The Bourne Legacy (2012)

While Jason Bourne hunts down answers in Europe, one secret CIA operative at a time, Alex Cross (Jeremy Renner) is camped out in the Alaskan tundra on a training mission. Pretending to have lost his medication in the wilderness, Cross uses a meeting with a fellow Outcome asset to replenish his supplies, shortly before a military drone opens fire on their lodgings and leaves the pair for dead. Returning to America just in time to save his medical examiner (Rachel Weisz) from a hit team, Cross deduces that the CIA is trying to shut down Operation Outcome and sets off for Manila so that Dr. Marta Shearing can eliminate his need for the drugs by making their effects – increased strength and intelligence – permenant. Eager to avoid another crisis akin to Treadstone or Blackbriar, Eric Byer (Edward Norton) unleashes a next generation supersoldier (Louis Ozawa Changchien) to tie up the remaining loose ends.

It’s been ten years since Jason Bourne was first dredged from the sea, a simple enough act that simultaneously redefined Matt Damon as an icon for the noughties and upending the action genre as a whole, and it doesn’t take Tony Gilroy’s latest film to showcase the character’s incredible legacy. In the last decade, unfashionable guns have been dropped in favour of voguish utensils (or, as in Colombiana, toothbrushes), handheld camerawork has become the norm and even James Bond has taken to lengthy bouts of free-running in the pursuit of gritty realism. Unfortunately, in the case of Bourne’s legacy, fact is more impressive than fiction.

As with the similarly flawed Prometheus, Gilroy’s film doesn’t know whether it wants to fit the franchise mould or be something else entirely. Despite the slavish attempts to tie it to the original trilogy (which seem jarringly over-reliant on a single phonecall made during The Bourne Ultimatum), Legacy never feels like a Bourne film, lacking the urgency and ambiguity that made the originals such classics. A series about identity, which saw one amnesic rogue agent hunted down by both his bureaucratic handlers and peers from comparable programs, Legacy leaves such existential issues behind in favour of questions of its own: slight variations on, “Where are the blue pills?” I just hope you’re prepared to hold on 135 minutes while we find out.

Of course, there is nothing wrong about seeking a new identity – heck, that’s my point – and Gilroy (who co-wrote the previous films, too) would have likely succeeded had he actually attempted to break new ground. Instead, his film feels like little more than an addendum to the original trilogy (reminiscent of Marty McFly’s return to 1955, as he struggles to avoid stepping on his own toes), an exercise in filling in gaps that, until now, had remained perceptible only to the scriptwriter himself. It’s almost parasitic in nature, feeding off the other films for justification and brand recognition. This is very much still Bourne’s franchise, however, and even an occasional snapshot or recycled footage from Damon’s films elicits a stronger reaction than the sight of Renner swimming in ice water (Cross, too, begins his story submerged) or rugby-tackling a hanging wolf. This is basically a remake of the original, albiet one intent on showing each an every way in which it is different – and inferior – to its predecessor, to woeful effect.

Whatever the nature of the story’s problems, or with Gilroy’s derivative direction, there is no denying that the film could have been salvaged by a captivating lead. It certainly wouldn’t been the first time charisma alone had saved an otherwise uninspiring film from failure – Dwayne Johnson’s career has pretty much depended on it. Unfortunately, Jeremy Renner once again fails to convince that he can headline a movie. Even Rachel Weisz, who demonstrated she could run and scream with the best of them in The Mummy (and even its lesser sequel), struggles to do anything with her role that’s not techno-babble exposition or a thanklessly affected American accent. The most problematic character of all is Norton’s pointless antagonist, however; always at least forty minutes behind the action, and without so much as a trace of conviction for his cause, he serves little purpose at all, with most of his quota of mild threat outsourced to drones – both artificial and genetically modified.

Ultimately, the film is Bourne without everything that that’s supposed to represent; a James Bond movie about 004. A virtual-reality cat and mouse chase through the streets of Vanilla (I mean Manila. Manilla), The Bourne Legacy is unfortunately the product of an identity crises behind the scenes instead of in front of the camera, where it belongs. Where Prometheus at least tried to have its cake and eat it, arguably succeeding through sheer force of will alone, Legacy does neither. Badly. The Bourne Travesty, more like.


About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

One Response to The Bourne Legacy (2012)

  1. Pingback: August 2012 – My shoe is bigger than this car! « popcornaddict

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