The Bored Legacy
The Bourne Legacy (2012)
Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz
When the covert government program which created him is burned to the ground, super-agent Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) must go on the run with a scientist in tow (Rachel Weisz) who might be the key to his survival.
The Bourne Trilogy featuring Matt Damon was never destined to be a success, instead profiting on Bond fatigue in the early naughties and finding a better than expected lead. Over five years and three iterations, it built up to one of the finest action thrillers of the decade in Ultimatum. And there it should have ended.
Before the first frame flickers into being on screen, we already know that there’s nothing necessary about The Bourne Legacy. Even Damon and director Paul Greengrass knew it, decamping to pastures new before the stain of an extraneous new entry could reach them. They’ve passed the baton to Renner and formerly writer, now writer/director Tony Gilroy for an attempt to tell an alternative narrative of a fellow genetically altered spy.
Sadly, as well as being somewhat unwanted, the film has to contend with the fact that it’s one of the least interesting ‘thrillers’ to appear for many a year. The story simply has no momentum – the only real motivation for our central character is to get his fix of a mysterious drug which maintains his superhuman qualities while a bunch of bureaucrats try their best to kill him, for no real reason.
In the place where you would normally expect an dynamic and engaging narrative to be, Gilroy (and fellow writer and sibling Dan Gilroy) instead insert enough jargon, acronyms and bullshit science to fill a half dozen episodes of CSI. A lot of decent actors in carefully dishevelled shirts shout nonsense as a substitute for drama as the audience tries to figure out what the hell is going on. Even our central story strand, Cross’s quest for his blue and green pills, is never properly explained. What do the pills actually do? How long can he go without them? And what, exactly, happens if he doesn’t take them?
By now your brain is probably saying at least the action is good. Tell your brain to shut up, it’s wrong. Apart from a brief snowbound bit of running and exploding things, Legacy doesn’t mount a discernible set piece for almost an hour. That’s 60 minutes of watching people talk when they should be having their talky bits elbow smashed by Renner, four quarters of an hour when no one gets arm flailed into unconsciousville. You know what people like when they go to see an action thriller? Action. And thrills.
When it finally arrives, Legacy does serve up some watchable violence – an assault on an isolated mansion is fairly effective, with one nice, CG assisted long shot. But then things grind to a halt again for 30 minutes and change until some apparently genre required parkour nonsense and the most interminable car chase since TheMatrix Reloaded. By the end, Renner is wearing shades and straddling a motorcycle, barely avoiding looking like he’s in a deleted scene for Mission: Impossible 2. But at least that was frigging fun!
For the record, I like Renner. He’s a charismatic guy and deserves the higher profile the last few years have brought. It’s also good to see him try to create a slightly different character to Bourne clone, Cross is a little more emotional and unstable and he handles the dull dialogue as best he can. I remain unconvinced on his action credentials – while the camera work is less shaky than previous Bourne entries, the editing remains choppy.
Weisz fails to add anything to the film beyond being an annoying dead weight during the action-packed moments and Edward Norton does little but shout when he’s supposed to. A bunch of other players reprise their roles from the other movies – Joan Allen, Scott Glenn, David Strathairn – but they’re just window dressing, a sleight of hand to make you think this is really a Bourne film.
The Bourne Legacy is an all out disappointment. Despite running nearly 20 minutes longer than any of the other films in the series (at 135 minutes) the story is the weakest of the bunch and the lacklustre action means even fans of the more lurid stuff are unlikely to be entertained.