The actions of Jason Bourne have spread far and wide. With the illegal covert agencies inside the CIA on the brink of exposure, those in charge order the assassination of their agents. One failed attempt is made on Aaron Cross – and now he’s coming back with his own mission.
I can't help but think this would've worked better as a stand alone movie.
Don't get me wrong - I liked it – but I think The Bourne Legacy’s early, if not main problem, is its task of finding reasons to exist. The cynics will lead the cries that it is nothing but a cash grab on the success of the earlier films, but if that is the case – rather, especially if that is the case – Legacy is the hardest working, most strongly supported cash grab in recent memory.
You’ve got to hand it to the studio for one thing: they could have simply rebooted the series, either now or in a couple of years; they could have made a sequel, or God forbid, a prequel. Instead, they have went the route of a “side-quel”: a story running parallel to the events of the most recent Bourne film, The Bourne Ultimatum. (The cynics will also criticize the idea of a “sidequel” and its addition to the surplus of descriptive words given to movies in recent years to, perhaps, hide what they really are. Words like reboot; reimagining; retelling etc. – and you can’t blame them!) It’s a brave move to try and continue on with the story without your director or lead actor, but the fact that they were able to cast an Oscar nominee in the lead, as well as a winner and another nominee for the two major supporting roles is something to be commended.
But, while I found the movies dialogue heavy scenes to be some of its best, I do feel that the filmmakers relied too heavily on the intricate details of the first three movies, as well as the hope that audiences would remember them (I trust not everyone re-watched the trilogy in the days before seeing this?). The buildup unfortunately doesn’t give Jeremy Renner’s Aaron Cross a lot to do in the first half hour. Sure, we get a glimpse of the training that these super-agents are put through, but every time the film breaks away from the Bourne-caused set-up back to Cross, Legacy feels like it’s taken the foot off the pedal.
Once the attempt is made on his life however, the pace begins to steady at its cruising altitude. It does lack the urgency of the earlier Bourne films, especially Supremacy and Ultimatum, but it really is unfair in many ways to compare Legacy to its predecessors: it is a very different film – despite its obvious similarities. The first three were fast paced and a vicious game of cat and mouse where the mouse didn’t know that he was once a cat. Here, it’s completely different: Cross remembers everything – we don’t have to go through a journey of self rediscovery with him; but he does want to know why his bosses wanted him dead and wants the means to disappear forever. Legacy doesn’t make this simple: he’s an OUTCOME agent (Bourne was TREADSTONE). OUTCOME is a scientific research program where the agents are guinea pigs in an attempt at creating a “better” agent: faster, smarter, stronger etc. Basically, he needs pills to live and with his bosses wanting him dead, they’re not gonna be the ones to give them to him.
Enter Rachel Weisz, Scientist. She could very well be the best actor in the movie. Sure, she might play the troubled damsel in distress she’s done before, but she’s very good at it. On the other side of the coin is Edward Norton. He plays (somebody) in charge of OUTCOME and its brother programs. He is the one that orders the deaths of the agents and the man in charge of finishing the job by killing Cross. His casting is perfect; no other actor can speak such heavily, detailed lines in the way he can. The problem is we don’t see enough of him, nor does he do anything except bark orders over a phone while looking at security monitors.
The Bourne series was renowned for its action. It was frantic in Identity, but when director Paul Greengrass came on board for Supremacy (and later, Ultimatum) he brought with him what has almost become the way to shoot fight scenes in action movies. When Casino Royale released in 2006, it was labeled the “post-Bourne Bond”. Not only was Bourne efficient with his hands, but his ability to turn anything around him into a weapon made him a standout (pen, magazine, tea towel). He was pretty handy with vehicles as well. Aaron Cross can all this, perhaps just as well. The issue is that we’re not so impressed anymore. He takes down four men in four or five seconds and rides one of the most incredible chase scenes on a motorbike audiences will have ever seen, but it just doesn’t seem enough.
Renner is great and fits the character easily. Unfortunately he is stepping into sacred shoes. On top of that, the Bourne movies – in my mind – make up one of the very rare trilogies that get better with every entry. It’s no longer a trilogy, but rather a series and Legacy does not stand as tall as those that came before it. As a standalone, perhaps it would feel more complete, but as part of this series you can’t help but hope that there is another just so there is a chance we might see Matt Damon bring Jason Bourne back again. Short of a scene inside the final two minutes, there is no indication that a story need lie beyond Legacy. But that scene does suggest a conclusion that seemed final at the end of Ultimatum, may not be quite so over. Producer Frank Marshall said his dream is that Aaron Cross and Jason Bourne would team up in Bourne 5. The stage is set, but will it happen? We shall see. Until then…