The spy who replaced me – The Bourne Legacy review

The Bourne Legacy - Starring Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, and Edward Norton. Directed by Tony Gilroy. Rated M. By Simon Miraudo.

“There was never just one,” the posters for The Bourne Legacy tease. They refer to the members of the CIA’s hush-hush Treadstone program, of which forgetful super-spy Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), was, well, born from. We got three great films with him as the lead, and maybe that’s more than we deserved, because now we are being punished with a fourth that instead stars Jeremy Renner as the Bourne-like (and Bourne-lite) Aaron Cross. I’m a big fan of Renner, and I wish him all the success in the world. Nonetheless, The Bourne Legacy feels like the woozy comedown from a dizzying, delirious adventure. If Identity, Supremacy, and Ultimatum were the cheeky entrée, mouth-watering main, and delectable dessert, respectively, watching this fourquel feels like finally receiving the bill.

Previous directors Doug Liman and Paul Greengrass are out, and the original trilogy’s “narrative architect” Tony Gilroy has been handed the wheel. The “narrative architect” classification comes from the promotional materials, in place of the far less sexy yet more accurate title of “screenwriter.” Perhaps they didn’t want to state that explicitly, considering Damon accused his drafts of being unreadable. Gilroy has helmed two fine features prior to Legacy, however: Michael Clayton and Duplicity; the former is the stone-faced sibling of Bourne, while Duplicity is the giddy, silly cousin. Sadly, while trying to ape both the flash of Liman and the immersive freneticism of Greengrass here, he comes up short.

In the ongoing saga’s timeline, this one takes place between parts two and three, and begins with Aaron Cross on a solo survival mission in Alaska. A rendezvous with another operative (Oscar Isaac) is cut short by an army attack; now that Bourne’s AWOL and intent on exposing the CIA’s controversial project, one of its founders, Eric Byer (Edward Norton), has orchestrated a mass wipe-out of their ultra-intelligent, profoundly powerful, extremely resilient assassins. Cross, obviously, survives, and kidnaps kindly Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) so that she might restore his supply of green and blue pills (Macguffins rx), which help him to run at full capacity. There’s a fight sequence or two, a car chase, and an admittedly chilling shootout involving Željko Ivanek, wedged in between all the dense, impenetrable, shadowy back-room dealings, and Renner and Weisz’s exasperatingly drawn-out escape from authorities. Sometimes the movie is convincing as a fun, competent, thrilling blockbuster, with thoughtful performances from the main trio. Sometimes.

The shadow of Damon’s Bourne looms large, and Legacy goes to great lengths to refer to him constantly and proudly display his picture (that ten-year-old passport photo might have the second most screen-time after Renner himself). I can’t think of another franchise entry that works this hard to justify its own existence. The irony, of course, is that a decent actioner is justified by decent action, and The Bourne Legacy just does not deliver. You could argue that it’s merely a bridge between the previous instalment and the inevitable sequel in which Damon’s Bourne would ideally return. This bridge feels rickety and incomplete.

2.5/5

Check out Simon’s other reviews here.

The Bourne Legacy arrives in Australian cinemas August 16, 2012.

3 Responses to “The spy who replaced me – The Bourne Legacy review”

  1. For Robert Ludlum, there was only one Jason Bourne. Why do they have to do this? Why not just create a new super-agent by another name. It’s like Ludlum’s work all being spoilt by different writers after his death. No, no, no.

  2. Well I loved it! I saw a preview on Monday night, and when I got home I looked at some online reviews for the first time. I was so shocked to see that the reviews were so negative! I thought it was a great addition to the franchise, and it kept pace with the original 3. Obviously I’m hoping for another sequel where Renner and Damon team up (surely we all are), but that hasn’t detracted from this movie. It was exciting, it was clever, and Renner, Weisz and Norton all did a great job!

  3. Not as good as the previous Bourne films, but nowhere near as dire and dreary as your review makes out. A good action thriller – it is what it is. We all know what to expect: rogue super-spy/assassin runs from rogue shadowy quasi-government organisation. And it delivers. I thought it had some good suspense, a few laughs, competent action sequences (that do seem to go on a tad long, admittedly), a fairly follow-able storyline and an oh-so-obvious setup for yet another episode in the franchise. I’d rate it 3.5/5. And a pay-off crash that had the preview audience “ooh”-ing ;-)

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