Movie Reviews

'The Bourne Legacy': No Damon, No Problem

By Wang DexianMovies - 08 August 2012 5:31 PM | Updated 14 August 2012

'The Bourne Legacy': No Damon, No Problem

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Five years after the original Bourne trilogy wrapped up, we finally get a new installment in the tension-filled spy world of Jason Bourne. This time though, our familiar hero isn’t here. Matt Damon declined to reprise his role, as did director Paul Greengrass (‘The Bourne Supremacy’, ‘Ultimatum’) ... so what did Universal Pictures do?

They put a new spin on the plot. ‘The Bourne Legacy’ isn’t so much a reboot or continuation of Bourne’s tale, but more like another chapter set in the same CIA-centric universe. We get a completely new leading man and character, Jeremy Renner playing agent Aaron Cross, an agent of Operation Outcome, yet another one of the CIA’s improved agent enhancing programmes. In the wake of CIA Deputy Director Pamela Landy and Jason Bourne’s expose of Operation Blackbriar in ‘Ultimatum’, the CIA has decided to cut the cord on a bunch of black ops programmes, including Outcome. That pretty much means killing the field agents, including Agent Cross who then decides to enlist the help of Dr. Marta Shearling (Rachel Weisz), a scientist who worked on Outcome, to expose his superiors.

But, although it tries to begin afresh, ‘The Bourne Legacy’ is kind of inaccessible. For a start, the spectre of Jason Bourne is very much alive, as the plot of ‘Legacy’ is based completely around ‘Ultimatum’. Even though Bourne doesn’t appear in this film at all, references of him through photographs and other characters are peppered throughout. This means that even though Jeremy Renner is a great leading man and action star, his role is diminished quite a bit. And, without knowing the ins-and-outs of the previous Bourne movies, the plot of ‘Legacy’ is too complex to follow.

Jeremy Renner and Edward Norton go face to face

Fans will be happy to know, however, that the strengths of the prior films are still present here. Screenwriter for the first three films, Tony Gilroy steps up to the director role for this movie and has managed to carry on the Bourne-world’s trademarks ― the visual style (yes, shakycam action) and the realistic portrayal of the CIA, which is even more real here than in the previous movies. More importantly, Gilroy beautifully preserves the sense of the underdog trying to evade the CIA giant. Renner and Weisz are great together on screen, despite Aaron Cross’ slight blandness as a character. The pair is easily the best thing about the movie, and, if there’s a sequel, we’ll watch it just to see more of them together.

With this movie, Gilroy had the unenviable task of having to balance widening the story and Bourne mythology without making it look like a cash grab. He also had to do it in a way that could leave open the possibility of Matt Damon returning to the franchise. The result is a decent, if unspectacular, attempt. And while Cross might still be standing in the shadow of Jason Bourne for the most part, there is great potential in not just him, but also Weisz’s Dr. Shearling and Edward Norton’s Eric Byer characters as well. This manages to lift the film just a tad above mediocrity.

On its own, ‘The Bourne Legacy’ is a perfectly capable spy action movie. When compared to the high standards that the original trilogy set though, it does pale a little. But in true Bourne style, it does have a spectacular chase. The climax of the movie involves a sprawling chase that takes place on foot and bike through the tight maze of inner city ghetto Manila, The Philippines. And that’s all we’ll say about that. Think about it.

‘The Bourne Legacy’ opens in theatres 8 August 2012