The Bourne Legacy offers just over two hours of entertaining and engaging action movie-ness. It’s the final minutes that weaken the film.
Here’s a preview:
Released August 10, 2012
Written by Tony Gilroy, and Dan Gilroy (inspired by the series by Robert Ludlum)
Directed by Tony Gilroy
Starring: Rachel Weisz, Donna Murphy, Joan Allen, Jeremy Renner, Edward Norton, Stacy Keach, Zeljko Ivanek, Scott Glen, Albert Finney, and David Strathairn
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The Bourne Legacy offers a story that runs parallel and then somewhat beyond the stories told in the three preceding Bourne films starring Matt Damon, and which Tony Gilroy had a hand in. It helps that Gilroy has a firm handle on the story, themes, and arcs in the Bourne series; with someone else at the helm, The Bourne Legacy would have felt like a blatant and useless cash grab.
This film follows Aaron Cross (Renner), an agent from the same genetics-altering, super agent-making program that created Bourne. As Bourne causes havoc, the directors of this program, called Operation Outcome, decide that every agent in the program needs to be closed out, erased, and that they will start the program again after the fallout from Bourne has settled. The main spy boss is Eric Byer (Norton in one of his best roles), who served with Cross in combat and who it appears recruited Cross into the program. Byer sets off the events that ensue as Cross escapes the first attempt on his life and discovers that his handlers are trying to have him killed.
It’s important to note that Cross has heightened abilities, brought to him by ‘chems,’ two colored pills that enhance his sensory and physical capabilities. He’s out of chems and needs to get more before he regresses and becomes totally incapable of coping with life. To that end, he seeks out Dr. Marta Shearing (Weisz), the doctor whom he had seen several times to have blood work done and to get more chems. He has to find her while dodging those who want him dead. While Cross makes his way to Shearing, she barely survives one of her colleagues going completely nuts and shooting up the lab in which they work.
This colleague is likely manipulated into doing this as part of the spy bosses’ efforts to end the program and avoid getting found out.
The violence in the lab and the great sequence where Cross rescues Shearing from some bad guys in her house are the highlight. Once Cross and Shearing get together, they head to the Philippines, to a secret lab there, to get Cross ‘virused out’ of the chems– meaning he will have his enhanced abilities permanently.
All of this leads to some breathless chase scenes and the unleashing of a very enhanced agent who is directed to find and kill Cross and Shearing. There’s not much of a climax to the action, however, despite there being a somewhat effective emotional wrap-up to this story arc. The film ends somewhat abruptly, leaving it wide open for more story to be told.
The acting is by far the best part of this film. The story is, ultimately, pretty small fry, given that it’s shoehorned into the events of the Bourne films and is essentially about a guy’s desire to not depend on pills for the rest of his life. But it’s a simple story and the action and pacing are crafted well enough that the movie never lags. The writing is definitely better than average, with the characters behaving like people and the action unfolding from individual choices. Also, Cross is a little smarter than Bourne.
Edward Norton’s Byer is a pleasure to watch. He’s ruthless, incredibly smart, and somehow sensitive. This guy just gets better as he gets older. Renner and Weisz, both very charismatic actors who know how to get right to the emotional core of a character without going over the top, work great together. Weisz particularly does a great job. In fact, her character is actually the best written character in the film. This is no passive woman, nor is she a lady who cannot be phased and is thus boring. She’s human, tough, smart, and determined. Renner is quiet and very effective.
The filming is great, setting the scene intimately when we need to focus on the characters, but grounding the viewer in a world of people, life, beauty, and death.
The Bourne Legacy is, surprisingly, highly recommended. Never over the top, somewhat understated, lacking somewhat in punch and resolution, but a pleasure to watch.
Content warnings: some harsh language, plenty of action and violence
Writing: 4 Acting: 5 Overall: 4.5
Cement and increase my legacy by sharing this post. If you don’t, a super agent will come and give you a big noogie. Don’t forget to check out the generally inaccurate reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.