Five years ago we witnessed the conclusion of one of the most popular action series to hit screens for some time and with it the solidifying of Matt Damon as a true action hero. Following the path of Jason Bourne, recovering his memory and investigating his past, the trilogy provided one of the most compelling plots and characterisations in action cinema ever. Whilst a conclusion was met in The Bourne Supremacy, coupled with the announcement that both director Paul Greengrass and star Matt Damon would not be returning, a fourth Bourne outing was confirmed, this time with Jeremy Renner thrust into the lead role. The question is; can Bourne live on without its two main men in The Bourne Legacy?
As Jason Bourne sets about exposing both the Treadstone Project and Operation Blackbriar, two undercover operations heavily focused on in the original film trilogy, the spotlight moves toward Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner). Cross is an individual who is part of a special ops program named Operation Outcome, run by the Department Of Defence. Gaining both physically and mentally through the consumption of supplied blue and green pills, Cross is among a number of participants in the program, his location in the snowy backdrop that is Alaska.
Following the uncovering of Treadstone and Blackbriar at the hands of Bourne, returned Air Force colonel turned CIA overwatch Eric Byer (Edward Norton) takes the decision to eliminate all participants in the project in the fear that the government could find themselves sinking deeper into investigation in the midst of current events. As the agents begin to disappear via the swapping of the supplied medical pills, Aaron Cross finds himself evading not one but two predator drone attacks and escaping with his life.
In addition to the agents killed, Byer orchestrates a ‘clean-up’ of the medical laboratory in which the enchancing drugs are supplied and the agents assessed, only to find Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) miraculously escapes the scene. As Byer’s team close in on Shearing to silence her for good, Cross arrives on scene and the pair go on the run, all whilst trying to uncover exactly why their lives are no longer meaningful.
Taking over directorial duties from Paul Greengrass and making the step up from his previous screenwriting role, Tony Gilroy had a huge task in his hands, to take an already celebrated film series and continue its reign as one of the best in recent action cinema history. In truth,a change in focus certainly doesn’t do the film too many favours but in intertwining the story with previously covered events Gilroy is able to maintain an interest to series fans.
Casting a replacement for Matt Damon’s government evading memory loss victim was quite possibly the toughest task and in Jeremy Renner, a now proven action star, those fears can be alleviated albeit a performance never quite matching the magnetism of Damon. Cutting a powerful figure of muscular stature, there is little doubting Renner’s credentials as a leading man and for the majority he carries his performance with relative ease, but in content he is let down.
Backed up by the likes of relative veterans Rachel Weisz and Edward Norton, Legacy is far from lacking in firepower but once again the stars on show are offered far from inspiring roles. Each seemingly breezing through their character outing without very little struggle, Weisz and Norton are a far cry from the performances offered in previous outings from Joan Allen and Albert Finney.
As action thrillers go, The Bourne Legacy is all dependant on word play and focuses very little on giving us an exhibition of Aaron Cross’ apparent improved abilities compared to one Jason Bourne. Accepted, there are instances where we get to grips with Cross grappling with foes but it is all too quick fire and concluded for us to savour much of a taste. Considering the film’s run time of over two hours it almost seems a shock that action sequences falter in their time of need, showcased more so in a motorbike chase scene appearing to be inspired by the likes of Terminator 2 but stopping far short of any likeness.
Whilst a well orchestrated intertwined story for the Bourne canon to find itself further longevity, Tony Gilroy’s series debut somewhat falls short of expectations and presents a rather flat entry as opposed to its predecessors gripping prowess. Jeremy Renner and co do their best with some rather lacklustre content and Renner himself proves he has the quality to continue as leading man, but an extra gear is desperately needed to get the series fully back on track.