Review: Tony Gilroy's 'Bourne Legacy' is Empty Franchise-Building

August 9, 2012

The Bourne Legacy

There was a ton of potential for The Bourne Legacy, a film that expands the universe of the Jason Bourne films by bringing someone on the fringe of those events into the forefront. Especially with Tony Gilroy, screenwriter of the first films who comes on here as both writer & director, acting as author of the franchise, it seemed a hard-hitting and intellectually engaging film was on the way. There is some of that, but The Bourne Legacy is mostly a bunch of wheel-spinning with far less interesting action to push the excitement forward. It's the opposite of energetic and has you longing for the shaky-cam days of Paul Greengrass.

As with the previous sequels, The Bourne Legacy maneuvers itself in and out of threads left behind, events and characters who played major roles in the earlier films only serving as setup for the story told here. It's actually a much simpler story than that of a rogue agent who has lost his memory. As a result of Jason Bourne's actions, the CIA decides to disband the entire project, wiping out all of the agents they currently have in the field. One such agent is Aaron Cross, played by Jeremy Renner. Currently stationed in the wilderness, Cross feeds himself a steady diet of agency-issued pills that enhance him physically as well as mentally. After the assumed purge, though, Cross finds himself on the run and in search of answers. Aiding in his journey is Marta Shearing, a scientist who helped administer the medication. She is played by Rachel Weisz who turns on the hysterical clueless act early and doesn't turn it off before a long time has passed.

The first hour of The Bourne Legacy does a fine job setting the players in motion. Gilroy definitely has a strong hand when it comes to writing stolid characters delivering important lines of potentially earth-shattering dialogue. The importance put on the events that take place early in the film is both heard and felt by the characters pushing the narrative.Some of it comes off as shaky exposition, the occasional moments where someone explains something they have no reason to say out loud. But it all builds nicely to what promises to be an exciting showdown between agents in the field and the pencil-pushers who send those agents on their course. That promise isn't fulfilled.

The introductions and set-up is spotted with action, much of it same fight and chase styles we've come to expect from the Bourne franchise. Gilroy shoots the fighting in such a way that you feel the jarring of peoples' heads when Renner's character slams them down on a table. The violence throughout the film is much heavier than you might expect from your typical, PG-13 actioner. There's even blood when people get shot, not a new concept for this franchise but still surprising to see in anything less than R.

Unfortunately, the last half of the film never lives up to the promise raised by its leading half. Aaron and Marta go on the run, board a plan for another country where they feel the answers to their questions lie, but it's here where everything about the film comes to a screeching halt. Instead of keeping the momentum he's established, Gilroy slows everything down, shows us every step of Aaron and Marta boarding the plane, traveling on the plane, and finding their destination on the other side. All the while, we cut back to the CIA offices, where the team of baddies, led by Edward Norton and the always welcome Stacy Keach, do nothing but check security footage for any sign of their quarry.

By the time the action decides it wants to kick back in again, we've all but lost interest, but this is also the point where Gilroy decides—or maybe this was Universal's decision—to keep so much in the dark, so many loose strands dangling that it all but requires a sequel. Seemingly gone are the days where a film, no matter how long it is—Legacy clocks in at 135 minutes—is able to ask and answer all of the questions it sees fit in asking. Gilroy's film touches on the moral implications of the choices its characters make and breezes past any emotional ties these characters might have. Aaron questions a fellow field agent, played by the always solid Oscar Isaac, about a woman he once loved. There's a moment of mystery built, but nothing comes of it. Maybe it's another set-up for the sequel.

If The Bourne Legacy is the first of a new franchise, they've certainly got the right leading man for the job. Renner is the one element to this film that works completely from beginning to end. He's an actor who often fits in perfectly with the blue collar characters, the everyday faces who can do extraordinary feats of strength that Gilroy's Bourne universe is so keen on creating. Aaron Cross is never as engaging a character as Jason Bourne, but Renner does everything in his power to keep you from begging for more Matt Damon.

There's little else to say in The Bourne Legacy's defense. Norton is always convincing even when, like here, he has very little to do but look menacingly at a computer monitor. The movie misuses CGI in the most awkward and unnecessary of ways. Seeing a guy jump down from a tree knocks you out of any sense of reality when he looks like an Elf from Lord of the Rings while doing it. There is one single shot involving Aaron scaling the side of a house that seems to do what the entire film fails at. It's something we've seen before but never quite like it's captured here, and it creates the film's only genuine sense of awe. Were there more or had the screenplay given us this same feeling, The Bourne Legacy would serve as a convincing and suitable continuance to the franchise. As empty and half-constructed as it is, though, there's very little that would make further Bourne-less missions worth taking.

