Review: The Bourne Legacy


I know that the Bourne series is one of the top names in action, but I never really saw it turning into a franchise that went beyond Matt Damon’s run. In fact before seeing The Bourne Legacy, a film where Jeremy Renner takes over for Damon as a government super spy gone rouge, I was pretty sure the franchise should have stopped with the third one… or even the second.

After seeing The Bourne Legacy I can tell you that opinion has not changed.

The Bourne Legacy
Director: Tony Gilroy
Rated: PG-13
Release Date: Aug. 10, 2012

There a lot of issues with The Bourne Legacy and they’re mostly derived from the fact that it shouldn’t really be a Bourne film. While the story has threads from the previous film in it, it’s really almost a complete reboot of the franchise that could have ditched Bourne all together and most likely would have been better for it. We’re introduced to yet another top-secret government agency as the previous two start to implode on themselves thanks to Jason Bournes previous actions. This new super spy program is being shut down thanks to Bourne’s previous actions and the means Eric Byer (Edward Norton) must come in and head up a team to clean it up by killing all of the program’s genetically altered spies. Of course they miss one: Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner).

Cross, whose name you may have noticed is not Bourne, promptly hunts down Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) the only survivor in the lab where they administer the drugs he needs to stay a super spy. The two set off to track down a way for him to get off the drugs and action ensues… eventually.

For a Bourne movie (for any action movie, really) this film can drag. The middle is a lot of talking heads and cuts to the “situation room.” While that’s always been the premise of Bourne films — spy in the field vs. government staff in a room — it isn’t handled as well here. The first Bourne created suspense by cutting back and forth between the two, but this one just seems to drag. When the action does pick up, it’s OK, but nothing you’re going to write home about. The hard hitting fights and body breaking moves of previous Bournes make this one seem pretty tame, despite the fact there are some genuinely awesome moments here and there.

What makes it seems all the more dull is that the entire film feels more like a beginning than a complete story. Thanks to the fact that they are so obviously trying to make the franchise go even further the film is so clearly written for sequels that it barely stands on its own. Most of the film feels like the beginning of a movie and when it ends you’re left feeling like you only saw a fraction of the story they want to tell. That’s bad practice even for films that are already established franchises. It makes The Cross Bourne Legacy pretty dull.

Renner wasn’t helping much either. He’s a fine actor, but lacks the fallibleness that Damon brought to the part. The character is such a super spy and Renner plays him so straight that it’s almost impossible to build any tension you’re so convinced he’s going to make it out alive. Weisz and Renner also don’t share that much chemistry so their relationship is oddly tepid for most of the film. Norton tried his best to turn a mostly expository role into something more, but the character just isn’t there to grab on to. Again, a lot of this is because you never feel like the characters are developing beyond the beginning of a movie. Maybe in the inevitable second film we’ll actually get some development beyond what feels like just the beginning of a film.

All this being said the move could have been a lot worse. Renner is really solid when it comes to action, and an invincible super spy isn’t exactly the most boring thing ever to watch. There’s flares of ingenuity throughout the film that are sadly dragged down by the overall feeling of incompleteness. This isn’t the most successful relaunch (and it is a relaunch) of a franchise, but I wouldn’t be angry if a sequel came out.

Matthew Razak
Matthew Razak is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Flixist. He has worked as a critic for more than a decade, reviewing and talking about movies, TV shows, and videogames. He will talk your ear off about James Bond movies, Doctor Who, Zelda, and Star Trek.