‘The Bourne Legacy’
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Edward Norton, Rachel Weisz, Joan Allen, Oscar Isaac
Rated: PG-13, for violence and action sequences
Runtime: 2 hours, 15 minutes
Bottom line: Average rehash of the Bourne formula
Goodbye, Jason Bourne. Hello, Aaron Cross.
Universal Pictures and producer Frank Marshall have prolonged the life of the Bourne franchise, and even though none of the primary characters, star players, or directors that built the trilogy return, everything in “The Bourne Legacy” seems familiar. Too familiar, in fact.
As the movie poster tells us, there was never just one operative in the secret, experimental government programs, engineered by Dr. Albert Hirsch (Albert Finney), that turned regular soldiers like Bourne into world class spies and assassins.
Hirsch’s programs require extreme behavioral conditioning and a regiment of mind- and body-altering drugs.
When a YouTube video (yes, that’s right) threatens to expose the program to the public, retired Air Force Col. and current intelligence agent Eric Byer (Edward Norton) decides the program must be shut down and all the operatives killed.
Cross (Jeremy Renner) is one of those operatives. While he is on a training exercise in the Arctic wilds, a drone attacks his location, and he knows instantly he is now a target of his former superiors.
He also badly needs the drugs the program has forced him to take, for various reasons. So he tracks down Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), who administered regular checkups and refills to the operatives, and with whom Aaron shares a connection.
Once Aaron finds Marta, they are forced to go on the run together, eluding government operatives while they travel to the Philippines and beyond in search of the medication Aaron needs.
Universal Pictures pulls a bait-and-switch with the marketing for “The Bourne Legacy.” We know Renner replaces Matt Damon as the lead, but otherwise the posters and trailers make it seem like many of the supporting players return: Joan Allen, Albert Finney, David Strathairn and Scott Glenn.
But actually none of those actors is given more than a few minutes of screen time, and in some cases, that screen time comes in the form of shots recycled from “The Bourne Supremacy” or “The Bourne Ultimatum.”
Do not expect the characters whom those actors play to factor into this movie in any meaningful way. This story takes place in the same universe as the previous Bourne films, but it has little to do with the saga of Jason Bourne.
Most of the behind-the-camera talent is gone, too. Doug Liman produced and directed “The Bourne Identity” and is the reason the Bourne franchise exists at all. Paul Greengrass directed the last two films. Neither Liman nor Greengrass was involved in “Legacy.”
The only consistency between the Bourne trilogy and “Legacy” is Tony Gilroy, who scripted all three Bourne films. He writes and directs “Legacy.” To be fair, though, Gilroy has directed two outstanding thrillers (“Michael Clayton” and “Duplicity”) and is perhaps the ideal substitute for Greengrass.
Yet the entire movie feels like a substitute for the Bourne movie we really wanted. It follows the formula to the letter: identity crisis, love on the run, government spooks hunting down the hero, rooftop chase, motorcycle chase, exotic locations, etc.
That “Legacy” works at all is a testament to the lead actors. Renner is a powerful screen presence with an innate working class persona. Weisz is the rare actress who is believable as a scientist, yet she is just as comfortable once the story puts Aaron and Marta into action sequences.
Norton does a fine job of creating a villainous heavy, too, even though the movie never pits his character mano-a-mano against Cross.
Gilroy does a respectable job of extending the franchise, but the movie offers nothing we haven’t already seen in the Bourne trilogy. And it does not pack the emotional punch, the thrilling action sequences, or the dramatic crescendo of its predecessors.
“Bourne Legacy” hits all of the same notes of the original but does nothing to escape its status as second-rate.
Jeff Marker teaches film and literature at Gainesville State College. His reviews appear weekly in Get Out and on gainesvilletimes.com/getout.