Directed By: Tony Gilroy
Accepting change can be a hard thing to do. We can get set in our ways and when someone attempts to fiddle with our comfort level the typical response is unyielding apprehension. With that natural discernment towards change, the idea of bringing in a completely new cast of characters to an already established franchise felt like a bold choice. This time around there is no Matt Damon and there is no Jason Bourne. Instead we have Jeremy Renner taking up the reins as Aaron Cross. We have seen franchises continue with new faces before but not quite in this manner. It’s not quite a sequel and not quite a remake. It takes place concurrently with The Bourne Ultimatum, and is directly impacted by the events in that film. That construct allows it to exist in the world of this franchise, but also allows it to stand alone as its own entity. Unfortunately simply existing seems to be the films primary concern. The experiment wasn’t a total wash but the outcome did not yield the results many would have hoped for.
When you boil down the Bourne franchise to its core you are left with a well constructed chase film. Part of what makes it stand out are those cat and mouse moments when you don’t know who is really chasing who. Also the linchpin to all of this is the character of Jason Bourne. You don’t realize how key his character is until he is no longer there. With that in mind you can see some of the biggest issues of The Bourne Legacy. Jason Bourne’s shadow lingers over this story like antsy vulture on withering pray. When it attempts to free itself from this grasp it does it in such a haphazardness manner it discredits a lot of what came before. When the tag line ‘tip of the iceberg’ gets spoken it’s rarely a good thing. Usually the tip of the iceberg is the best part, and what’s underneath is dark, dreary, not that exciting. They attempt to ramp up the stakes by making things bigger, bolder, and more complex. What we are left with is a movie that has the indigents, but none of the execution. Characters are stale, the plot is messy, and the pacing is mishandled. With that said it’s not all bad, but considering what came before it is hard not to expect a better product. Action isn’t nearly as abundant as I expected. The majority is reserved for the final climax, but we do get spurts here and there. There is a shootout that takes place in a house that is probably the best set piece of the film. It was one of the few times where I felt I was truly watching a Bourne film. Sure the formulaic chase moments are well crafted. I just wasn’t invested. Everything just felt empty as if its soul was absent. Perhaps a better name for this film would have been The Bourne Rebound. It is like that guy or gal that comes along after a recent breakup. They have some things you typically look for in a significant other, but a lot of what you don’t. You don’t really care because you just want something to get you through. That is The Bourne Leagacy. Sure you’ll go through the motions. Maybe you’ll even lie to yourself that things are better. In the end your heart just isn’t into it, and all you can think about is what came before.
It’s hard not to expect more when you look at who is involved with this film. Having Tony Gilroy direct was a logical choice. He wrote the first three films so one would think he is comfortable with this world. The acting talent is thick with Jeremy Renner leading the way, and people like Edward Norton and Rachel Weisz supporting. With all that said we still end up with an end product that is underdeveloped and not that interesting. The premise is simple enough. As a result of Jason Bourne’s actions Eric Byer (Edward Norton) attempts to shut down all projects that are connected with Bourne. That includes terminating all current assets. Like the Jedi in Revenge of the Sith we begin to see all these agents being killed one by one. Luckily enough Aaron Cross survives the attempt on his life, and now finds himself on the wrong side of the program he once worked for. The reach of Eric Byer goes beyond simple assassins. His program is expansive and contains a more specific scientific component. Rachel Weisz plays Dr. Martha Shearing a scientist who is part of the scientific research. This scientific research facility gets shut down with extreme prejudice as well in one of the most chilling scenes I have seen in awhile. With the cold and calculating manner it was carried out it was hard not to be left rather distraught. Especially when you consider the number of recent events it so easily ties to. What also sold that moment was the performance of Weisz. She really sells you on the absolute terror she is constantly facing. The performances all around were actually quite good. Renner works well with what he is given. I liked how he made his character his own. He never attempted to be Jason Bourne. Aaron Cross had more of a snarky attitude and his personality was a lot more open. His character though was actually quite bland. You never get a strong idea of who he is or what drives him. Plus his entire character arc was extremely thin.
Thin is a great way to describe the entire plot. The first half tends to meander as we wait for the story to catch up with us. I enjoyed how they interplayed the events of Ultimatum with this story at the start. It was a good way to ease you into this film. Some of the effect was lost with how cluttered the first act was. With the combination of so many interchanging parts and origins being told it was a challenge to weave through everything to understand what was going on. When all these stories aggregated into one things did become more clear. Seeing how they connected Aaron Cross with Dr. Martha Shearing was a lot more organically told than I was expecting. The issue was once it kicked in to the final act it lost any type of purpose. It just needed the chase to start again so it fiddled around to find a purpose. What they ultimately grabbed onto was epically anticlimactic. When the final credits rolled there was this sense of complete emptiness. Nothing seemed resolved or accomplished. There was no state of closure or accomplishment, and once again the idea of expecting more roared in my head. Sure there was fun to be had with action set pieces. Almost every performance brought something new and interesting. In the end all those quality elements did not lead to a positive outcome. Perhaps it was that resistances to change to caused this lack of satisfaction, but even with an open mind the issues are too glaring to dismiss. Here’s hoping with the new pieces set we can get more from future installments.