RATED: ★ ★ ★ 1/2 buckets | WORTH: Matinee or DVD
Rated: PG-13 Violence and action sequences.
Release Date: August 10, 2012
Runtime: 2 hours 15 minutes
Director: Tony Gilroy
Writers: Tony Gilroy, Dan Gilroy, based on the Bourne series by Robert Ludlum
Cast: Jeremy Renner, Scott Glenn, Stacy Keach, Edward Norton, Rachel Weisz, Joan Allen
SYNOPSIS: Aaron Cross, a genetically altered government military product, finds himself at the center of a conspiracy that extends beyond both Trendstone and Blackbriar programs.
REVIEW: Tony Gilroy, director of George Clooney's Michael Clayton, has made a living adapting the Robert Ludlum books that centered around the amnesic assassin Jason Bourne. He has written the screenplays for the first three Bourne films The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, and The Bourne Ultimatum, all written by the late Robert Ludlum. Eric Van Lustbader took up the mantle of writing more for the Bourne series, completely seven more novels. For The Bourne Legacy, Jason Bourne/David Webb takes a distant back seat to a new action hero named Aaron Cross.
For a summary of the first three Bourne films, check out The Road So Far.
Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner, The Avengers) goes through spec training in the Alaskan wilderness, trying to get to a base camp with minimal supplies and resource. Each day he takes blood samples from his arm and ingests one blue and one green pill he calls 'chems'. Back in the continental United States, Director of the CIA Ezra Kramer (Scott Glenn, Sucker Punch) informs Retired Admiral Mark Turso, USN (Stacy Keach, Machete) that a London Guardian journalist is looking into the government projects known as Treadstone, Blackbriar and the individual known as Jason Bourne. With Jason Bourne at large and evading capture, Turso sets in motion an investigative body to figure out just how far the damage may have spread due to Bourne and the failed assassins' projects, with Retired Colonel Eric Byer (Edward Norton, Moonrise Kingdom) at its head. When Byer and his team find out that the fallout from Bourne extends to other current government programs due to several connection points between forward thinking Dr. Dan Hillcott (Neil Brooks Cunningham, You Don't Know Jack) and Dr. Albert Hirsch (Albert Finney, The Bourne Ultimatum), Byer makes the call to dismantle as many of the government agency programs as he feels may be jeopardized by the fallout, including project Outcome. One by one, every facet of project Outcome is eliminated, the high-ranking project managers, the scientific team, and the field assets. Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz, Dream House) is the only one to escape the shooting spree of co-worker Dr. Donald Foite (Zeljko Ivanek, Heroes), while Aaron Cross is the only one to evade the missiles from unmanned remote-piloted drones. Finding themselves thrust together against Byers and his agents, Shearing and Cross must work together so that Cross can continue without losing the cognitive and physical enhancements that the Outcome program had instilled in him.
The Bourne Legacy marks the fourth Robert Ludlum title in the Bourne series to be adapted to the big screen. Like The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatumbefore it, The Bourne Legacy drastic deviates from the original story. Where in the original story, Jason Bourne / David Webb (Matt Damon, We Bought a Zoo) still remained center stage in the plotline, The Bourne Legacy film recasts the main protagonist as Aaron Cross. With Matt Damon leaving the franchise as Jason Bourne, the studios take a chance with Jeremy Renner as a new character with some of the same problems as Bourne without trying to reboot the franchise with a new Jason Bourne. Some of what made Matt Damon's Jason Bourne so good as a character was because he was forced to solve the puzzle of his life without the aid of any idea of whom he was. Jeremy Renner's Aaron Cross is all that Jason Bourne was - and more! There are no more worries of memory gaps as Aaron Cross retains all of his faculties and has fighting skills enhanced by chromosome gene manipulations. But having fewer complications in one way simply leads to complications in other ways. Written by Tony and Dan Gilroy, and directed by Tony Gilroy, The Bourne Legacy is indeed a film that should be considered as a legacy to the franchise. With the switch to Renner from Damon, the Gilroy’s had a huge challenge in front of them. How can they continue in the fine tradition that Matt Damon established with his portrayal of Ludlum's signature protagonist? One way the Tony and Dan tie The Bourne Legacy in with the first three films is an opening shot where Aaron Cross lies prone in the water with a camera shot from below. He isn't unconscious, but the parallel to Jason Bourne floating in the Mediterranean Sea from the original Identity does not go unnoticed by fans of the franchise.
Like its predecessors, the story is both intricate and kinetic. With many moving parts, the audience must pay attention to both locations and dialogue to follow along. What some may not understand fully are the references to the earlier films. If you have not seen the first trilogy, some plot points and dialogue may not fully register for a while. The story is written with a complete inclusive story, but fans of the franchise will get a little more out of the story than newbie’s to the series. Is it imperative to view the first three movies to enjoyThe Bourne Legacy? No. But it will help improve the experience.
Some will speculate and defend Matt Damon as the better protagonist. There was no question that Damon could handle the hurt, broken psyche of a man that was Jason Bourne. But he did surprise audiences with his honed fighting skills on the screen. Jeremy Renner is a different story. He has already proven he can kick ass with his stints as the antagonist to Colin Ferrell in S.W.A.T. and as the archer Hawkeye in The Avengers. His pedigree includes the dramatic turn in The Hurt Locker, but he still needed to sway audiences with another dramatic role. He can be compared to Matt Damon but shouldn’t be. The roles are only similar in that they are government assets being hunted down and that they have something missing that they are trying to reclaim – memories or medication.
The story may be kinetic and involved as stated earlier, but the film’s 2-hour length does lend itself to a little aerodynamic drag. Like a Tom Clancy or the other Bourne film, all of the pieces slowly move themselves into place before any of the high-octane action really gets underway. Sure, there are pockets of action throughout the film to add onto the political and covert intrigue, but some of the elements take too long to get there.
Jeremy Renner is a good choice to carry on the Bourne legacy in spite of any misgivings some may have. As more of the series come to screen, he will definitely become as synomonous to the series as Damon is now. Renner brings his own pain to the role, his eyes giving away the hurt of the character as well as Damon did. Adding a female protagonist to the mix, Rachel Weisz is just as scared as any that came before her, even if she has a more professional and classified-cleared position. Sometimes residing within the government machine allows one to know more of the atrocities that an outsider could conceive. Edward Norton is the perfect pick for the efficient and expeditious Byer and his patriotic mission to keep the country and its government covert programs out of harm’s way. The rest of the cast is numerous, but those three are the most critical. Even the activated LARX-3 agent is more of a footnote than a main player, in spite of his major role in the last action chase and fight sequence. It doesn’t matter who is chasing Renner’s new Bourne front man. It only matters that he is able to prevail against insurmountable odds.
The Bourne Legacy is a slow building tale, building on the foundation and elements from the original Bourne trilogy, as well as presenting a new origin story in the same vein as the original… with a twist. The burned government asset with his own moral code is the same, while most everything else is just a little different.