Review: The Bourne Legacy / Cert: 12A / Director: Tony Gilroy / Screenplay: Dan Gilroy, Tony Gilroy / Starring: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Scott Glenn, Stacy Keach, Oscar Isaac / Release Date: Out Now
So, the Bourne franchise without Matt Damon, what’s that all about then? You see, some things just have to be together - fish and chips, Laurel and Hardy, James Bond and vodka martinis. Take one element away from the equation and you’re left with something… well, something a bit less interesting (apart from Bond, maybe). And so it is with The Bourne Legacy, a prime example of Hollywood in full ‘you wouldn’t let it lie’ mode; Matt Damon and franchise director Paul Greengrass bailed out of a fourth entry in the high-energy action series so we’re left with Tony Gilroy (who, to be fair, scripted all the previous films) to step up to the plate as director with rising star Jeremy Renner drafted in to reboot the series. Bourne again, you might say. Crueller critics might be more tempted to say still-Bourne.
We're not entirely sure what the point of The Bourne Legacy is beyond the lure of more box office ker-ching for greedy studio types. The whole series revolved so much around Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne that whatever his ‘legacy’ might be, his absence is more than sorely felt and the film’s cause isn’t really helped by constant references to his character which only serve to remind us how much slicker and consistently adrenalised the original trilogy was. But that’s not to say that Legacy is in itself a bad film; it’s just a bit underpowered, undernourished and ultimately underachieving. Frustratingly, once the film starts to free itself a little from the shackles of its past - generally the last hour or so - it starts to breathe and relax and become its own animal. With hindsight perhaps Renner and Gilroy might have had a better shot at making something a bit more inventive if they’d been able to tell an original story with original characters and with none of the Bourne baggage dragging it down.
With Jason Bourne still on the loose in New York (early events of Legacy purport to take place at the same time as The Bourne Ultimatum) we discover that the ‘Treadstone’ project was just “the tip of the iceberg”. Aaron Cross (Renner) is a volunteer in the ‘Outcome’ initiative which pumps agents full of chemicals which stimulate their senses, strength and perception. I’m not entirely sure how - sexy scientist Rachel Weisz spectacularly info-dumps at one point but I didn’t understand a word she was saying - but clearly the authorities are a bit peeved about it when they realise that Aaron has gone rogue, in search of more of the chemicals he’s now addicted to. In best Bourne tradition - it’s his legacy, you see - Aaron finds himself pursued by Outcome spies and agents who want to wipe him out - along with anyone who associates with him. Aaron teams up with Marta Shearing (Weisz, doing her best in an underwritten role), one of the scientists who developed the drugs and the pair zip off to a manufacturing plant in Manilla so she can rustle up some more of the good stuff he needs. Inevitably, back in New York, lots of ferocious-looking people in suits who spend far too much time staring at computer screens are onto him, using all the fancy eye-in-the-sky technology Hollywood is so keen on to track him down and send any number of local Police and trained killers to rub him out before he can make any more of their grubby little secrets public.
It’s a decent enough story but Legacy probably misses Paul Greengrass as much as it misses Damon. The script takes an age to pick up any momentum - stop talking so much! - and the action sequences just don’t have the breathless kick of the original trilogy. Fight scenes look both confusing and confused and even a rooftop-and-bike chase around Manilla seems a bit perfunctory. Pug-nosed Renner’s no match for Damon; his Aaron Cross is pretty much a name in search of a decent character. He does a good line in sarcasm now and again but he has none of the boyish bravado of Damon who made Jason Bourne so effortlessly believable.
But despite its thumpingly slow build-up, muddy action scenes and exposition-crazed script, The Bourne Legacy just about passes muster as an acceptable action movie. But as the fourth entry in a series as searingly-good as the original Bourne trilogy it doesn’t even come close to matching the style and quality of what’s gone before and by the time the movie grinds to a halt we need a little bit of Moby to remind us that this has been part of the same series at all. Not a terrible disappointment then, just a slightly bitter one.
Expected Rating: 8 out of 10