The Bourne Legacy offers nothing of value
When The Bourne Identity author Robert Ludlum died in 2001, Eric Van Lustbader carried on the Bourne universe beyond the Ludlum’s trilogy, publishing seven additional Bourne books to date. So perhaps it is oddly fitting that, the original Bourne trilogy’s leading man, Matt Damon, has been replaced by Jeremy Renner’s new agent Aaron Cross, as the franchise rolls on with its fourth episode The Bourne Legacy. Unfortunately, the resulting film would struggle as a stand-alone piece, never mind being part of the Bourne world, where it feels little more than a pale, redundant imitation.
The Bourne Legacy serves as a supplement to The Bourne Ultimatum. All that’s missing is a title card that says MEANWHILE. In order to take anything away from this film, it is essential to have seen Damon’s swansong (for the time being, at least). The time-frame of The Bourne Legacy begins at roughly the same time Ultimatum does with footage from the previous film inserted into the narrative at various points and familiar characters momentarily reappearing in additional scenes. Since Jason Bourne’s story of this period has already been told, the focus is on a strand tied to the events and fallout of Ultimatum. This is where Renner comes into play as Cross, an enhanced super soldier (think an Iraqi war-era Captain America), part of a Treadstone-like secret programme about to be burned to the ground by Edward Norton’s high ranking government official. Predictably, Cross ends up on the run with the company of a beautiful female accomplice (this time played by Rachel Weisz). If all this sounds familiar, it’s probably best to look elsewhere for surprises, because if there’s one thing The Bourne Legacy lacks, it’s originality. If there are two things it lacks, excitement can be added to the list, too.
Yes, Renner is the new Damon; Weisz the new Franka Potente; and Manila the new Tangiers. All of which feel second-rate and sadly lacking. When director Paul Greengrass and Damon both left the series, they must have be awarded the all thrills in the divorce settlement, because there are none to be found in The Bourne Legacy. The idea of making the film a companion piece to Ultimatum is a strong starting point, but there needs to be something compelling to add beyond that. Instead, all that is presented is meticulous details about issues that don’t much matter. Too much time is spent showing how Cross boards a flight to Manila, whilst even more time is killed in detailing how the CIA manages to track him down. That may be perfect for nap time, but it is death for an action-thriller. It’s hard to believe that the same scriptwriter behind the Bourne trilogy, Tony Gilroy (now at the helm, replacing Greengrass) could produce something this derivative and dull. When The Bourne Legacy does bring the fisticuffs and gun fights, it is impossible to follow what is happening. The camera work and editing is shocking in its inadequacy. This would be bad news were it limited to a few scenes over the course of the film, but when the anti-climactic climax consists of a prolonged blur of cars, motorbikes and people, it’s down-right disastrous.
As for the new character and new lead, neither is up to snuff. Cross’ backstory and motivations are far from gripping, whilst Renner struggles with an aimless character. The gusto he brought to supporting roles in The Town or Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol never makes an appearance in The Bourne Legacy. It’s almost as if Renner conceded early on that he couldn’t match Damon’s intense charisma and decide to not even try. This may be the most disappointing aspect of Gilroy’s film, as Renner does nothing to lift The Bourne Legacy above its ample short-comings. Whatever leading man potential Renner may have, he never reaches it over the course of the film’s two-hour runtime. Meanwhile, the once promising Norton is given so little to sink his teeth into, that his performance is instantly forgettable.
“Disappointment” is the best way to sum up The Bourne Legacy. Gilroy shows no knack for framing or editing an action film and Renner allows himself to be dragged down by an empty, pointless script. It’s easy to come away from the film thinking the Bourne series needs Damon to thrive, but the problem revealed by The Bourne Legacy is greater than that: without a worthwhile sense of direction and a director skilled enough to craft an intelligent, engaging thriller, any future entry to this series will be born to fail. 5/10