The Bourne Legacy (2012)
Jason Bourne originally graced our screens for the first time seventeen years ago. The Bourne Identity was a gritty, minimalist take on the espionage genre and a welcome change from the excesses of the Pierce Brosnan Bond era. The story arc was sustained over three movies and ended efficiently and succinctly. After which Matt Damon moved on, as did the director of two of the movies, Paul Greengrass. Which leaves us with The Bourne Legacy; the tangential sequel that arrived in 2012. A film that exists because the money men and bean counters hate to pass up on a franchise until it has been squeezed utterly dry. Hence, they commissioned the writer of the series, Tony Gilroy, to come up with a screenplay and direct a spinoff movie. Jeremy Renner was cast in the lead role. Yet despite narrative and production continuity, The Bourne Legacy was not a Jason Bourne movie with the star appeal of Matt Damon. Although the film turned a profit, it had the lowest box office returns out of the entire franchise.
The plot is constructed in such a way to dovetail nicely into the existing storyline. Whether its clever or contrived, I'll leave you to judge. Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is an enhanced soldier from the Outcome program. This is the military's equivalent to CIA’s Treadstone project. After the events of The Bourne Ultimatum, Colonel Byer (Edward Norton) decides to eliminate all traces of Outcome. Not just the agents, but all medical researchers and admin staff. I wouldn't be surprised if that included the cleaners and stationery suppliers as well. So it's not long before Cross goes on the run the run with Dr Marta (Rachel Weisz), the one scientist who designed the physically and mentally enhancing "chems" that cross must take daily. Cue two hours plus of chase scenes, followed by plot exposition by character actors such as Stacy Keach and Scott Glen, followed by more chase scenes. Rinse and repeat.
It’s all very professionally made and somewhat soulless. One of the main selling points of the original Bourne trilogy was the lead character’s amnesia, struggle for identity and possible redemption. This plot device is absent from this movie and thus we’re much less emotionally connected with our hero. The concept of chemically altering a person into a Nietzchean superman is initially intriguing, portraying Cross as an addict. However it is conveniently dispensed with when we discovers that going cold turkey reveals that the drug’s effects are permanent. The ending leaves matters conveniently open for yet further exploration. Overall, The Bourne Legacy is somewhat perfunctory with its matter of fact, A to B style of film making. The movie lacks any dramatic focus.
The Bourne Legacy will provide you with adequate entertainment if you want nothing more than a technically competent chase movie for two hours or so. If you like your fight scenes edited so quickly you haven't a clue who just wupped who, then you're in for a treat. Yet considering the strength of the cast, this is a somewhat grey action movie. Apart from The Hurt Locker and The Town, I have yet to see Jeremy Renner in a role that he excels in. Certainly not any of his performances as Hawkeye, the dullest member of The Avengers. Overall, fans of the entire franchise can easily skip this instalment. It is worth noting that Matt Damon returned for a fourth movie in 2016 which provided a codicil to the Jason Bourne story arc. However, even this may not be the definitive end to the franchise. A further spinoff television show called Treadstone is due to be broadcast in October this year.