‘Bourne Legacy’ Swaps Psychological Intrigue with Murky Science
“Bourne” is in the name, but that doesn’t mean “The Bourne Legacy” could pass as a sibling to the films starring Matt Damon. Tony Gilroy’s spy flick isn’t close family. It’s more like a less interesting distant cousin.
Considering Gilroy’s work as a scribe on all three previous “Bourne” movies, he seemed like the logical candidate to pen this tale and to helm “The Bourne Legacy.” So what did he change with “The Bourne Legacy” to make it much less interesting than its cousin? Gilroy abandons the heady plot that kept you on your toes during the original trilogy, while still retaining all the tense chase sequences. And as much as strong action scenes are integral to a good “Bourne” film, they can’t replace a compelling, complex narrative.
“Bourne Legacy” focuses on Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), an operative in a U.S. Department of Defense secret program called Operation Outcome. The operation enhances the physical and mental abilities of its field agents with special pills that they call “chems.” After Jason Bourne’s actions in “The Bourne Ultimatum” cast a glaring public spotlight on the CIA’s recent shadowy activities, higher ups in organization decide to eliminate programs similar to Bourne’s while the heat dies down. That includes taking care of any loose ends like agents and scientists involved.
The CIA calls in Eric Byer (Edward Norton), head of CIA clandestine operations to clean up the mess. Byer dispatches measures to kill all Operation Outcome operatives including Cross. But he doesn’t count on Cross surviving the assassination attempt and seeking help from a pharmaceutical company doctor Marta Sheering (Rachel Weisz) who can help him maintain his enhanced abilities. The two go on the run together in the hope of living long enough to get their information into the protection of the public eye.
Rachel Weisz does a fine job in her role, but her character is a confusing mix of naive and knowledgeable about her company’s involvement in dirty dealings. For a smart person it’s hard to believe that she would be so in the dark. Renner’s Aaron Cross on the other hand is a blast to watch. He’s strong and quick on his feet, with a lot more personality than Jason Bourne. He’s compassionate and protective, yet also really sarcastic and funny in a couple of instances.
With its shift in theme from recovering fractured memories in the original series to investigating superspy meds, “The Bourne Legacy” frustratingly swaps psychological intrigue with murky science. It’s not a worthwhile trade because the lack of full explanation on how the meds work doesn’t suck you in, it just annoys you.
Instead of unraveling mysteries about Aaron’s past or gathering counterintelligence, the pair can use against their oppressors; the main characters only worry about survival. They spend the majority of the film running, with absolutely no offensive plans, something that makes their story much less engaging Jason Bourne’s. This absence of a strategy or a resolution to their persecution leads to a very anticlimactic and disappointing ending.
Probably the most obnoxious aspect of “The Bourne Legacy” is its arrogance. It automatically assumes that its audience saw the Matt Damon films, so it drops names like Operation Blackbriar and Treadstone constantly with zero background. Like “The Bourne Identity,” this film is not the strongest start to a new series. However there is the possibility that with sequels that Aaron Cross could become a more compelling character like Bourne did. Let’s not wait around to find out though.
My Grade: C
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