Review: “The Bourne Legacy”

The fourth entry in the “Bourne” franchise has some thrills, but it can’t meet the standards set by the original trilogy.


“The Bourne Legacy:

Rated: PG-13

Directed by: Tony Gilroy

Starring: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton

Opens: August 10


In a year full of prequels, remakes and reboots, the minds behind the massively successful “Bourne” franchise did the unthinkable: when faced with losing leading man Matt Damon, they continued the story without him.

Instead, series scribe Tony Gilroy stepped up to helm the “the Bourne Legacy,” which casts a new hero and attempts to expand the “Bourne” mythology. The results are decent, but nowhere near the heights of the original trilogy.

“Legacy” focuses on Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) another super assassin created by the CIA. When a leak is discovered, Ross’ handler Eric Byer (Edward Norton) begins cleaning house by killing his own agents. Ross must connect with a government scientist (Rachel Weisz) who can get him the ability-enhancing pills he needs to survive.

“Legacy” works hard to weave itself alongside the events of “the Bourne Ultimatum,” which happen concurrently. Jason Bourne’s exploits are mentioned, and key figures from previous films are glimpsed at. This marries Ross and Bourne’s plotlines well, but the frequent references to “Ultimatum” also serve as consent reminders of the more interesting film playing out in the background

This overlong first act culminates in a brutal workplace shooting. The scene is well shot, but would be disturbing even without recent events.

Cross’ story is triggered by his former bosses trying to kill him, but he never seems to question why or even fight back much. Cross’ only concern is getting to the Philippines to find the medicine he relies on to keep his advanced abilities.

Even though “Legacy” is expanding the world of the Bourne series, this pill addiction plot device makes the scope of the film feel very small. Gilroy drops in flashbacks to Ross and Byer’s past together and seems to be mounting to a confrontation and then…nothing. After more than two hours, when the credits roll, it feels like the movie is missing its final reel.

Gilroy stays true to the style and themes of the series, although he ditches Paul Greengrass’ perpetually shaky camera. His action scenes are decent, but there are too few of them. Besides the workplace shooting and a scene where Cross wrestles with a wolf (yep), there are only two extended action sequences.

After supporting turns in “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” and “The Avengers,” Renner has proven himself more than capable of headlining a big budget action movie. Renner performs quite well here, especially in his early scenes opposite another field agent. But when compared to Damon, Renner was set up to fail. It would be better for Renner to start fresh, not enter a franchise with ten years, almost a billion dollars in box office gross, and an established hero behind it.

This problem extends to the rest of “Legacy,” It’s admirable to press on and expand the “Bourne” universe without Damon, but “Legacy” just isn’t up to the task. The efforts it makes to fit into that story end up over complicating the plot. More room to breath, perhaps in the inevitable sequel, would allow the film to work out its kinks.

“Legacy” had potential to be a solid action movie on its own, but attaching the “Bourne” name invites a comparison it just can’t match.