JJ Silf: The Bourne Legacy Review

Posted: August 29, 2012 by JJ Silf in JJ Silf's Movie Reviews

Release Date: August 10th, 2012

Running Time: 135 minutes (2 hours and 15 minutes)

Written by: Tony Gilroy & Dan Gilroy

Inspired by: Robert Ludlum’s Bourne series (novels)

Directed by: Tony Gilroy

Starring: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton

If you happened to ask me what my favorite film trilogy is for whatever apparent reason, I would have to think about it carefully and I’d have difficulties making one concise choice, but I would be lying if I didn’t say that the original Bourne trilogy wasn’t right up there. The Bourne Identity was the first film to be released of this trilogy way back in the far off time of 2002, concluding the trilogy with The Bourne Ultimatum in 2007. With the release of the third film, so concluded the Bourne trilogy, receiving high praise as a whole from movie-lovers everywhere… or so we thought. It was just a few months ago that I saw the first teaser trailer for The Bourne Legacy and the first thing that came to my mind was, “where’s Jason Bourne”? I was skeptical about another Bourne film after being so satisfied with the original three but I was intrigued to see the likes of Jeremy Renner and Edward Norton as the leads. And although the film was not set to be directed by Paul Greengrass, who was responsible for both The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, it was in the hands of Tony Gilroy, who had been involved in the screenwriting process for each of the original Bourne films. My interest was definitely peaked, but my skepticism remained. Fast forward to present day and I can finally express how well The Bourne Legacy stood up against the original Bourne films.

The Bourne Legacy revolves around a mysterious, intelligent and efficient field operative not named Jason Bourne. Instead, the protagonist is known as Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), an operative working with a secret organization known as Operation Outcome run by the American government’s Department of Defense that administers intellectual and physical enhancing drugs to their operatives. While working a training routine in Alaska, Cross is unaware of the on-goings elsewhere in the world involving another government operation being revealed to the world, Operation Blackbriar and the Treadstone Project. It just so happens that Jason Bourne was responsible for exposing the operation to the world, seen in The Bourne Ultimatum. Upon this exposure, the FBI is called into investigate several parties linked to the operation, including the director of the CIA, Ezra Kramer (Scott Glenn). Worried and panic stricken, Kramer seeks the aid of a retired Air Force colonel by the name of Eric Byer (Edward Norton) in covering up Operation Outcome before it’s likely exposure. Byer soon decides there’s only one way to deal with this without the operation being revealed entirely; bring it to an end. This proves problematic for operative Aaron Cross who has to fend for his life while searching for the meds that he needs in order to maintain sanity and his life itself.

The first aspect of the film that needs addressing is the main protagonist of the film. I’m sure there were many fans of the original trilogy who were sorely disappointed to hear that Matt Damon would not be cast as the Jason Bourne we’ve grown to know and love over the years, but fear not, because Aaron Cross is quite the character himself. Jeremy Renner does a very good job as Aaron Cross and is thankfully the highlight of the entire film. The audience and fans of the original trilogy are introduced to a character that seems to have more of a charismatic charm than that of one Jason Bourne. Cross is more outspoken than what audiences were used to with Jason Bourne, and I think this works in Renner’s advantage as he sells the role of mouthy operative quite well. The character is likeable, Renner’s portrayal is excellent and the past disappointment regarding the missing presence of Matt Damon is definitely subdued.

As for the supporting cast, it’s mostly a hit rather than a miss. I was actually quite intrigued and excited to see Edward Norton, one of, if not my favorite actors, cast in this film. Norton, playing the government antagonist hell bent on seeing that Cross is exterminated to cover up Operation Outcome, presents a solid and believable performance but I couldn’t help but feel that he could have done so much more in this film. Norton does not receive a whole ton of screen time and the majority of his appearances are simply addressing others in the war room. Throughout the film, I was thinking about the Edward Norton from films such as American History X, and more recently, Moonrise Kingdom. I’m somewhat disappointed that Norton wasn’t given more to do in this film to truly show his chops, but nevertheless, his performance was a good one. Rachel Weisz, perhaps most well known for her Academy Award winning performance in The Constant Gardener, is cast as Dr. Marta Shearing, one of the scientists responsible for the production of the meds that Operation Outcome administers to their operatives. Initially, I wasn’t all too impressed with her performance, however the more I reflect on her performance, the more I am relatively pleased with her performance. Weisz did a good job at conveying the mental anxiety a normal person would experience when put through a series of dangerous and life-threatening situations. Again, another good performance from a supporting cast member. The rest of the supporting cast was not noticeably fantastic or lackluster by any stretch, although I was glad to see a short appearance made by Oscar Isaac, notably known for playing Standard in the 2011 film, Drive.

Unfortunately, it is the film’s story that falls short of what one would expect from a Bourne film. The primary problem I have with the film’s storyline is that by the end of the film, I felt that very little was accomplished. A 2 hour and 15 minute film where the main objective of the protagonist feels as though that objective isn’t interesting enough to warrant an entire feature length film about completing said objective. Instead of being it’s own film and creating a real, daunting goal for our protagonist to complete, the film sends Cross on what seems like a side quest that is the first film of more to come. By the time the credits begin to roll, you can’t help but think, “nothing was really resolved”. When comparing this to The Bourne Identity for example, it may have been building up to a sequel, but at least there was a sense of accomplishment made in that film. Problems were resolved. I want my film to feel as though progress is made rather than just simply checking off one ingredient in the cookbook.

Another area where I thought The Bourne Legacy disappointed on was it’s pacing. The original Bourne trilogy was known for it’s hard-hitting action and hand-to-hand combat takes. While this Bourne film does eventually deliver some solid and entertaining action and chase scenes, the film does tend to drag on a lot in the first act without any real action coming in until well past an hour into the flick. One would expect a movie with the name “Bourne” in the title to not be cluttered with generic exposition throughout the first act of the film and not having a single round fired off until the second act. I will admit however that the final act does present some good action sequences and a very entertaining chase scene towards the climax of the film (that ends rather clumsily, however).

I suppose I should end with one more positive before I wrap things up: as the camera panned out and the end credits began to roll, that sharp, wonderful, familiar sound indicates that the film is staying true to the other three Bourne films as “Extreme Ways” by Moby blares over the end credits. I personally adore this song (it’s on repeat as I write this review right now) and was quite pleased to see it re-appear in this fourth installment. However, I suppose this could be seen as a negative for those who feel that hearing that familiar tune in a film that doesn’t quite hold up to the original Bourne films, just doesn’t quite feel right. I for one was happy to hear it.

When it’s all said and done, The Bourne Legacy isn’t what I’d want from something directly related to the original trilogy starring Matt Damon. Instead, it’s an average Summer action film that sees a very good performance from one Jeremy Renner, but suffers from a convoluted and almost meaningless script. I will say that I did have fun with this film despite it’s flaws. The original trilogy will always be near and dear to my heart and I couldn’t help but compare the original trilogy to The Bourne Legacy, and simply put, there is enough good things about this film for me to recommend it to others; even those not familiar with the original Bourne trilogy, but it doesn’t even come within reach with any of the three predeceasing films.

Rating: C+

On that note, I shall leave you with this:

  1. Niejan says:

    Hi. Again another awesome review. I have added you to my blogroll. Keep up the good work!

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