Jeremy's Rating: 5 out of 10

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Despite the great cast... I honestly didn't feel this would be all that great. Kind of confirmed it's just squeezing every drop from the franchise.. :

Nick Sears on Aug 9, 2012


How is this confirmed?

vaginaman on Aug 9, 2012


Damn. I am saddened that this did not impress you more Jeremy. I had high hopes for BOURNE LEGACY.

DAVIDPD on Aug 9, 2012


who cares what Jeremy said..... are you actually gonna let someone elses review decide the movie for you?

srger on Aug 9, 2012


Haha. By no means do I allow critics to dictate what movies I go see, but Mr. Kirk is one critic whose opinion I respect. I am sorry if you disagree, but those are MY feelings after all.

DAVIDPD on Aug 9, 2012


i don't understand the movies the book the Bourne Legacy brings in or back another character call Joshua Bourne. Bourne son so this movie got nothing to the do with the Bourne movies just the name.

Yehshua Van Den Bergh on Aug 9, 2012


This is actually very good! Renner and Weisz are so likable, u won't want them to die!

Tey on Aug 9, 2012


Man, this review is full of typos. What's going on here?

Timberly Jones on Aug 9, 2012


That's all I could think about. When a review has this many typos, I'm not even thinking about the subject matter. I just wanna know how this got posted in such a poor state lol.

Charles Oosterhouse on Aug 9, 2012


If you guys are so appalled, why don't you please point out the typos and email them to us. You keep saying there are "so many" when we've proofread it and checked and it should be fine. We made some quick corrections, as is the case with blogs, but I don't think it's as bad as many of you are making it out to be.

Alex Billington on Aug 9, 2012


This is the second mediocre rating I've seen for this film. Sucks, I had such high hopes :-/

Mithun Divakaran on Aug 9, 2012


The only time I let critics decide for me is if I'm on the fence to begin with. If it's a film I really want to see then critics matter little, especially for something like this where it's getting around 60% on rt. Lot of stuff I like gets around those numbers, I'm just not as discriminating as some when it comes to escapism So although I stay away from admonishing critics I also don't put their opinions on a pedestal

rocky728 on Aug 9, 2012


The critics are often right because they are also fillm enthousiast but sometimes they let there personal motivations weigh stronger than a objective look at things. when rt gives it a low rating it true when imbd gives a low rating it's certainly true and a waste of money and time. This is a good review and i won't see it in a cinema but onley on dvd and than i think:they where right again!

Avi Smulders on Aug 9, 2012


I gladly believe you, as I have no interest in this one whatsoever.

Davide Coppola on Aug 9, 2012


Dear Alex, every time I see a review by Jeremy Kirk I throw up a bit in my mouth. Please, do all of the reviews yourself!!! You are on a completely different level than this turd!!!

Race Bannon on Aug 9, 2012


I doubt he will when you frame the request like that . why don't u see the movie and then critique JK's specific dislikes . much more informative for the rest of us .

Dominic A on Aug 10, 2012


I thought it was a good and worthy episode to the Bourne series!!!

silentjay on Aug 10, 2012


Longest Motorcycle chase scene ever... I was so bored

Antonio on Aug 10, 2012


I don't think the 2nd half was boring . No movie is slam bang action all the time . You have to set up SOME character development / reasons for attractions between the lead couple(s) . Would you rather have seen them just "appear" in Manilla as Cross did in Marta's house ? added some reality , some tension . For the screenwatchers , didn't you understand that it was a RACE , to see if he would get there and get infected before their location was deduced/security came looking ? and that was the drama ? ( besides Cross and Marta becoming closer ) . Too soap opera-ish for you ? ( shrugs ) . I guess you could have more scenes with the assassin instead ; i think people would say then there's too little slow scenes . Not enough set-up / foreshadowing to understand the " I WANT to be lost " line . Hey he scaled the mountains pretty well . And it looked awesome , That foreshadows the house climbing/roof walking .

Dominic A on Aug 11, 2012

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