The Bourne Legacy

“The Bourne Legacy” is the fourth chapter in the “Bourne” saga, the series that to date has featured Matt Damon as the titular Jason Bourne, a trained killing machine with amnesia.

Each of the previous three were simple stories. Bourne attempts to elude pursuit and evade capture while simultaneously unraveling the mystery of his past.

In this installment, the camera pulls further back and shows much more of the program which created Bourne. The lead character, Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), is a similar Treadstone subject who manages to survive elimination when the government decides to “Burn” the program in the wake of the Jason Bourne scandal, in order to mitigate the potential damage. But by delving so deeply into the background story, this chapter waters down its focus and becomes much broader. It doesn’t help that the action isn’t as plentiful – or as exciting – as prior installments either.

It’s still enjoyable, and I wouldn’t call it unworthy of inclusion in the series… but it’s undoubtedly the weakest chapter of the quadrilogy.

“The Bourne Legacy” is not a reboot. It’s a straight up sequel, simply told without the benefit of Jason Bourne. Flashbacks take us a few steps back just prior to when Bourne shows up in New York in “Ultimatum”, but then the story picks up from there. At that point, the Treadstone program was a covert intelligence operation genetically modifying agents to become field agents with borderline super-powers. In addition to Bourne, there were a handful of “Outcome agents” being created and trained at the same time. When Bourne exposes the Treadstone and Blackbriar programs at the end of his mission in the original trilogy, the government quickly responds by shutting the programs down and setting a torch to all traces of them that they can. That of course, includes assassinating the existing “Outcome agents” who are in the field or in training.

Aaron Cross manages to survive the attempt to eliminate him, but realizes that he needs the drugs that he’s been being given or he may die. This drives back to the medical research facility that has been conducting the chemical DNA manipulation on him. Of course, this facility has also been a part of the government “torching”. Again, however, there’s a survivor of the incident. This time, it’s Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), a doctor who Cross is familiar with from his many checkups. She knows how to stave off his medication withdrawals and make the enhancements that he’s undergone permanent. Of course, they’ll have to survive, first. The government is after them both.

The major difference between this film and its predecessors, obviously, is the lack of Matt Damon. As I recall, Damon was in discussion to be in the film, but was insisting on the return of director Paul Greengrass. Greengrass did not return, however, and neither did Damon. Ironically, I think that the film misses Greengrass more than Damon… even though I felt the absence of both. Though Doug Liman directed the original “Bourne”, Paul Greengrass took over with “Supremacy” and “Ultimatum” and created two phenomenal action films. He’s one of the few directors that I’ve ever actually enjoyed the shaky cam/quick cut style of action sequence with.  After Greengrass’ and Damon’s departure, the studio managed to keep some of the series’ continuity by promoting Tony Gilroy to the director’s chair. Gilroy adapted each of the previous film’s screenplays from their respective source novels. Since then, he’s had the opportunity to direct “Duplicity” and “Michael Clayton”, a movie for which he was nominated for an Oscar. Here, though I wouldn’t say that he did a bad job, I would say that the action sequences absolutely suffer. The “style” remains the same, but without Greengrass’ magic touch, it simply falls short. There also doesn’t seem to be as much of it. Perhaps its just my feeling, but it seems to me that the balance of this film is much less on the action than the pervious installments. Not that there aren’t multiple set pieces here, there are. It just seemed that there was much more backstory, much more plot, and that isn’t necessarily a good thing here.

The actors are all fine, and I didn’t mind Renner in the lead, he was definitely acceptable as the protagonist. There were a few moments for me when Weisz fell flat a bit, but she is an Academy Award winner and I am a big fan, so I’m sure it’s more the part than her. Norton is weasley and contemptible as the head of the effort to eradicate the program and thus Renner and Weisz’s characters.

But with more plot come more opportunity for holes, and then at the end there’s a pretty jarring attempt to boil things back down to a mano a mano simplicity that didn’t work very well for me. So, while I enjoyed it, I can’t put it on the level of the first three films, which I think very highly of. It was enjoyable, it has lots of action along the way, and it’s not going to cause you to overlook issues too often. It does occasionally though, and the first films, for me, didn’t. Still, if we get a fifth, especially if it unites Damon and Renner as speculated, this film did a lot of the dirty work in laying out a fully fleshed out backstory, and now going forward the world that these guys rampage through will seem much fuller.

B-

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38 thoughts on “The Bourne Legacy

  1. I wrote something similar in my review. It’s far from being a bad movie but it doesn’t quite have the intensity and drive of the first three. Still, I’m invested and I’m certainly on board for another film.

    • Boom. Exactly, Keith.

      I’ll try to circle around and see what you wrote soon, but I’m on overdrive this weekend. Gotta finish up one more review and then off to the theatre again!

      You put it well though, there’s something off in the intensity here. Maybe its that we’re not as invested in the character? Not sure. I blamed the direction…

      Like you said though, Bourne 5? I’m still in. Definitely!

