Without Matt Damon, and having replaced Paul Greengrass as director, Tony Gilroy had much to overcome if The Bourne Legacy was to meet series expectations. He does a decent job with what the series became famous for, it’s intense action, yet surprisingly (seeing as he penned the previous entries) it’s when people are talking and not attacking each other where Legacy blunders. Without being able to match the earlier Bourne films or add much new, it seems that Gilroy couldn’t overcome replacing Damon and Greengrass.
As part of the black-op Outcome project, Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is physically and mentally enhanced through drugs. When Jason Bourne’s actions elsewhere result in large-scale cover-ups, Outcome agents are targeted for elimination. Cross joins with Dr Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), another assassination target, to save their lives and to find more of the medication that Cross needs.
The high energy, quick cutting, fast moving, close-up “Bourne style” action has become familiar over recent years (Bond was clearly paying attention), so naturally Legacy does it some more. The stunts still convince, the rapid fights look painful and again locations are used well. There’s an extended chase that combines sections on foot, on motorbikes and with people just jumping about, that uses the busy streets of Manila to great effect. Legacy definitely excites, though like other works that tried to duplicate Greengrass, it lacks the same thrills or kineticism. Although if his shaky handheld camera stuff annoyed you, this might be easier to enjoy.
It’s Legacy’s non-combat scenes in particular that are inferior to what came before; shady government agencies, that all blend into one, doing murky work is starting to get a bit overplayed and throughout there’s little that’s different that’ll hold your interest. At nearly 140 minutes, it’s fairly long, however the exciting parts can’t maintain it, especially when surrounded by dull exposition. In other Bourne films, his amnesia may’ve been a very clichéd plot device; nevertheless it worked and was well executed. You cared as, along with him, we learned more about Bourne and his identity struggles. Renner handles the rough stuff well, yet Aaron Cross is never an engaging character; instead for much of his arc he resembles a junkie needing a fix. Renner is a skilful actor doing a capable job, so it’s a shame that you never get a chance to see him at his best.
It may provide some excitement, whilst different characters deal with different situations, but Legacy never adds anything genuinely new and is simply a Bourne film that’s similar, although not quite as good as its predecessors. During Legacy, the happenings in those films are frequently referenced, and I just wished I was watching those instead.
- Jon Bartholomew