Movie Review: THE BOURNE LEGACY
Published: August 8, 2012 - 7:24am
If you haven't seen The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum it's in your best interest to do so before checking out The Bourne Legacy. Actually it's a prerequisite if you want to understand what's going on. Director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton) steps into Paul Greengrass' shoes to helm this installment. Gilroy was the screenwriter for all three previous films and co-wrote this script with his brother, which explains why Legacy carries the same style and visual cues of the last ones. But it's all tension and no pay off here as the film has a hard time finding it's purpose in the franchise.
This film's story picks during the ending of the last, with Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) having finally confronted the secret CIA organization he worked for and escaped. Even though we are presented with an entire new main cast of characters the film very much revolves around the actions of Bourne -- who never makes an appearance -- and Pamela Landy (Joan Allen), the agent who orignially tried tracking him down but eventually turned against her organization after finding out it's real purpose. At the Congressional level she blows the lid off Operation Treadstone and Operation Black Briar, the unauthorized black bag sections that trained assassins including Bourne. But things aren't working out as planned for her. CIA manager Eric Byer (Edward Norton) begins to shut down Operation Outcome, the overarching umbrella faction of the whole organization, which includes eliminating all of it's personnel in an effort to remove any evidence of Landy's accusations. While all this is going on we're introduced to highly skilled agent Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), who survives several attempts to kill him off. Like all other Operation Outcome field agents, Cross must take daily doses of government issued medication to keep his mental and physical acuity strong. He hunts down his physician Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) in hopes she can supply him with the pills he needs before his short supply runs out.
Renner is fantastic, which assuaged doubt that the franchise could survive without Matt Damon in the lead. He's rugged yet charming and can both dish out and take a beating. His chemistry with Weisz was believable and enjoyable to watch. I really wish more time had been spent focusing on his backstory, which is only touched upon by a few flashbacks and exposition.
David Strathairn is back as Noah Vosen, the furiously sharp and emotionless head of Treadstone/Black Briar. When he walks into a room the whole scene crackles with tension. You can't help but smile and hope the film may be hitting it's Bourne stride. Sadly it doesn't until deep into the second half, and by then it's too late to fit in real development of it's cast aside from Renner and Weisz;s characters. Edward Norton and Stacy Keach -- playing an important yet unnamed CIA bigwig -- weren't given the room to produce high caliber and edgy performances they are known for and instead are left as unmemorable government automatons. Anyone else could have substituted without notice.
The Bourne Legacy would have been a much better film if it hadn't tried so hard to mimic the formula from the first three in the franchise: Desperate yet lethal killing machine kidnaps helpless girl (who eventually falls for him) while they search for answers and try to escape assassination by a rogue government faction. I have two glaring issues with Gilroy's contributions here: poorly planned/shot action and a subplot which unnecessarily ruins the ending of the previous trilogy. Everything else is forgivable but presenting unremarkable action scenes in a Bourne property is a blatant failure, and taking away the rewarding ending of the last film to perpetuate this story. This could have, and should have, been a fresh start for the franchise but instead we got by-the-numbers filmmaking. This isn't a problem if executed properly, but here it just wasn't.
The narrative architect behind the Bourne film series, Tony Gilroy, takes the helm in the next chapter of the hugely popular espionage franchise that has earned almost $1 billion at the global box office: The Bourne Legacy. The writer/director expands the Bourne universe created by Robert Ludlum with an original story that introduces us to a new hero (Jeremy Renner) whose life-or-death stakes have been triggered by the events of the first three films.
The Bourne Legacy is directed by Tony Gilroy and stars Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Oscar Isaac, Albert Finney, Joan Allen, Stacy Keach, David Strathairn and Scott Glenn. Universal Pictures has scheduled the film for theatrical release on August 10th, 2012.