Sequel to the ground-breaking Bourne Trilogy, The Bourne Legacy overlaps with the events of The Bourne Ultimatum. It deals with the consequences of Jason Bourne’s exposure of Operations Blackbriar and Treadstone. Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is an agent of an offshoot Program, Operation Outcome. The soldiers of this programme take pills to enhance their physical strength and mental capabilities. Edward Norton’s character Eric Byer, a retired Air Force Colonel who overseas CIA’s clandestine operations, in trying to prevent the scandal from spreading further, decides to shut down the operation, and kill all the subjects and the doctors involved.
To begin with, there is no suspense in the movie. In the first half hour you find out everything, and what will happen in the rest of the movie, which isn’t much. Aaron and biochemist Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) are the sole survivors of their respective groups. He needs the enhancing pills; she knows all about them, they run for their lives together. There is no complexity, no layers to the story, no secrets to unearth; it’s an empty plot. Hence the screenplay is flimsy and hollow.
There is nothing novel about this film. The only new thing is the enhancing drugs developed to eliminate the flaws in the previous programmes. But, it doesn’t sit well with the concept of the franchise, where super soldiers were psychologically created via brainwash. They were real soldiers with real abilities, enhanced through painful labour. Aaron Cross was admittedly a less than impressive soldier who is only capable of being impressive through chemical enhancement. His character is not any different from any of the super soldiers previously shown, apart from his energy and humour. Looking at him, you don’t believe that he’s from a better, pharmaceutically enhanced stock of agents.
Unlike Aaron Cross, Jason Bourne was a complex, compelling character that was on a quest to find his identity, and retain his individuality once he does. You felt for him as he struggled to come to terms with the world and the role he played in it. The moral, emotional conflict was what kept the story alive and kicking. In Cross’s case, there is no conflict, no mysteries, no struggles. Basically the movie is about a junked up soldier who is desperate to find pills to survive. Cross feels like a teenager compared to Bourne, who was far more sophisticated, serious and mature. And there is no effect on Cross of Bourne’s actions, something the word ‘legacy’, or the tagline “There was never just one” suggest. No reaction is shown, even when he has to run for his life as a consequence. They don’t show him questioning the cause of the peril.
Rachel Weisz is the best thing about the movie. She managed to keep the movie floating, barely, solely by trying very hard with a script which gives them nothing. Renner could not hold the kind of attention Matt Damon did even in stillness. There is no proper characterisation, sufficient background for them to feel like real people. Weisz does the innocent-caught-up-in-a-violent-world part well, but even her protests and ramblings come across as shrill and at times annoying because the dialogues were insufficient and screenplay gave no space to express. Edward Norton was a total waste in the movie. They could’ve put any random actor in his stead and it would not have made a difference. But this is also the fault of the script. The lack of suspense stems from his character. From the very beginning he’s shown as the villain, the mind behind the whole mess, so there’s nothing there for the audience to watch other than Cross trying to accomplish his goal.
With a fresh hero and sequel, one expects at least new locales and action sequences, but that’s also not accomplished. It lacks the edginess and thrill of the previous movies. There’s the same old roof-hopping, squeezing into narrow lanes and alleys, jumping and running through small houses and the bike chase. Absolutely no new action; and the only hand to hand combat scene was awesome but only lasted for 2 seconds!
The movie was too long for a non-existent plot. Overall there is nothing original or interesting about this movie; it lacks the charm of the originals. The direction lacks energy and characters are single dimensional. It’s hard to believe the writer/director Tony Gilroy worked on the previous films. The Bourne Trilogy was airtight storytelling, with all loose ends tied up, and no scope for continuing the story. It was a complete package. This one has no substance and fails to justify its existence, as well as disturbing a perfectly good trilogy.
Can’t help but agree with Paul Greengrass, director of Supremacy and Ultimatum, who said that any future Bourne movie would be The Bourne Redundancy. And Legacy is that – redundant. It fails to reach the bar set by the previous ones, and moreover will always be remembered by me as the one that ruined a good franchise.