The Bourne Legacy

A lot of legacy and no Bourne.

Having scripted the first three films of the franchise, Tony Gilroy returns for this fourth installment of the Bourne series and in the process, replaces regular director Paul Greengrass. Strike one! It’s not unusual when screenwriters get to direct their own movies. Normally, this is an advantage to the director who then becomes the best person to understand how the story should be interpreted on screen. Clearly, the end result here is not outstanding, nor a sequel being more an off-shoot that begins sometime before the preceding events end. 

Except for a mere mention, it takes a good half hour before you realize that Jason Bourne is not even in this film. It takes the rest of the film to realize that this is not about Jason Bourne at all. In fact, Jason Bourne is just the tip of the iceberg, or in my case, a bait to watch this movie. Proprietors of ‘The Program’, the same government spooks that double-crossed Bourne are now in hot pursuit of another agent that goes by the name Aaron Cross. Headed by Ezra Kramer (Scott Glenn) and Eric Byer (Edward Norton), this secret division of the CIA has only recently learned that they have bitten off more than they can chew. You see, there are certain pills that once consumed, serve as powerful genome therapies to the body and mind. Cross needs this to stay one step ahead of the CIA. His only aid is Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) who incidentally knows all about these pills. She also knows that there is a way to retain the effects of the pills without the need for periodic consumption, but must first head to the production source – the Philippines.

 I wouldn’t recommend this film if it weren’t for the stellar performance of Jeremy Renner as Cross. Make that both Renner and Weisz, the only two redeeming factors in an otherwise unnecessary excuse at prolonging this franchise. Often referred to as a ‘late bloomer’, Renner brings on the same tenacity we loved about him in the Academy Award winning The Hurt Locker.  As we have seen before, Renner radiates brute courage when personifying the do-or-die audacity of being pinned to the wall. That said Renner’s Cross is a polar opposite to Jason Bourne. Where the latter lost everything thanks to his superiors, Cross was an average Joe before signing up to ‘The Program’, to be someone, to be part of something. Once you have this power, this clarity, it becomes a territorial fight to not loose possession of the only things that add value to existence. Renner does this in the most convincing manner possible. Weisz on the other hand, has more screen time than most females in action movies. She not only supports Renner, her performance is at par, while vindicating her inclusion in an otherwise male dominated franchise. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for Norton. As the antagonist, he is left with nothing more than barking out orders, which is a waste of his talent considering he could have played the methodical and manipulative villain he is known for.

 Coming back to Gilroy, my disappointment lies in the manner in which he chooses to tell his story – an action thriller where most of the action is displaced by extended periods of special ops mumbo-jumbo. Despite this, Legacy has its moments, but these are few and scattered. The action scenes are intense and the franchise’s signature chase sequences are back though they lack the finesse of what we’ve come to expect from previous directors. There is also the overuse of industry jargon that serves to recap, if anything, that Gilroy knows the difference between James Bond and a super soldier; that Robert Ludlum is the real deal in comparison to Tom Clancy; that viewers may have never read any of these books. Strike two! What’s worse is the thought that after all the muddled mishmash, Gilroy expects to see this franchise grow by milking the word ‘Bourne’ and serving it with the word ‘Legacy’. Strike three!

Rating: ★★½☆☆

About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.