After Jason Bourne exposed secret super spy programs, a member of one such program goes on the run from the CIA, who are trying to kill him and erase all evidence of their wrongdoings.
Tony Gilroy, 2012
Super spy Jason Bourne has revealed the existence of top-secret black ops program Operation Treadstone to the world, sending the CIA into a tailspin. They call on an expert, Colonel Eric Byer (Edward Norton), who has experience in making tough decisions with considerable collateral damage in the interests of protecting national secrets. He orders the end of any programs that have any ties to Treadstone – including Operation Outcome, a program employing genetically enhanced operative Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner). Destroying the program means destroying the drugs that give Cross increased abilities…and without them, he suffers potentially deadly withdrawals. Discovering that his fellow Outcomes are being killed, Cross tracks down and kidnaps the scientist who medicated him, Dr. Martha Shearing (Rachel Weisz), who has uncovered some potentially deadly secrets of her own.
The information I just gave you took a long while for me to piece together in this film, though I’m fairly sure that’s not on purpose. The biggest issue with The Bourne Legacy is that, in their attempts to justify the lack of Matt Damon, we are reminded constantly that this is a Bourneless Bourne film. Familiarity with the other films is a prerequisite for this one, and yet it doesn’t do the franchise justice. The filmmakers try desperately to make us interested in this story, that with a cast of really good familiar faces, but the lack or Bourne permeates every scene of this lesser entry in the canon. Focusing on a character as baldly unlikeable as Aaron Cross is also a mistake. I don’t know if this is Jeremy Renner’s take on roguishly charming, but there is no charm in the brutish Cross. Sympathy for his predicament is worn away by a smarmy affect that only the considerable talents of Rachel Weisz can counterbalance. She’s brilliant in this, clearly the film’s hero if not its protagonist. There’s an incredibly intense early scene showcasing a shooting at Martha’s lab that also features a strong performance from “hey, it’s that guy” actor Zeljko Ivanek (I would like it noted that I spelled that correctly the first time without looking), which if this film had any sense would be one of its centrepieces. It does more to reclaim that dizzy handheld intensity that is the trademark of the Bourne films than any other moment in the film. The casting of actors like Edward Norton and Stacy Keach as the film’s antagonist would have you believe that they want you to pay attention to the conspiracy behind the curtains. I might have found it in me to care if I felt like Norton did.
The film seems to struggle with focus. Its extended first act keeps the characters frustratingly separate. These opening scenes featuring a very cold Jeremy Renner being tracked through snowy mountains by literal wolves while he does things that the soundtrack wants me to be impressive, but the only spark of interest comes when he meets with Oscar Isaac’s Outcome #3 in a remote cabin. Isaac lends an intensity that the proceedings were sorely lacking, ratcheting up the tension with a few well-placed looks and tightly delivered lines. I’ll never understand why films like this and Body of Lies insist on following bland protagonists while Oscar Isaac plays a much more interesting fleeting side character – I’d prefer to watch him go on adventures with Rachel Weisz any day. And I’m in no way biased. Moving on. The film spends a lot of time unnecessarily complicating what should be fairly simple to comprehend: Aaron Cross needs special enhancing drugs or he’ll die. Part of the problem is the length of time it takes for the consequences of this lack of medication to kick in, but there’s also the film’s lack of focus, mumbled dialogue, and lengthy expositional nonsense scenes to contend with. It would be borderline unwatchable if it weren’t for Rachel Weisz performing some kind of magnetic magic, giving us, amongst the turmoil, a hero to actually root for.
The Bourne Legacy on IMDb