After completing The Bourne Ultimatum, Director Paul Greengrass and Actor Matt Damon were probably asked if they’d ever come back to do another. When you look at the overall story, Bourne’s journey was pretty complete, and Damon voiced that he’d only consider doing another if Greengrass did. After Greengrass bowed out, the notion of another chapter in the Bourne saga was dead in the water.
Universal had other ideas, deciding on moving forward and having the trilogy’s screenwriter, Tony Gilroy direct The Bourne Legacy. No stranger to making films, Gilroy is more known for making “slow burn” features like Duplicity and one of my favorites, Michael Clayton. If he were working on a remake to “All the President’s Men”, I’d be certain it was a perfect fit. For Bourne, however, we get something of a different result. Not a terrible one, but possibly not the one that everyone was hoping for. This almost makes sense, considering that even the Bourne novels themselves were taken over by Eric Van Lustbader after Robert Ludlum’s death.
The Bourne Legacy takes place during the same time period as The Bourne Ultimatum. The story expands not on what happened to Bourne post Ultimatum, but what happened to the programs in place in the aftermath of Bourne’s visit to New York. We find Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), part of a separate program that goes beyond Treadstone and Blackbriar, making his way through a snowy Alaskan wilderness. The new breed of agents (assets, as they’re referred to in the Bourne Universe) are genetically augmented by way of meds they call “Chems”. The Chems give the assets the edge they need to do what they do.
This bothered me a little, because Jason Bourne got by with none of that for years, but I chalk that part of the storyline to the notion that Gilroy has this thing for Pharmaceuticals and Chemicals. Michael Clayton’s antagonist worked for a Chemical Company. Duplicity’s spies were trying to steal secrets from a pair of what seemed like pharmaceutical companies. The reasoning behind Cross’ need for the Chems is made clear through the story, but it was a strange angle to go on, I felt.
During the course of Aaron’s trip, the Powers That Be, played by, Stacy Keach, Donna Murphy and an underused Edward Norton decide that Bourne’s actions (along with Joan Allen’s Pamela Landy) are going to cause all of their programs some serious trouble and decide to wipe the slate clean. Cross needs to both escape this while still finding a way to get a hold of the Chems he needs to stay at peak performance. That’s the idea behind the Bourne Legacy in a nutshell.
On a casting level, The Bourne Legacy is actually very good. Both Renner and Rachel Weisz handle their parts well, I thought (for what they were given). A few of the cast members return from the previous Bourne films, but their appearances are so brief that it may leave you feeling as if they were just a piece of leftover film from the Original Trilogy. If there’s anyone who feels out of place, it would have to be Edward Norton. He comes across in this movie like he wasn’t sure what he wanted to take on and decided to just do this to pass the time.
The action in the Bourne Legacy is on par with the other films, but this being Gilroy, there’s more of a distance between the action and the drama. When I really think about it, there’s about the same amount of it as there was in The Bourne Identity or Supremacy – neither one of those were die hard action films – but the potential to wish for more is greater with Legacy. This is especially true with the way it was advertised. Just about every action scene in the film is in the trailer. That said, Gilroy has gotten better at being able to handle these scenes. A few more films like this and he should do really well in the future.
Just like Michael Clayton, however, the movie ends so abruptly that you may blink a few times in protest. Gilroy needs to work on that part.
So overall, The Bourne Legacy wasn’t a story that was needed, nor does it really add too much more to the Bourne Universe over all, but it’s nice to return to the espionage that surrounds it. Here’s hoping that this could give something more for Renner, Gilroy and the rest of the team.