Review: ‘The Bourne Legacy’

Oh, hey, was that another two week hiatus? My, how time flies. What’s your excuse this time? Did I already use “walkabout?” Yeah. Shit. Yeah.  And you used “writer’s block” earlier this summer. Then I guess I’ll have to go with “general laziness.” Next time you should just fake your death. Oh, that’s your answer for everything.

Speaking of faking your death, here’s a review of The Bourne Legacy.

The Bourne Legacy (2012):

Universal Pictures

The Plot: After the events of The Bourne Ultimatum, some of the government’s shadier agencies are scrambling to do damage control. Brief re-cap: Jason Bourne kind of f*cked things up. For everybody. This film follows Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner!), a chemically-enhanced agent on the run after Desk Agent Eric Byer (Edward Norton) orders several programs to be “shut down” in an effort to help the government save face after Bourne f*cks things up. “Shut down” means all the Bourne-lite agents get killed. Fortunately, Aaron Cross is not Bourne-lite. He is more like the richly flavored winter lager to Bourne’s classic ale. Meaning that he’s not only not worse, but that he is generally more interesting, and, I don’t know, probably even has a higher alcohol content.

As I suggested through that clever, writer-ly use of a beer analogy, Aaron Cross has a lot more personality than Jason Bourne. Matt Damon is likeable enough, but the first three films kind of use Amnesia and Fighting as character traits, and let Plot take care of the rest. Endearingly Confused only gets you so far, guys.

Aaron Cross knows exactly who he is and what he’s doing, which I guess is why he feels comfortable enough to crack some jokes. Renner is good at the Stoic Badass thing when it’s needed, but he also infuses the role with some much-needed charisma.

Universal Pictures
“I am smiling.”

An early scene in an isolated Alaskan cabin has Aaron meeting another “program member” (Oscar Isaac) for the first time. Aaron asks questions and pushes buttons. He’s friendly and open, ready to take whatever it is that life throws at him. That’s a pretty good outlook for a guy who just spent two days hiking through the wilderness and fighting wolves. Also, Jeremy Renner fights wolves. It’s pretty great.

Bournes Identity through Ultimatum were about a somewhat bland man trying to come to terms with his past in order to make a new life. The Bourne Legacy is largely about self-preservation. Aaron Cross has only just begun to question his place in life. He knows that his government will require him to do some shady things, but he also knows that those shady things are necessary. He just isn’t sure if he can do what needs to be done. He doesn’t want to take down the government or anything, and that’s kind of refreshing in a movie like this. There’s no massive conspiracy. On one end there’s Edward Norton, trying to clean up a mess as efficiently as possible. At the other end is Aaron Cross, trying not to get cleaned up. That’s pretty much it. No real bad guys, just people stuck in situations that require someone to die.

Universal Pictures
“I’m sorry, but we have to let you go…with murder.  But good job filling out those TPS reports.”

Thrown into the middle of all this is Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), a resourceful scientist. Before all the “cleaning up,” she worked on the program that gave Aaron his chemical enhancements. Now, people are trying to kill her for reasons she’s not really sure of. The only reason that Aaron comes to her rescue is because he needs her to give him one last injection to make all of his enhancements permanent. It’s not until they’ve been on the run for days that the two start to care about each other on an emotional level. At first, they’re just working together out of necessity.

Universal Pictures
Did I mention that I have a huge crush on Rachel Weisz? Because I do.

One of the film’s greatest strengths is its casting. I’ve already gone over how charismatic Renner is, but Weisz’s performance is just as impressive. She treats the role with as much dedication as any other, transforming Dr. Shearing from Fairly Generic Thriller Heroine to Real Human Being (and a real hero). Edward Norton, too, adds dimension to a character that easily could have been totally forgettable. Eric Byer is dedicated and sensible, and Norton sells those traits as having a solid emotional foundation.

Now, this movie isn’t all sunshine and character development. Not only is it a thriller, but it is a Bourne Thriller. That means that there is a lot of Plot. On that front, it wouldn’t hurt to re-familiarize yourself with The Bourne Ultimatum before seeing this movie. The events of this film are very much affected by the events of the last three. Actually, the first, like, twenty-plus minutes of Legacy take place during Supremacy and Ultimatum. It can be a little confusing trying to follow exactly how everything matches up, but it isn’t hard to fill any gaps if you think a bit.

In the end, a lot of the complicated government stuff isn’t all that important. At its core, The Bourne Legacy is about conflicted, basically decent people trying to do what needs to be done while under immense pressure. Along the way there’s some cool action scenes and a slightly tiresome motorcycle chase, but the best part of the film is the fact that it treats its characters like real people.

3 thoughts on “Review: ‘The Bourne Legacy’

  1. Great review! I wish I could have seen it at the movies, but I think there’s too much shaky-cam for me. I hope you plan to review Lawless — I gather Tom Hardy is great and Shia LaBoef not so much… so I’ll be interested in your opinion. And won’t it be great when I get to read two reviews (yours and your brother’s)?

  2. Pingback: Second Breakfast Previews the Cannes Lineup | Rooster Illusion

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