Super-spy Jason Bourne, from The Bourne Ultimatum, has exposed a number of uber-soldier programs operated by the CIA to the press. The nature of how they use these soldiers is being investigated by the FBI and question senior CIA staff members including Director Ezra Kramer (Scott Glenn). A decision is made to close down all of the super spy programs with Kramer hiring Eric Byer (Edward Norton) to carry out the necessary assassinations of its global spies.
One particular program, called Outcome, feeds its soldiers with blue and green pills called ‘Chems’ which alter and enhance their mental and physical abilities. One of Outcomes’ shining example is Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), who opens the film in Alaska while on a training assignment. During a blizzard, he takes shelter in a cabin owned by another Outcome agent until a predator drone, sent by Byer, destroys the cabin with a missile killing the other agent and presumed Cross to be dead also.
Surviving the explosion and running low on Chems, Cross makes his way over to see Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), the doctor who regularly assessed him over the last two years. After saving Shearing from assassination by the CIA, Cross demands to know the location of any remaining Chems since his abilities are becoming erratic. Shearing is unable to confirm if any remain however she reveals Cross’s DNA was recently modified to permanently accept the affects of the green pill. Cross enquires of the affects of the blue pill can be made permanent, thus never depending on either pill again, to which Shearing confirms it can but the ‘viralling off’ process can only take place on the other side of the world where the drugs are manufactured. The chase continues to the Far East where the CIA still have a live program and send one of its surviving agents to kill Cross once and for all.
The most interesting thing about the Bourne Legacy is that it opens up the CIA super spy umbrella proving just how big the operation is and how small Jason Bourne is in comparison. That comes courtesy of Bourne’s penman Tony Gilroy who took up both co-screenwriting and directorial duties this time round. The purpose of this, of course, is to open up the franchise so that it has legs. Legacy proves that some agents, like Cross, may have escaped while the CIA kept a few special programs lethally active.
After securing some action roles in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and Avengers (Assemble) Jeremy Renner has proven he has what it takes to be a government spy. What is immediately recognisable about Renner is that he has heart, charm and actually doesn’t mind smiling – unlike Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne who really had a dead pan expression through out his three films. Renner performs well in the action sequences as well as the heavy dialogue scenes where he speaks to the other Outcome agent and is genuinely intrigued in meeting his counterpart. His curiosity wants to know more simultaneously inviting the audience to join him.
The same goes for Rachel Weisz who provides a nice balance of a damsel in distress, the gullible scientist who was in the program for the sake of science and having her own moment of action too. Weisz’s seems to play the role without any enjoyment however, almost finding the role too easy without being challenged. The same goes for Edward Norton who brought very little energy into his role as mass-murderer-with-a-pen. Norton’s role is actually quite significant and should’ve played it enigmatically like he did as Steve Frazelli from The Italian Job – instead it seems a little joyless like Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk.
A similar problem stems across a number of other areas into the movie. While the concept, actors and general plot seemed rather evocative and compelling it just falls short of being spectacular. The ingredients were certainly there to make a fine reboot/sequel and compliments must be made to how Gilroy chose to shoot the film however it’s main flaw is its pace. There is, unfortunately, too much talking and decision making with not enough action and suspense to keep us invested in these characters.
The audience loved the original films because they were following Jason Bourne’s identity crisis. As he discovered things about himself the audience did too; whenever Bourne fought and defended himself with a book or photographically memorised the Parisian street map ready to outrace the police – it was exciting, new and dynamic. With Cross, the audience already knew what to expect from him so they weren’t surprised and at times felt his journey was cliched. As a result the action seemed timid and mild – which is a shame considering the scale and productive value of the film. What’s more, Bourne was constantly outsmarting the CIA even when he struggled to know who he was from The Bourne Identity. In Legacy, Cross never really outgunned the CIA – just ran a little faster than they did.
It’s ultimate downfall, of course, is being branded as part of the Bourne franchise. It made the mistake Prometheus did by connecting it to the Alien franchise when it would’ve been better as a stand-alone film. The same applies here. Legacy is far from a terrible film but considering its pedigree – especially since it runs along side The Bourne Ultimatum – it’s a damn shame it’s not just as brilliant.
Reviewed by Vaskar S. Kayastha