Film Review : The Bourne Legacy

The Bourne Legacy, Universal Pictures, 2012.

Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is an agent of ‘The Program’. A man modified in a project designed to create human beings capable of extraordinary mental and physical feats. Feats that, unfortunately, are better witnessed by watching Matt Damon in what will henceforth be called the “original” Bourne Trilogy.

In The Bourne Legacy, Cross is hunted by agents of ‘The Program’ who wish to terminate him.  And yes this does sound familiar.

The storyline from the original Bourne trilogy is heavily recycled, but with added absurdity. Tony Gilroy, who has written all Bourne screenplays so far, has just taken the base of the original plot from the Damon era and made it less credible. The screenplays of the original Bourne trilogy were so good because they were intelligent and realistic. Bourne was an athletic man, with a specific but vast skill set, who could defend himself very well. Cross is all of these things, but exaggerated to the extent that it becomes silly. His extra-ordinary abilities are apparently due to a ‘pill’ – a lazy bit of writing indeed. Cross ends up being the Six Million Dollar Man to Bourne’s James Bond.

The film also lacks Paul Greengrass in the director’s chair, with the job instead falling to Gilroy – though it is a job he does well. His direction is tidy and non-invasive.  It has many similarities in style to Greengrass’ work on the original trilogy. That shouldn’t be held against him though – if this film was ever going to be kosher, then the organs that made the Bourne films what they were would have to be brought back whether Greengrass was there or not.

The two biggest problems with The Bourne Legacy are the choice of Renner as the main protagonist, and the quality of the action scenes.

Renner is decent, but he cannot compete with Matt Damon. He doesn’t ruin the film, mostly because he couldn’t. His character has little interesting dialogue, and there is no substantial development of his personality by the end of the film.  The lead character’s faults in this case are the product of Gilroy’s screenwriting rather that the acting abilities of the cast.

And yet, one aspect of the film though that I feel is stronger than the original Bourne trilogy is the acting of the secondary characters. Edward Norton, Scott Glenn, and Rachel Weisz put in the strongest performances, and they were performances that would have been nice to see in a Greengrass and Damon production of Bourne.

The action scenes are lacklustre. The chase scenes in particular are drawn out, with characters seemingly obliged to cover every type of terrain imaginable in their obligatory high speed trek.

Overall The Bourne Legacy is disappointing. If there were not already three great films in the series, then it would be a decent picture, nothing special, but not bad. They are milking a recognisable cash cow now, but because it has used the same name, it is impossible not to compare and contrast it to the Damon films – and the results are not in Legacy‘s favour.

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