Movie Review: Bourne Legacy

By Michael Vass | August 14, 2012

Bourne and not so BourneSo how bad is it? That’s the question that deserves to be answered when discussing the Bourne Legacy, the 4th film in a series that previously was a standout among the action/spy genre.

The Bourne Legacy tries hard to fill the shoes of director Paul Greengrass and lead actor Matt Damon. But hopes and dreams are not the things that create a memorable film. Which is a shame, as the world of Jason Bourne had seemed a bountiful source for material for future films.

It is hard to state what fails the audience the most in the Bourne Legacy. The writing is lackluster. There is no sense of urgency that fills the Greengrass/Damon trilogy. There is no real motivation that compels the audience to watch the details, or even emphasize with any character. Even the attempt at levity, once in the early part of the 2nd act, is a ho-hum experience that barely draws a chuckle from viewers.

But an action film, which this film seems to feel more at home being, rarely grounds itself in deep though or exposition. An example is something so simple that it makes complete sense when you see it in the Bourne Identity, and seems pre-requisite in Bourne Ultimatum, yet in Bourne Legacy it is too complex for a chemically accelerated super assassin’s mental contemplation. Change the female leads hair color.

Moving along to the photography, there isn’t much to say. It’s neither stunning nor refreshing. There are no sequences in the film that will stand out in the minds of viewers 5 minutes after the film ends. In fact, the only location of interest – Manilla in the Phillipines – alternates from being scenes of congested traffic akin to LA highways to claustrophobic alleyways that are everything that the narrow streets of Tunisia presented in Ultimatum were not.

The absolutely best scenes of the film are at the beginning and end (literally) where expansive stretches of nature are on display. The worst scenes may be the constant ambiguous interiors that lack a connection to anywhere real – a deep departure from the prior trilogy. The rest of the film is generally filled with either vaguer backgrounds or places so generic to any film that iyt might as well have been the suburbs of downtown L.A.

A not so furious motorcycle chase
The action sequences should be addressed at this point. Not because they are so good they need to be discussed seperately, but because the review wouldn’t be complete without their inclusion. The film provides close-up views of action that provide glimpses of what is happening while hiding much of the detail. In the wider shots, which is almost all the action scenes, we are treated to chases, and a singular shoot-out, that is par for the course and nothing more. If you are expecting Matt Damon style fights or mobile combat, buy the DVD of the trilogy and skip this film.

Lastly there is the acting. It could be said to be unmotivating, except it is so consistent that you have to believe that it is exactly what the director, Tony Gilroy, wanted.


Jeremy Renner is Aaron Cross, the upgrade to Blackbriar. Chemically enhanced, which may excuse why he seems so dispassionate in virtually every scene. He seems to have an OCD complex about his chemical enhancements, which is only explained halfway through the film. The depiction is akin to a block of wood floating down a river of molasses. Cross never makes you feel interested in who he is, why he made the choice to be in this black-op program, or that he is in any way more capable that Jason Bourne, let alone your average non-enhanced grunt.

Rachel Weisz is Dr. Marta Shearing, and she is forgettable. Given she is the damsel in distress, and so far out of her league that only a modern day White Knight on drugs can save her. Still she is so distanced from what is going on as to be unbelieveable. Working 4 years in an ultra-secret program where she has constant contact with the uber-assassins on a regular basis, and when everyone around her literally falls over dead she is more concerned with the fact that all the scientific research has eneded is not the logical emotional reaction the audience can feel for.

Edward Norton is Eric Byer, a mysterious quasi-governmental head enguled in black-ops and kill squads so secret even the CIA and Stacy Keach’s Mark Turso (the supposed mastermind behind operations Treadstone and Blackbriar) are in the dark. Yet he seems to always be several steps behind the action without an effective plan to gain control of the situation. He is the go-to man, and antagonist of the film, yet he seems less capable than Pam Landy (Joan Allen) at any time except the unbelieveable ending summation.

Any and everyone else in the film is barely more than a goon, set up for an inevitable fall before the force of nature (likely sleep) that is Aaron Cross.

Ultimately, this film is only 1 thing – the premise by which yet another sequel can be created. Nothing is resolved in this film, and as an audience member you just don’t care about that. In leaving the theater the main thought is how likely will it be to have Jason Bourne in the next film.

If you paid to see this film, I’m sorry you didn’t read this or any review that warned you off. If you haven’t seen it, don’t. Wait for it to be in the discount bin for DVD’s. You might get your money’s worth then – if there are a lot of deleted scenes and maybe an easter egg or dozen.

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