  2. I wasn’t really thrilled with “The Boring Legacy”. The action scenes were mediocre (except for something that happened towards the end of the motorcycle chase) and it took to long. I started doing an MST3K during the movie just to keep my interest in it. I’m giving this a 5.
    I do have the first 3 on DVD. Have no plans for this one to enter my collection.

    • HAHAHA!!! “The Boring Legacy” :D Thats a good one. That’s even better than “Total Remake”!

      Yeah, the action scenes were definitely a step down from the previous ones in the series, unfortunately. :( I can see where you’re coming from, I wont disagree too bad here, but it held my interest well enough. I enjoyed it enough to give it my “least possible recommendation” grade. LOL.

  3. So glad this one isn’t awful. I love Bourne trilogy except for Supremacy and I really want to see Weisz and Norton in a movie like that. Especially Norton since his career was recently reduced to playing what was essentialy a male hooker in a cameo in The Dictator :)

    • Oh, God. I know. That was a disturbing cameo for sure.

      They were both ok here… I dont know that the movie is on par with those first three, though. Does it suck outright? No, I mean, it’s ok. First half is really good actually, I thought. Second half loses its way a little, but i can see people being big fans or haters, depending.

  4. Good review bud. As you already saw in my review, I had a great time with this flick and I look forward to seeing what they can do with this story as I think, in the long-run, Aaron Cross may be a more interesting character than Jason Bourne. Or, if the Gods allowed it, Bourne and Cross could be in the same movie! It would be like The Avengers of spy movies!

    • Yeahhhhh… :D That’s what I’m saying too. A Bourne and Cross team up would be awesome!

      It was decent enough. I dont think it besmirched the series or anything. Definitely a step below the original three, but still passable.

  5. I thought the action was great! I definitely wanted a hand-to-hand showdown with a worthy opponent – I couldn’t believe the movie just up and ENDED so suddenly – but the house scene was exciting, and the fights with the guards were really satisfying (everyone in my theater let out tons of “WHOA”s and “OOOH”s :).

    Rachel Weisz unfortunately didn’t have much to work with, but she kept their poorly developed relationship afloat. Any weaker actress with so little to do would have sunk the movie.

    Jeremy Renner though.. I thought he was amazing. Charismatic, likable, funny, believable, and extremely sympathetic. He made this movie work.

    • I’ll agree on a lot of that Tippi. Renner was really good, I thought he carried the torch on quite well after Damon passed it to him. And, definitely, Weisz wasn’t given much to work with at all.

      I don’t know about the action though, there were a lot of cool moments here and there, but for the most part I didn’t think it measured up to the stuff from the first three movies. :(

      The movie totally did just cut itself off, didn’t it? LOL. Ok, everyone, that’s it! See ya! :D

  6. I have to say I’m probably not going to go see this, especially since it’s only getting “Kind of OK” reviews from most people. I was very skeptical about a Bourne-less Bourne sequel to begin with… and to be perfectly honest, I’m not a huge fan of the franchise as a whole. I liked The Bourne Identity, I thought it was a great film. But while I enjoyed both Ultimatum and Supremacy, I have very little recollection of either — I could not for the life of me tell you what happened in either, or which one was which, or even what order they came in. Truthfully I don’t think I could even distinguish them from the first one if it weren’t for the romance subplot in the first. So I just don’t see any incentive to stay on board for the series, especially when the principal actor isn’t.

    • A resoundingly underwhelmed outlook. :D

      I liked the Bourne series, although I’m right with you about the fact that the individual chapters dont do much to differentiate themselves from one another… a definite weakness of that trilogy.

      I think, if you’re not a big fan of those, this is a definitely skippable movie for you. LOL. At its best, this movie is a quasi clone of the original trilogy… if that doesnt do it for you, its best avoided altogether.

  7. I do agree that this film didn’t have the action of the previous three…I’m sure I wasn’t the only one expecting a fight to the death between Larx and Cross, right? They would crash the motorcycles, both get beat up a ton, and then proceed to fight some more (I would have preferred a fight between Larx and hallucinating Cross in withdrawal…oh well…;) But I still enjoyed it a lot, and I think Jeremy brought some more positive emotion to this new Bourne-like character. The previous films were all quite dark and depressing at times, but Legacy seems more optimistic, and I liked that about it. The big drawback was the lack of hand-to-hand. Cross never really meets his match, you know? But hey, there are six other Bourne novels out there, so I’m expecting more in the near future. Great review Fogs!!

    • Thanks Livi!

      I hadnt been specifically thinking the two of them should fistfight, but I definitely thought the end was abrupt and a little bit of a let down. A fistfight definitely would have been better :D

      Renner was pretty good, I had no problem at all with him as the lead. I dont know if the entire movie is more optimistic, but that end is definitely more upbeat. I hope it sees some sequels, I think if it gets settled a little, it could really offer a great movie in the future. Especially if they unite Bourne and Cross, that would be awesome! :D

      • I was pretty disappointed. Even with my low expectations. Got a full wordy review up, but it just felt very flat. Thought Renner and Weisz were fantastic, but the first half of the film felt like a bit of a retcon. Ending had a great chase, but nothing can top what’s been done in any of the previous Bourne films.

