Title: The Bourne Legacy
Directed By: Tony Gilroy
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Scott Glenn, Stacy Keach, Donna Murphy, Zeljko Ivanek, Oscar Isaac
Why not cut right to the chase? Is “The Bourne Legacy” a worthy start to another “Bourne” trilogy? Yes and no. Should Tony Gilroy get another trio, he’s certainly in good shape as far as the details of this universe go and coming up with exciting and creative action sequences, but we’re going to need access to more of Aaron Cross’ nuances if he’s going to power through as a real person rather than an idealistic secret agent.
We’ve still got the remnants of Treadstone and Blackbriar, but Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is long gone. After Bourne toppled the CIA’s efforts to produce a team of elite assassins, the agency opts to entirely dismantle the program. And no, that doesn’t mean just laying off the folks involved and sending them on their way; it requires their termination.
Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is one of those people. Similar to Bourne, he’s the product of Operation Outcome, an agent with deadly combat abilities, razor sharp perception and now a target on his back. While out on a solo training mission, Cross gets a taste of just how desperate the CIA is to take him out. While he does escape the attack, Cross is left on the run with a dwindling supply of “chems,” the pills that help him maintain his abilities. That leads him to Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), one of the scientists responsible for monitoring field agents’ health. Trouble is, not only does Marta not have the chems, but she also narrowly escapes an attack of her own. With no one else to turn to, the two team up to hunt down the pills and to outrun the CIA.
The odds are undeniably against the franchise screenwriter-turned-director with this one. Jason Bourne isn’t just your average big screen secret agent; yes, he has impeccable combat capabilities that made him an attractive character, but he also has quirks, passion and true emotion that make him feel far more authentic than the large majority of action heroes. Renner’s Aaron Cross, on the other hand, is the reckless hot shot we’ve seen time and time again. He’s chatty and impulsive, which is in stark contrast to Bourne’s personality. No, we don’t want to get the same character all over again, but whereas Bourne feels truly lethal yet still human, Cross comes across as a indestructible superhero. He’s a blast to watch, but that change entirely affects the tone of the franchise.
Similarly, Cross’ relationship with Marta is far too convenient to feel genuine. The whole chems subplot is a toss up. It’s a little frustrating hearing Cross constantly blurt out, “the chems, the chems, the chems,” but there’s also something rather intriguing about the science of it. It’s a shame all of those details are diluted by everything else that’s going on, including the entirely forced romance between Cross and Marta. Both Renner and Weisz give solid performances and help make Cross and Marta feel as close to real people as possible, but in a realm of cookie-cutter action movie characters, they would have had to deliver Oscar-worthy performances to make any spark between the two seem genuine.
Another particularly appealing element of “The Bourne Legacy” that doesn’t get the time it deserves is Edward Norton’s material. He steps in as Eric Byer, a CIA agent leading the effort to annihilate Outcome and specifically Cross. Rather than delve into the details and even toss in a bit about how Byer feels about what he’s doing, this portion of the story is reduced to some flashy computer graphics in a control room.
If you’ve seen and enjoyed the original Bourne movies, and particularly the depth and intricacy of the plots, it’s tough to watch “The Bourne Legacy” without pointing a finger at story and character deficits. I’m no Bourne expert, but Gilroy seems to have done a fine job linking Cross’ story with the original trilogy, but didn’t give enough time to the expansion of it. Then again, there’s also no denying that “The Bourne Legacy” is still a wholly entertaining piece of material. The action sequences are downright incredible, a little something involving wolves and a violent outburst in a medical lab stealing the spotlight. Gilroy also has a few nifty camera techniques up his sleeve, appropriately racking his focus to draw our attention to key details and peppering his grand fight sequence with a significant amount of close-ups, keeping the audience connected to the characters and therefore, somewhat grounded.
Are you going to want another trilogy out of Cross’ story? Probably not. He just doesn’t have the same allure as a much more complex specimen like Bourne, but “The Bourne Legacy” does stay true to the first three films, offering up an exciting new perspective that’s simply exhilarating to watch.