“THE BOURNE LEGACY” – 3.5 STARS

I was late catching up with the “Bourne” series which is highly unusual since they are the type of movie I gravitate towards. I’ve now seen the first three films starring Matt Damon as Jason Bourne, one of several physically and mentally enhanced government black ops projects. Damon steps aside but the series continues with “The Bourne Legacy”. Jeremy Renner is the new leading man playing a new leading character but writer and director Tony Gilroy maintains an import sense of connection and familiarity with the previous films. Gilroy wrote the first three movies and goes to great lengths to make this feel like a Bourne film while also possibly launching the series into a new direction. While Gilroy does occasionally struggle matching up with earlier films, the movie definitely has its moments that nicely falls in line with the series.

While Jason Bourne isn’t in the movie his presence is clearly felt. Gilroy (and his brother Dan who also helped with the screenplay) connect the actions of “The Bourne Ultimatum” to this story. As Jason Bourne continues to threaten the government’s black ops programs, Eric Byer (Edward Norton) is called in to clean the mess up. His solution – to wipe out all of the human projects and those connected to them. One of those projects turned target is Aaron Cross (Renner), an Operation Outcome agent who is considered a step up from those involved in the now exposed Treadstone. But when the attempt on his life fails, Cross is sent scrambling for answers. He’s also ran out of a special medication that keeps him both mentally and physically balanced. Cross tracks down Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), a doctor connected to Operation Outcome who he hopes can get him get the pills he needs. But she soon finds that her connection to the project has made her one of Byer’s targets and Cross is her only chance at survival.

For many, the big question revolves around Renner. Does his Aaron Cross match what Damon was able to bring to his Jason Bourne character? Well, yes and no. Renner is most certainly Damon’s equal when it comes to acting. Renner is completely convincing and he’s got the physical abilities to sell each and every action sequence. Cross is different from Bourne in that there is no amnesia.  He knows he’s part of a government project although the amount of knowledge he has is limited. While this isn’t necessarily a flaw with the character, it did take away one of the most intriguing elements of Bourne’s story. But a slightly bigger problem with the character isn’t as much about Renner as it is the writing and direction. Cross is a solid protagonist but I couldn’t help feeling that he lacked the intensity of Jason Bourne. There are a couple of scenes where he “loses it” for a lack of a better phrase, but overall he seldom comes across as intense or as threatening as Bourne.

Nonetheless, Renner’s performance is very good and he’s also surrounded by a strong supporting cast. Weisz is always great and she’s no different here. Her character is the most sympathetic in the film and I loved how Weisz portrays her through the numerous emotionally charged situations she has to deal with. Norton is also good as the evil government clean-up guy. He easily sells the amoral “just doing my job” persona and we genuinely dislike this guy from the moment he first enters the picture. I also really liked Oscar Isaac as a fellow Outcome operative who Cross encounters early in the film. Bourne fans will also enjoy the small but interesting returns of David Strathairn, Joan Allen, and Scott Glenn. Each have cool little tie-in scenes that answer questions left over from the last film.

“The Bourne Legacy” doesn’t hurry out of the gate. Gilroy takes his time laying out the story and defining his characters. There were a couple of times when I did feel things were moving a little too slow, but overall it works well  and the movie’s third act is pretty action packed. Speaking of the action, it captures some of the same qualities of the past Bourne flicks – hard-hitting hand-to-hand fight scenes and of course a vehicle chase scene. I mean you can’t have a Bourne movie without a vehicle chase and this film gives us a great one. Renner thrills as he runs, jumps, punches, and kicks. Unfortunately his fight scenes are almost rendered incoherent due to moments of inconsistent editing. There were a couple of fight scenes where I literally had no idea what was going on other than punching.

I can see where some would consider “The Bourne Legacy” a cash grab. But even with its few flaws it’s still a fun movie that fits right in with the Bourne series. It stumbles in a few areas and I wouldn’t consider it the best of the series. But Gilroy knows the material well and he knows how to bring new characters into this universe. Renner gives a strong performance and Weisz is wonderful to watch. It also features a chase sequence at the end that is nothing short of awesome. But more importantly, it left me anxious and anticipating what’s coming next. So I would call it a success.

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10 thoughts on ““THE BOURNE LEGACY” – 3.5 STARS

  1. I agree! I think too many people are dismissing this film out of hand because it’s not Matt Damon, and it’s not Jason Bourne. Get over it and appreciate the movie for what it is! Renner is awesome, he and Weisz have great chemistry, and the movie is exciting and fun to watch. What more do you want?

    I think if they made the exact same movie outside of the “Bourne universe” everyone would love it.

  2. Well, sounds like you like this more than I did. I’m just ok about Renner, but the problem is more w/ the plodding script. I don’t think we can simply ‘get over’ Matt Damon or Jason Bourne as this film is supposed to be a continuation from the trilogy. I mean the filmmaker themselves certainly didn’t want us to forget Bourne as he’s brought up every few minutes! Anyway, my friend Ted’s review will be up tomorrow night and I pretty much agree with his assessment.

    • Oh I don’t think the movie is advocating getting over Bourne at all. In fact it’s his actions that brings Edward Norton in to “erase” the programs. Even though Bourne himself isn’t in the movie, he’s a pretty big part of getting this story going. As I mentioned in my review, there were issues with the writing particularly with how Cross is written. It’s not that he’s a bad character. He just lacks Bourne’s determined intensity.

      • Oh I was responding to Tippi’s comment about ‘getting over’ Bourne. But yeah, I agree about Cross lacking Bourne’s determined intensity, I just don’t think his journey is as compelling as a result.

    • Oh sorry, my mistake. I do agree with you, Cross isn’t as compelling. I also had issues with the editing and felt it was a little slow out of the gate. Every other Bourne movie were easy 4 star movies for me. And while I enjoyed it, this one certainly didn’t match any of those.

    • They definitely relied too heavily on the Bourne storyline as a crutch, which hurt this movie in more ways than one (switching back to sync up the timelines was indeed plodding and unnecessary). But I think it’s perfectly reasonable to say, “Bourne was this crazy awesome super-soldier, and we know he wasn’t the only one (right? didn’t he fight one at the end of the other movie? I can’t even remember). So were they all ruthless killers? What kind of person volunteers for this kind of program? And why were they all so easy to wipe out when they burned the program?” (of course I can’t even remember if they referenced burning the program in the last movie.. it really did not make an impression on me)

      Jason Bourne the character wasn’t affected at all by this movie; his story can continue on, or not. I just don’t see why people should hate this movie just because he’s not in it!

    • Thanks bro. It’s not a great movie but I thought it was quite fun. I think a lot of problems come with comparing it to strongly. It’s certainly not the best of the series. But it was enjoyable.

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