DIR: Tony Gilroy WRI: Tony Gilroy, Dan Gilroy PRO: Patrick Crowley,
Frank Marshall, Ben Smith, Jeffrey M. Weiner DOP: Robert Elswit ED:
John Gilroy DES: Kevin Thompson Cast: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz,
Edward Norton, Oscar Isaacs, Albert Finney
Five years on from the award-laden third entry in the franchise (The
Bourne Ultimatum), Robert Ludlum’s spy novels are given a fresh
big-screen spin in the form of The Bourne Legacy. With Paul Greengrass
currently taking a break from the series, helming duties for Legacy
have fallen the way of Tony Gilroy, who worked as a screenwriter on
the previous Bourne films, and made his directorial debut with the
excellent Michael Clayton in 2007.
From the outset, the loss of Greengrass as director should have a
detrimental effect on the overall quality of this film, but this isn’t
the main obstacle facing Legacy, as they have a very capable auteur in
the form of Gilroy, and it should be remembered that the franchise was
kick-started by Doug Liman some ten years ago.
The problem with The Bourne Legacy is the fact that, despite the title
(taken from one Ludlum’s books), Jason Bourne is absent from the
story. Taking over the action man reins from Matt Damon’s amnesiac
protagonist is Avengers star Jeremy Renner, whose profile continues to
rise with each passing film.
Here Renner plays Aaron Cross, a member of Operation Outcome, a black
ops program which is being driven into the ground by the CIA, with the
all agents within the program being picked off one by one. However,
Cross manages to evade his would-be assassination, and joins forces
with Rachel Weisz’s lab technician in an effort to get hold of the
pills that will stop his internal system from shutting down.
Along the way, we hear numerous references to events in the previous
films, much of it filtered through fleeting cameo appearances by
former MVPs like Joan Allen, David Strathairn and Albert Finney.
Ultimately though, Gilroy’s film strives to make Cross the centre of
attention, and in the form of Jeremy Renner, they have a very reliable
presence filling the void that has been left by the impressive Damon.
He convinces in the action set-pieces (particularly in an extended
motorbike chase through Manilla), which are well-executed by second
unit director Dan Bradley and Oscar®-winning cinematographer Robert
Elswit (There Will Be Blood), and generally delivers a nuanced
portrayal of a complexed character.
Yet, despite his best efforts, and despite the fact that the film does
maintain the spirit of what has gone before it, this particular Bourne
film struggles without the presence of its eponymous hero.
Of course, it is not the first time (and presumably won’t be the last
time) that a franchise has carried on without its returning star,
Predator 2 (where Arnold Schwarzenegger was replaced by Danny Glover)
being one obvious example.
However, what helped to make Jason Bourne such a memorable character
was not just the fact that he was such an expert in hand-to-hand
combat, or that he could outwit his enemies at every turn, but the
fact that he was a suffering a very real identity crisis, and would
stop at nothing to discover who he really is.
Through the ever-reliable Damon, he was also a hero who registered on
an emotional level, personified by his teary-eyed confessions to
Oksana Akinshina at the end of The Bourne Supremacy and to Daniel
Bruhl at the beginning of The Bourne Ultimatum.
This is the kind of resonance that is sorely lacking in Legacy, and is
something that needs to be addressed if the series is going to
progress further from here. Though the largely uncontrollable absence
of Bourne doesn’t help them in this matter, it is really a surprise
that this key ingredient is missing, as it is something that Gilroy
has been quite adept at conveying in the past, and Renner also has
form in this department, in film such as the aforementioned Marvel
Avengers Assemble, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and The Hurt
Overall, it is only right to state that The Bourne Legacy is by no
means a bad film, and though many have dismissed it as a ‘cash-grab’
exercise, there is still enough evidence on screen to suggest that
they are looking beyond purely the monetary potential that comes with
expanding the universe of Bourne.
Indeed, as an action-adventure film it does offer enough thrills to
keep audiences interested, and in Edward Norton it has an antagonist
with the potential to become a real threat to Cross/Bourne in future
films, much like Brian Cox in Supremacy.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite come together in the way that fans of
Bourne would like, and though they will be interested in seeing where
Gilroy has brought a story that was first developed by Liman, they
will probably by yearning for the return of Messrs. Greengrass and