Tony Gilroy--the writer of the first three movies in the Bourne series--takes the directorial helm in The Bourne Legacy, a film that expands on the universe he helped create while following a similarly-super-powered killing machine named Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) in his quest to survive the government’s attempt to cover up the program while retaining his drug-induced enhancements. What begins as the story of a bollixed espionage program quickly devolves into a laughable, superficial action flick that doesn’t come close to the excellence this series deserves.
Jeremy Renner (The Avengers) is a super spy from a secret training program similar to the operation that lead to Jason Bourne, though Aaron Cross is far more personable than the all-business Bourne (though no less lethal.) The story slowly reveals the relationship between Cross and Col. Byer (Edward Norton), the man who is hunting Cross in order to protect the reputation of the people who signed-off on the black ops program.
Cross saves the life of Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz, The Mummy) a chemist who is responsible for creating the super soldier serum…er…pills that turned Cross from a simple soldier to a cold-blooded killer. Here the movie goes off on a tangent that tarnishes the titular legacy of the Bourne movies—whereas The Bourne Identity was about a well-trained soldier who did things that, while amazing, were plausible. Now we learn that the soldiers have been given magic pills that turned them into peak humans, a quizzical change that is only heightened by the film’s over-the-top conclusion that defies the rules of physics.
While director Gilroy is deft at weaving a mystery and slowly exposing the intertwined relationships of the characters his handling of action is clumsy. The final action scene is a confusing jumble of disconnected close-up shots that never give the audience a sense of scope, intent instead on giving the audience reaction shots of Rachel Weisz screaming.
What we’re left with is a movie that frustrates—good ideas are jammed into a script that relies heavily on the audience having not only a working knowledge of the previous Bourne movies but remembering minor moments from 10 years ago. Some good ideas are left dangling for the inevitable sequel and while the idea of a scientist being forced to confront the results of her work is clever, there is little chemistry between Renner and Weisz who effortlessly breeze through the plot to its inevitable conclusion.
A pale imitation of the greater Bourne movies, The Bourne Legacy serves as a stopgap in the transition of the story and an origin story for the next hero but is unsatisfying by itself.
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