The Bourne Legacy (2012) – Review

I was never fully on board with the idea of a fourth Bourne movie.  Forgetting the un-defendable fact that Matt Damon wasn’t going to be stepping into the lead role, I just felt that the story of Jason Bourne and that universe had been told, and the story arc had been so well rounded by the end of Ultimatum that a fourth instalment seemed rather superfluous.  I did gradually begin to warm to the idea as I learnt that they weren’t in fact recasting the character of Jason Bourne, and they were simply telling the story of another, similarly-trained agent parallel to Ultimatum’s plot, but I still didn’t feel it was necessary.

A recurring complaint with Legacy is the absence of Paul Greengrass, the auter who grabbed the series by the scruff of the neck and crammed it full of pace, grit and hard-edged action.  While it’s obvious he’s a fantastic director of heart-pumping thrills (see Green Zone and United 93), I wasn’t too sad to see him go.  Greengrass’ action – while often impressive and always shocking – is often clouded by the infamous ‘shaky cam’, an annoyingly common habit with directors of late, and something I just can’t stand.  What we get with Legacy, however, is a series of skilfully shot action sequences that don’t distort our perception of what’s going on within the frame, while maintaining that same level of adrenalin that Greengrass brought to the previous two installments   Two fine examples are a pulsating bike chase towards the end and a distinctly Bourne-esque rooftop free-running chase.  Another aforementioned complaint is the lack of Matt Damon.  Is it really a Bourne movie without him?  Well, no, not really, because he’s Jason Bourne.  But contrary to many opinions I’ve read, I found Renner to be an admirable replacement.  Where others have found him a much colder protagonist than Damon’s Bourne, I found him charming, believable and very likeable.

The biggest problem with Legacy is that it feels like we’ve seen it all before.  Too long is spent at the beginning trying to tie up all the loose ends that come with fitting this along side the events of Ultimatum, with lots of people talking about lots of things that just aren’t very interesting, and then once all this is done, we delve into a plot that is essentially just a mesh of the first three films.  While it’s perfectly fine as an action film, was there really any need to make in a Bourne film?  Why not break away from away from that and make a stand alone spy thriller, which in turn would significantly reduce the pressure of having to live up to the name.  My feelings are that if you’re going to do a Bourne film, you have to do something unique and memorable with it.  Legacy brings nothing new to the table apart from degrading Jason Bourne’s expertly-trained field agent to Aaron Cross’ pill-popping steroid-junkie.

Weisz’s character is very problematic.  She’s introduced early on in the proceedings as a doctor of some form of chemistry, but says nothing more than “hi” to a few colleagues.  It’s then a good (what feels like) half an hour before we see her again, by which point we’ve forgotten who she is or that she’s even part of the story. This only becomes a problem because after this second introduction she suddenly becomes a main character.  We’re supposed to root for her and be drawn into her relationship with Cross, but there’s just no emotional connection because she hasn’t had a proper introduction.  It’s down to lazy writing.  It’s also a shame that someone with Weisz’s talent has little more to do than erratically run away from bullets for half of the movie and ‘shoosh’ people for the other.  Of course, even this being the case, Weisz is always a very watchable screen presence and she does everything she can with the role.  Edward Norton also deserves a mention in a similar vein, playing the guy who sits around tables tracking Renner’s Cross and we’re not really supposed to like, although we kinda do because it’s Edward Norton.

All in all, pretty solid as action films go, but a problematic script and the lack of any characters with the name “Bourne” put it several tiers lower than its three excellent predecessors.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

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