Remake, reboot, sequel, prequel or spinoff – which will it be this week?
In the case of The Bourne Legacy, I’m going with spinoff. Sure, it’s technically the fourth film in the spy series popularised by star Matt Damon and directors Doug Liman (Identity) and Paul Greengrass (Supremacy, Ultimatum), but since Legacy sorely lacks said talents, I simply cannot bring myself to call it a sequel, just as I cannot bring myself to call it ‘good’.
Jeremy Renner (Mission: Impossible 4, The Avengers) plays Aaron Cross, an assassin super-agent with the misfortune of being in the same government program that Jason Bourne fled from in the previous films. A striking contrast to Damon’s Bourne, who killed only in self-defence, Cross has no problem snapping whoever’s neck is in his way. He teams up with Marta Shearing, played with typical fervour by Rachel Weisz (The Whistleblower, The Constant Gardener), as they run, drive, fly and motorbike away from an agency that has shown itself to be increasingly corrupt.
Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton, Duplicity) takes over the reins from Greengrass as writer/director, having been a prominent writer on the previous three instalments. That would seem to suggest he would understand what works and what doesn’t in the series, but apparently not.
It won’t be the misleading title and mismarking that’ll ultimately vex viewers, it’ll be Gilroy’s plodding and convoluted script, which makes less sense the more the film rambles on. Legacy is being pitted as an action-heavy continuation of the previous instalments, but in reality, it bares more of a resemblance to Gilroy’s law drama Michael Clayton than anything Jason Bourne. If I remember correctly, there are approximately three action scenes in total. Yes, there are sprinkles of bone-crunching smacks to the face throughout, but essentially, at 135 minutes long, only fifteen of them deliver anything close to the thrills audiences will be expecting.
Renner has proven in the past that he’s capable of unearthing layers within otherwise physical performances, but his character here is nothing more than an emotionless killing machine. He appears fearless as he engages the enemy, rarely even breaking a sweat. Contrast that with Damon’s character in The Bourne Ultimatum, who is pummeled to the ground during a captivatingly visceral struggle with a deadly assassin, leaving him bloodied and breathless. Renner’s Cross never appears to be challenged by his rivals, which leaves what little action there is without tension nor a sense of escalation.
In support, Edward Norton (Moonrise Kingdom, Fight Club) plays Eric Byer, a man hunting down Cross. He appears to be in this movie because, well, he’s Edward Norton. He’s a brilliant actor, but his character serves no real purpose; I suppose he’s the antagonist, but what exactly motivates him? It’s hard to tell when the significance of his orders are lost amid the bouts of incomprehensible dialogue.
Upon leaving the theatre, a woman slammed through the double doors and shouted: “That was not an action movie, that was just talky, talky, talky.” Normally I’d scoff at such a remark, but she was absolutely right. Rarely do we ever feel the rush that the previous films gave us, and although the talent on display is game, The Bourne Legacy exists only as a failed attempt to squeeze more juice out of a once-reputable franchise, which is hardly a legacy worth leaving.