The road to getting the latest Bourne film on the big screen was definitely a bumpy one. First, it was going to be another film centered around Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne, with Paul Greengrass on board to direct. Both Greengrass and Damon left the film and its future was looking rather grim. Would they cast someone else as Bourne? Would they just ditch the franchise altogether? Would it even be worth it to proceed? Not content to leave the franchise alone, writer Tony Gilroy (The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum) took the reigns, once again writing the script, while also stepping in as director. What resulted from his efforts is a story focusing on an original character, set in the same world. It’s a clever way to expand the franchise already established by the three previous films. The question is, did those efforts pay off? Could Jeremy Renner take the lead and make it his own without being overshadowed by the role that Matt Damon personified?
Those are tricky questions that aren’t easily answered, so I’ll say yes and no. Taking the spotlight off of a franchise character and creating a new one is definitely a risky venture. Audiences followed the exploits of Jason Bourne for three glorious, exciting films and Matt Damon proved that he could handle an action based role. Taking that away angered a lot of fans when news first came out that Damon was out and Renner was in. Luckily, Jeremy Renner is a solid actor capable of pulling off and action based role. However, the film itself is just this side of reaching the level of great that the other films did.
The film picks up after the events of The Bourne Ultimatum and Jason Bourne’s all out assault on Treadstone, Project Blackbriar and the CIA. Working on damage control, retired USAF Col. Eric Byer (Edward Norton) gives the order to shut down (i.e. terminate) all black op project agents and staff, including those affiliated with Treadstone.
While out in the field, Operation Outcome agent Aaron Cross manages to avoid the hit, but his quest to find answers also pits him against the clock to find the “chems”, the meds given to Outcome agents that give them a physical and mental edge, before he runs out completely. This leads him to Operation Outcome scientist, Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), who has to deal with her own drama. The two connect in hopes of helping Cross get his meds, while also trying to avoid Byer’s lethal team.
If you haven’t seen The Bourne Ultimatum, or can’t quite remember the events of that film, you will want to revisit it before seeing this one. While Legacy isn’t centered around Jason Bourne, they certainly talk about him quite a bit. As a character transition film, there are parts that seem more focused on Bourne than on Cross, which is a bit of a shame because it’s not really the thing you want to do when you’re trying to introduce a new character to the fold.
While it’s interesting to see the cause and effect of Bourne’s actions play out, the film suffers from being weighed down by that very point. There’s a whole lot of exposition and blips of characters from the previous films such as Pam Landy, Noah Vosen, Ezra Kramer and Dr. Albert Hirsch. If you aren’t familiar with them, you’ll most likely be lost. All of that aside, Jeremy Renner does a great job in this role. He’s a solid actor to begin with and one that can handle action, drama and intensity. Some of the Bourne purists may want to rebel against him and the movie as a whole, but he takes what he’s given and makes it work. I’d be very interested in seeing a film focusing solely on the Cross character now that the ground work has been laid.
Rachel Weisz is also good, as she normally is. Even though her character is used to move the story along, she takes the typical damsel-in-distress role and makes it work. Those types of roles can become tiresome very quickly especially in an age where most viewers have a craving for a strong, ass kicking female lead.
One of the best traits of the Bourne films are the action and this latest entry doesn’t disappoint. The chase scenes as well as the hand to hand fight scenes are all incredibly well done and there is an abundance of them. My chief complaint here is the use of quick cuts. There are a couple of fight scenes that are cut together so fast that it was just as bad as the shaky-cam effect. I actually had to look away at one point because my eyes just can’t take it. Can we get a long take somewhere please? Anyway, the action is not lacking that’s for sure.
While I did enjoy this entry into the Bourne franchise, I can’t say I wholeheartedly loved it. The film felt every bit of its 2:15 run time and then some. Tighten it up a bit and shave off a few minutes and it probably would have cleaned up nicely. Aside from being weighed down with exposition due to the hand off of the story, the film itself serves as a worthy kick off point for the Aaron Cross character. As stated, I’m very curious to see where his story goes. I would love it even more if his story crossed paths with Jason Bourne. It may be a cinematic pipe dream, but I think Renner and Damon would team up very well together.
Overall this was a good entry into the franchise, warts and all. I liked it, but didn’t love it, but also won’t dismiss it. Time will tell if the public loved it enough to continue on but I hope that they do. Let me know your thoughts on the latest entry in the comments below.
Tags: Albert Finney, David Strathain, Edward Norton, Jeremy Renner, Joan Allen, Rachel Weisz, Scott Glenn, The Bourne Legacy, The Bourne Legacy review, Tony Gilroy