding this universe of covert agents around the globe to a small extent. Knowledge of the previous trilogy is important, with the Bourne scandal uncleanly presented in this story of political betrayal in the face of a post-9/11 media-based democracy.
“Now, I’ve got a plan, and it’s just not that complicated. What I’m going to do is wait for the next person to show up to kill you. Maybe they can help me.” (Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), The Bourne Legacy).
When the action does kick in, it delivers a much needed boost to Legacy‘s proceedings. the quick cuts, brutal hand-to-hand fight sequences and motorcycle chases, though derivative of previous instalments, establish the importance of this series in the genre. While the science lab shootout is chillingly effective for this gritty survival story. The heavily debated issue was how Renner was going to successfully take over the series without Matt Damon or the titular character. He continues his impressive string of performances here with the same intensity brought to similar roles in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and The Avengers. Having already proven his worth with both action and drama, his dialogue sequences with the likes of Oscar Isaac and Norton, as determined USAF handler Eric Byer, are electric, as his charisma, along with physical presence and agility in his many fist fights and rooftop chases, creates an impressionable lead actor. Rachel Weisz also succeeds as the sympathetic victim and Cross’ contact/aid, thankfully sporting a character with greater depth than the other female characters in this series and providing some much needed emotional force for this toned down instalment.
Undoubtedly, the Bourne franchise set the bar for modern action-thrillers and film franchises. Sadly, however, this series now appears to be cannibalising itself. Despite Gilroy’s efforts, this franchise seems outgunned and outmanned without its titular hero.