Living up to the legacy is Bourne out of frustration
It may say Bourne in the title, but there’s a new secret agent on the loose. Adapted from the first follow on novel from Robert Ludlum‘s original espionage trilogy, The Bourne Legacy sees screenwriter Tony Gilroy taking over directing duties as he attempts to add his own visual take on an already successful series.
Taking place simultaneously with the events of the last film, US secret agent Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is called up to experiment a new enhancing drug formed by the medical guidance of his home government. But when the operation he’s connected to is to be terminated under the orders of Eric Byer (Edward Norton), Cross must track down the manufacturing source of the drug to build his strength and knowledge, with the help of Dr Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz).
The success of the previous films were all down to a fantastic core actor-director relationship, between Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass. Greengrass is a director who knows how to merge hard hitting action with hard hitting drama, just look at United 93 and Green Zone as well as his Bourne movies. In this case, Gilroy somehow demonstrates that stepping up to the directorial chair isn’t always the best idea. He somehow fails to utilise the successful elements of the previous films – tied in with a plot that for some strange reason, doesn’t seem to go anywhere. But constantly yearning to include more nostalgic nods to the previous supporting cast that helped make the series such a success is never a good sign when you’re primary goal is to renovate the franchise with a seperate cast list. This very much felt like the unwanted and certainly unremarkable spin-off.
It may seem everyone’s instant most clichéd response at some point, but it really is true: this film missed Matt Damon. Jeremy Renner, for the most part does a very convincing silent showing of a man isolated from a trusted and free world. Out in the wilderness, both physically and socially, he’s able to be the survival hero of the hour with his own improvised tactics kicking in at various stages, but unfortunately he does so without the weight of guilt and sense of overwhelming loss that his predecessor had. Rachel Weisz almost becomes the living embodiment of the audience on screen; caught up in the web of undercover dealings as she more than any other character, fights the frustration at not knowing what’s going on around her. Yes, it was fun seeing some of the old faces from both Bourne Supremacy and Bourne Ultimatum make an appearance, but these new recruits so to speak of this franchise don’t come near their high water mark. The only exception would be that of Ed Norton, playing operative boss Eric Byer, who does do the whole shirt and tie combo, scanning computer screens and looking rather nervous with his agent-tracking predicament, quite well.
Even though character involvement is a problem here, the action itself is impressive for what there is of it. A shoot out in a decaying rural house; a security guard assault and a chase through the busy streets of Bangkok supply you with your action fix, and even Renner’s hits to his victims do let out the odd gasp. But with a very slow start and a huge absence of sense that the whole world is against our on screen heroes, just make the action set pieces redundant.
The final act does leave the door well and truly wide open for a “next in the series,” even though I could have done with a more rounded-off end. It’s alright in places, but every aspect of the film seems to be just – alright! Hopefully as a fan, this film is a blip in what has already been a great series and that it will pick itself up again. But The Bourne Legacy, unfortunately, isn’t going to leave a lasting legacy of it’s own anytime soon.