The Bourne Legacy takes a good while to get going and doesn't quite stack up against the first three
After seeing some of Jeremy Renner's recent films, like Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and The Avengers, I had tentative hope for his turn in the Bourne drivers seat.
And it just didn't quite do it for me.
It's not a terrible movie. There are three main faults I would point out, but I'll get to that in a little while.
Taking a cue from what was done with The Bourne Ultimatum, this latest movie overlaps with some of the same time frame as the previous movie (and by extension, the second). In fact, most of the major players in Ultimatum make some kind of appearance in The Bourne Legacy, to greatly varying degrees—some only a few seconds, or even just a mug shot on a screen.
First, the story:
As the movie begins, several movers and shakers are in a bit of a panic with the threat of the Treadstone story getting out through a reporter (see Ultimatum for that story line). Enter Eric Byer (Edward Norton) who is heading up a team to evaluate the level of contamination the Treadstone project has caused in other currently running project, and make decisions as to how much cleanup this will all require.
Elsewhere, Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), like the formerly titular Jason Bourne, is an agent of the nominally defunct Treadstone project. He's seen hiking through snowy mountains to an outpost of some kind.
At the same time, Doctor Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) seems to have some kind of connection to the research and development that made Treadstone possible.
So, if the decision is made to fully sever the entire project, I'll leave it up to you to figure out what that means for the lovely doctor and the scruffy assassin.
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The first thing to point out is that, while Jeremy Renner worked well in both Ghost Protocol and The Avengers as one of an ensemble, he isn't quite charismatic enough to carry this type of lead the way that Matt Damon did. He's got the physical presence during the action scenes, but isn't quite as endearing as you might want for this role. But that leads me to my second point.
Not nearly enough action.
Now, obviously, the Bourne movies have all had their fair share of down time. But one thing that really helped them out was the fact that they all started very strongly. A strong opening can give enough momentum to push the audience through that don time. An action sequence, or a nearly dead man being pulled from the water with amnesia. Legacy simply takes too long to really get moving.
And once it finally does, that's my third issue:
The action here isn't quite as satisfying.
It's competent and well shot. But it doesn't quite feel like it's on the same level as the original trilogy. Those action sequences showed a bit more creativity and innovation. Not just the action itself, but you get to see Jason Bourne's mind working through the action. Attacking a man with a magazine. Stabbing a man's hand with a pen. These may sound a bit lame, on paper, but to see the main character improvise weapons with whatever is at hand is quite engaging with the audience. The only time we see Aaron Cross do that kind of improvising is in one of the first real action sequences where he uses a fire extinguisher and a nail.
That being said, this movie does deepen the mythology of the Bourne-iverse. For instance, while not exactly necessary, Legacy has a conversation that talks about the kinds of medication that these Treadstone agents had been given. It's interesting, but not exactly action movie material.
And when it does get going, there are a few action moments that generally work.
Oh, and it ends on a new version of "Extreme Ways" by Moby, so it's got that going for it.
But what do you think?
Personally, while it doesn't live up to the trilogy, I give this one solid 7 / 10. If you're not dying to see it, you can skip it without feeling that bad, since it doesn't use Jason Bourne at all. Maybe wait for the dollar theaters if you only have a passing interest. Either way, it shouldn't be completely unsatisfying.
The Bourne Legacy is rated PG-13 for language an fairly bloodless action violence.