When it was announced that director Tony Gilroy was taking over for Paul Greengrass and that Jeremy Renner was subbing for Matt Damon, many had started to expect the worst for The Bourne Legacy. It was an uphill battle from the start, with Renner coming hot off the success of The Avengers and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and Gilroy off of the sleeper romantic comedy/thriller Duplicity. The trailers kept me hopeful, but I always knew in the bottom of my gut that something just wasn’t right. Turns out my guess wasn’t too far off, with The Bourne Legacy taking the throne as the worst Bourne film to date, mostly because of its non-ending and lack of action, but also because Renner and Gilroy just don’t have it in them to takeover such a successful spy franchise.
Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is a government project/agent that shares similar traits to Jason Bourne (Matt Damon). He’s in the middle of his training and experimenting, which means there are still a few kinks in his system that they’re trying to work out. Things turn to complete shit when Jason Bourne offsets the establishment and now the project, headed by Eric Byer (Edward Norton), needs to be wiped clean. As each new day passes more and more of Cross’ fellow agents are dropping dead for no apparent reason.
Dr. Martha Shearing (Rachel Weisz) catches wind of this cover-up by nearly escaping a lab shooting that was meant to terminate any and all doctors close to the project. She barely makes it out alive and is now a number one target, which is how she meets up with Aaron.
The two are on the run from the agency, while also trying to figure out a solution to Aaron’s unique problem. As an agent he was given various drugs to enhance not only his muscles, but his brain and now that he’s off the drugs he fears that his body will soon return to its normal and much mentally dumber self. He’s been able to viral off of the physical side effects, but not so much on the mental side.
They’re being tracked by Byer and his team of endless assassins that somehow miss Cross and Shearing by ten minutes at every location.
Tony Gilroy heads up The Bourne Legacy with a direction that is certainly not Paul Greengrass. I know it’s unfair to compare, but Gilroy’s action actually works, which is what Greengrass constantly gets complimented for. I do prefer Greengrass’ frantic direction, but Gilroy ties things together a lot smoother, which makes for a much more nail-biting experience. My problem with Gilroy is that he only shoots about 25 minutes of action, leaving the rest of the story as a dull spy film that boasts a lot of chatter, but isn’t really talking about anything.
Green pills, blue pills, secret folders; it’s all a mystery to the viewer. Just when you think you’ve figured it out they change the rules. The film has a decent enough opening act that strays very close to what worked in The Bourne Identity, but after the first action sequence, which is filmed fast-paced and fluid, the film gets sluggish and eventually ventures into a coma. Focus switches from Cross and the cover-up to Cross and his relationship with Shearing.
Jeremy Renner is no Matt Damon, but he brings the same amount of intensity to the action, just not enough smarts (literally) and not enough charisma. He fits the generic secret agent stereotype, but in doing so he becomes just another face in a very large crowd.
Rachel Weisz doesn’t do the film any favors either. Her character is confused for the bulk of the film, only hinting at what lies beneath whenever she shares a briefly comedic moment with Renner. Director Tony Gilroy for some reason chooses to show the boring encounters between the two and rarely the good stuff, which is when the action is close by and the dialogue is light and funny.
Edward Norton is the most underused actor in the entire film and it gets to be too much watching his talent dwindle away on a role he obviously cares about, but has troubles translating to the screen. He’s mostly tired and bored with the material, which helps him drop out of the film altogether when it abruptly ends without as much as a goodbye.
The Bourne Legacy slowly shapes itself into yet another Bourne film, with less action, but enough story and then all of a sudden it just ends. There’s an anticlimactic motorcycle chase that feels weightless and like a last minute addition to the script and then it just cuts to black and plays that song that was in all of the other Bourne films.
I still don’t know how the studio passed the film along to a wide audience, because that bullshit ending almost makes the entire experience robbery in plain sight. A good 20 minutes doesn’t make for an acceptable film. It’s hard not to blame Gilroy for this one, because he did write the previous films and write/direct this one. He knew exactly what he was doing behind the lens and yet he still managed to completely ruin what could have been a great late-summer spy thriller.
The Bourne Legacy shouldn’t be considered a sequel to Damon and Greengrass’ trilogy, because the only thing it has in common is names of characters. Everything else in Legacy is of much poorer quality and doesn’t deserve to carry the Bourne name.
I sure hope they don’t start a new trilogy.
The Bourne Legacy – 6.5/10
* I recently complained about the Total Recall remake and how much I hated it for blatantly copying the original film, without ever adding its own material, but even that film had the decency to toss in some action to make up for such a weak story. Gilroy’s Legacy doesn’t even try to cater to either sides.