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.
For “The Bourne Legacy,” Renner joins fellow series newcomers Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Stacy Keach and Oscar Isaac, while franchise veterans Albert Finney, Joan Allen, David Strathairn and Scott Glenn reprise their roles.
The Bourne Legacy begins with a scene that literally sets you on your ear, and it raises the expectations of the action to come. Writer-director Tony Gilroy certainly did not exhibit shyness in this opener. Oddly, the movie would have benefitted to stay with that moving forward, as The Bourne Legacy is clearly at its best when moving quickly. Rated PG-13 and in need of explanation, Legacy is not a film that should be standing still for too long.
If you were lucky enough to have seen the first movies in the series, then you likely will enjoy this great deal more than someone coming into it new. I watched this with my wife and she had never seen the Matt Damon Bourne movies. She spent the entire first half of the movie totally lost and she never figured out those things she was confused about until I explained them. It seems that Gilroy got a bit lost in the details before he dove into the action.
Given the deep and complicated history of the Bourne series, you can forgive him for that. It would be nearly impossible to explain the entire series in one movie, but I do wish he had not tried so hard to purposefully leave out needed information. For the fans of the previous flicks, however, there are numerous nods and details lost on others for you to enjoy.
All you really need to know is that Jason Bourne was not the only one that was being used as a spy and agent. Enter Aaron Cross, played with a quiet and commanding cool by Jeremy Renner. Cross is a type of Jason Bourne, but with more bells and whistles. Treadstone was also creating agents with a combination of drugs and other goodies.
Because of Bourne before him, Cross and those like him must now be eliminated. This is including the Doctors, engineers, scientists and hangers on that were involved in the development of such. Edward Norton plays a retired military man that was in charge of all this spy stuff, and also the man behind the elimination of every iota of evidence…people included.
Dr. Martha Shearing comes on the scene as a medical researcher that never considers the impact on others until it hits her in the face. When she somehow survives the purge, she falls into the arms of Renner for protection. Shearing is played by Rachel Weisz and she is stunningly beautiful in the role. Not only is she easy on the eyes, she is also a great flip side to Renner’s cool demeanor. She also has a bit of power over him, as she is his best hope of securing the drugs he needs to keep on running.
What begins as a mutually beneficial alliance becomes an attraction and love interest angle. Although it is logical, this angle of the story feels a bit forced for some reason to me.
The movie does drag on in the middle and for that I found myself wishing for some action, but once the full tilt button gets turned on it is worth the wait. The The Bourne Legacy flips the switch and flips it hard. In fact, one scene involving motorcycles will be one of the most storied scenes in the action genre for years to come.
While Legacy has some shortcomings in general, the movie overall is pretty solid fare. Renner and Weisz, as well as Norton all sizzle on screen and play the roles quite well. I wish some more time had been spent on characterization rather than all that technical spy jargon. In the end, the action made my wife forget the things she did not understand, and made me hopeful for another possible return for the series.