        Definitely missed both Greengrass and Damon in this film. Big time.

      • I can see where you’re coming from. Easily. I still managed to enjoy it well enough, but it definitely was a cheap knockoff of the first three. I was that impressed by the end chase for whatever reason, maybe I wasn’t connecting well enough at that point… or it could be the directing.

        Overall though I still felt it was ok. I’ll have to check out your “Full, wordy review” later today :D

  8. See, I think this plainly and visibly bad in a number of ways. It’s not simply unworthy of standing next to the Liman/Greengrass/Damon Bourne movies, it just doesn’t deserve to exist.

    The only good thing here is Jeremy Renner, but even he has to struggle mightily against an unsympathetic and non-complex character motivated by selfishness. I don’t get how anyone thought making Cross a drug addict whose mission is to chase a permanent fix around the world was a good idea. He has zero pathos. His worst sin is that he was a GI with a below-average intellect before Outcome. That’s it. And he just wants his drugs so he can keep from being a useless dummy. I can’t get with that.

    The other big problem here is that Ultimatum, a much more interesting film, is playing out concurrently with the events of Legacy‘s first hour. If interesting stuff happened in the latter as the former unfolded, that wouldn’t be a problem, but that first hour is SO. GODDAMN. BORING. It feels like two hours packed into one, and not in a good way; I was checking my watch after forty five minutes, which is bad news because I don’t have a bloody watch. Legacy is just so damn inert and slack that the action beats– and there are some good ones– don’t redeem the tedium so much as they briefly interrupt it. I wanted the whole film to feel like the one-take shot of Renner climbing the side of Marta’s house, busting in through a window, and shooting the government spook. But instead it’s just a slog before it ends with the most antiseptic action set-piece I’ve seen since Battleship and…a pop song.

    I couldn’t give this anything resembling a pass. The Boston critics all hung around the movie theater for about twenty minutes kvetching about how terrible it was.

    • Cross’ motivations were poorly done. Absolutely. I mean, I guess I was able to get past it, but I can see what you’re saying. I had wondered during the movie why Bourne hadn’t gone through similar stuff, you know? Why is this just happeneing to Cross?

      I cant say it was THAT bad though. It’s batting .500 on Rotten Tomatoes and got a “B” cinema score, so that’s not a sign of outright suckitude. Renner was good, and the action was decent enough. So it’s a mild, mild recommendation for me.

      I will acknowledge though that the movie definitely did drag quite a bit in parts. Hopefully, if it gets a sequel, this stuff will all be considered “heavy lifting” that’s out of the way now. The Program’s story has been told, and now we know how the outcome agents were being made, so future installments (if there are any) should be free of the need to go over that ground again. :(

      • I think a lot of people are giving it a pass because it’s Bourne and it’s Tony Gilroy, but regardless it baffles me that it’s even at 50%/B-levels anywhere. It’s terrible. And it’s an example of how bad the effects of franchising can be for a movie series.

  9. Very anxious to see it, not sure I’ll get a chance to in theaters. Huge fan of the trilogy so our POV might be about the same. I’m with you in I’m not worried about the lack of Matt Damon more than I am can these new films have the same feel as Greengrass gave it. Thanks for the review!

  10. I’m gutted to continually hear that this is lacklustre Fogs. I’m not crazy on action movies but the Bourne series were exceptionally good. Yet another addition to a franchise or remake that has let so many people down. Nice write-up bro.

    • Thanks man. Wish I had better news for you.

      I dont want to paint it as being horribly bad, I didnt think that at all. It was ok. But you’re right, I thought the first three were great. This was a notch below, there’s no doubt about it. :(

    • Yeah, It certainly was kind of a let down. I wasn’t all that into that finale either. I blame it on the direction.

      I think its still a decent rental and whatnot, and I do have hopes it gets a sequel, but it was definitely disappointing. :(

  11. It’s unfortunate, that Jeremy Renner should get the weakest of the Bourne series, he’s always very watchable. He does a good job here, but it’s a formularic, safe entry into the series, no twists, a little run of the mill, shame….

    • Yup. “Formulaic, safe entry” is a perfect blurb for this one.

      I enjoyed it well enough, but as you’re saying, it doesn’t do anything exceptional anywhere along the way.

      Still, I’d like to see another… I don’t think this was a death blow to the franchise, quality wise. We’ll see.

  12. I haven’t seen this yet. The roommate and I usually hit one theatre movie every weekend. But he went to this while I was taking a nap because he thought I didn’t want to see it. I’m not sure where he got the idea.

    I figured it might not be as good as the others. Any time they change the lead character, it never works well. Even if that possibility it build into the concept. There is one execption but it isn’t part of this discussion or franchise.

    But I enjoyed the previous films to varying degrees and figured I would give this a chance. Someday anyway.

    • If you’re a fan of the franchise, it’s worth checking out – if at the very for the sake of completionism. It was kind of a middling film. It borrowed too much from the earlier installments, but it did add some things of its own. Renner and Weisz were ok, but the action wasn’t quite as good.

      Not gonna make my ten worst list, but has no shot at my ten best either…

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