- Vancouver, British Columbia - Rewind a few years ago and you may have been a big fan of the original Bourne trilogy, which began with Matt Damon cast as Jason Bourne, a former special operations agent of the CIA. The lead film The Bourne Identity was riveting and a critic's darling for how it so perfectly paced itself with an intriguing spy tale, despite it having a back-story that seemed very familiar. Matt Damon's casting was also key as he was believable in the role rather than having some hulking beast like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who would've wasted the role. The franchise lasted three films with Damon until he lost interest in the project and he refused to do any more beyond the third film. The franchise, however, was still very much in demand, and as soon as the final credits rolled on the third film, The Bourne Ultimatum, rumours began to swirl how the producers would keep the franchise going without Matt Damon.
The Bourne Legacy is that continuation, this time casting Jeremy Renner of The Hurt Locker fame as Aaron Cross, our protagonist for the film. Like Bourne, Cross has a very conflicted relationship with his past, having been transformed into a sort of super-soldier, capable of surviving horrific conditions, all the while being a extremely gifted physical and mental agent. In The Bourne Legacy, however, leaks begin to surface regarding the secrecy of the program and there are fears higher up that the unethical nature of the program may go public. This results in a decision from the top to cancel the program, and by cancel the program, one understands it to be kill every one who had ever worked on the program or been a part of the program, excluding the senior leadership of course. Marta Shearling (Rachel Weisz) is one such scientist who was intimately involved with the program, and she finds herself fleeing the cover-up of the program, while attempting to save her own life. Cross and Shearling find that they both have common interests in survival and they go on an international quest to flee their pursuers.
The story of The Bourne Legacy is not nearly as smart and riveting as the original films. It does feel a bit like an unnecessary effort to keep the franchise afloat. With that said though, Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross is very likeable and as a character, he is one that I'd be interested in learning more about, providing there was a better story than the one we're given here. It isn't terrible, but it is nothing interesting or engaging.
What does work, however, is the action. The directing in The Bourne Legacy is strong in terms of how the choreographers and film editors were united into bringing a very similar feel to the action sequences in this film as the previous entries. And while the plot of the film doesn't exactly put you on the edge of your seat like the first two in the original franchise (truthfully, I wasn't that big of a fan of the third film), there are scenes which are fascinating. I think particularly of the massacre at the research facility in which Shearling first learns that her life is at risk. And the climactic final 12-15 minutes of the film are quite entertaining as Shearling and Cross try to escape.
Sadly, however, Edward Norton's great talents feel wasted in this film. He is among the most subtly gifted actors of his generation and this role just didn't really seem to demand much of him. He did his job fine, but we all know he is capable of far more demanding roles. Several of the supporting cast members, however, are written in a manner that is rather dull, particularly those in the "war room" with Edward Norton's CIA character, Eric Byer. In the previous films, the hunt for Bourne demanded a lot more emotional investment on our part for those involved in it, but this film only manages to scrounge about as much as we did in Safe House, which if you read my review, wasn't much at all.
I will say, however, that the film had one of the best trailers of all the films released this summer, which did great work in building up my anticipation for this film, as after The Bourne Ultimatum, I had little to no interest in giving any more time to this franchise. If you haven't seen the original trailer, it is powerful because of how little it reveals, while making the return look and sound exciting.
The Bourne Legacy is an entertaining action film, and while it doesn't quite live up to its predecessors, it stands superior to much of the action fare that we've been given the last several years. It takes itself seriously, as it should, and as a result, it worth your summer viewing during this crowded blockbuster season. If you lower your expectations from the previous Bourne films, you will probably find that you'll enjoy this entry.
Rating: 3/5 Sour Grapes