out of Five
Running time: 135
Watchable continuation of the Bourne franchise with decent action sequences and strong performances from Jeremy Renner and Rachel Weisz, though there's nothing here that wasn't done better in the original trilogy.
What's it all about?
Co-written and directed by Tony Gilroy (writer of the original trilogy), The Bourne Legacy takes place around the same time as the events in The Bourne Ultimatum. With Jason Bourne (an unseen Matt Damon) still at large and causing havoc, shadowy director Byer (Edward Norton) decides to shut down Outcome, a parallel programme to Treadstone, dedicated to creating genetically enhanced super-agents like Bourne.
Shadowy agencies being what they are, “shutting down the programme”
basically translates as killing everyone involved, but agent Cross (Jeremy Renner) slips through the net and tracks down gorgeous geneticist Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), who has access to the programme meds he has become addicted to. With Byers' murderous agents in hot pursuit of both Cross and Marta, the pair head to Manila (where the meds are created) to try and find a solution to Cross' addiction.
Renner/Cross makes an acceptable replacement for Damon/Bourne and the script has fun substituting Bourne's memory loss with Cross' meds addiction, so that at times he displays the wily ingenuity of a super-powered, hyper-intelligent junkie in search of his next fix. Similarly, Weisz is on terrific form as Marta (she has a good line in breathless terror) and generates great chemistry with Renner, while there's strong support from the likes of Norton and Stacey Keach (as Outcome co-director Turso) A string of brief cameos from Bourne regulars David Strathairn, Joan Allen, Albert Finney and Scott Glenn helps to keep the series continuity in check.
Tony Gilroy handles the action sequences decently enough, aided by John Gilroy's brisk editing and striking camerawork from Robert Elswit. The Gilroys (a third Gilroy, Dan, co-wrote the script) also have an eye for an engaging montage sequence: the pacing of the opening scenes of the various agents getting killed off is extremely well done and culminates in one of the film's best moments.
The main problem is that besides a lot of often quite dense exposition, there's very little here that wasn't done better in the original trilogy, with various overly-familiar rehashes (such as Louis Ozawa Changchien's silent assassin) feeling tacked on. On top of that, the script doesn't give either Cross or Marta enough character background for us to really get involved in what happens to them and the ending is both abrupt and unsatisfying, essentially pausing the action until the second instalment rather than delivering a crowd-pleasing finale.
The Bourne Continuation (as they might as well have called it) is enjoyable enough thanks to decent action sequences and strong performances from Renner and Weisz, but it never hits the heights of the original trilogy and you wouldn't care too much if they didn't get to make the second (or fifth) instalment.