Whereas Jason Bourne was practically emotionless, Aaron Cross has a macabre sense of humor that makes him feel more like a real person.
When The Bourne Identity was released to apathetic moviegoers in 2002, it was like a punch in the stomach for audiences who had come to expect very little from Hollywood action movies. Based on the novels by Robert Ludlum, The Bourne Identity was an invigorating shot of adrenaline that revived the genre (if only temporarily). Two sequels quickly followed—The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum—each as successful and entertaining as the first. Aside from star Matt Damon (who gave a fresh spin on the action hero), the only consistent component of the original trilogy was Tony Gilroy, the driving force behind all three screenplays.
Now, Gilroy has taken over both writing and directing, attempting to resurrect the franchise with The Bourne Legacy. Having only directed two films previously (the brilliant Michael Clayton and the occasionally entertaining Duplicity), Gilroy may have been a surprising choice to helm Legacy. However, he proves himself more than capable with a new installment of the Bourne mythology that is a worthy offshoot of an incredible series of films.
The film’s tagline is “There was never just one,” referring to Jason Bourne (Damon) of the original films. Gilroy’s approach to yet another sequel is both effective and clever, since replacing Damon would be moronic. Rather, Gilroy explores the other covert operations handled by the CIA and the more shady departments of our government. Instead of Treadstone and Blackbriar, we are given Outcome, a program led by Colonel Eric Byer (Edward Norton), an ethically dubious man whose goal is to genetically manufacture the perfect soldier.
One of those soldiers, Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), finds himself being hunted when Byer shuts down Outcome as a result of Jason Bourne’s very public outing of the government’s secret research programs. Cross manages to escape and seeks help from Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), one of Outcome’s chief scientists. Marta is also in danger, since she and Aaron are the only two loose ends left for Byer to tie up. Together they must try to survive long enough to acquire the medication Aaron’s body has come to rely on before he suffers a complete mental shutdown.
Let’s just get it out of the way: No sequel, prequel, reboot, spinoff, or whatever could ever be as good as The Bourne Identity. That said, Legacy is a very solid and impressive piece of mass entertainment. Gilroy was smart not to replace Jason Bourne, but instead to present a wider picture of the illicit intelligence underworld and the multiple “research” projects into which taxpayer dollars are being funneled. The Bourne standards are all present—car chases, action, fight scenes— but Gilroy expands the story to demonstrate how deep the conspiracies may actually go.
Renner was the perfect choice for Aaron Cross, a man who finds himself in a position similar to Jason Bourne, but who couldn’t be more different from that character. Whereas Jason Bourne was practically emotionless through most of the first movie, Aaron has a macabre sense of humor that makes him feel more like a real person. Though he is 40 years old, Renner still has boyish good looks that can be deceptive when you get a closer glimpse of the wizened look in his eyes.
As his companion on the whirlwind trip around the globe, Weisz does a decent job with what little character she is given. Though Gilroy attempts to make Marta Aaron’s equal, she nevertheless falls into the comfortable role of supportive female companion. Norton is enjoyable to watch, though it might just be nice to see him pick a worthwhile project for the first time in half a decade.
The Bourne Legacy has its issues (namely poor editing), but it is still an exciting ride and surprisingly strong follow up to a trilogy that has become a modern classic. | Matthew Newlin