'The Bourne Legacy:' Fourth Time Not the Charm
Published: Sunday, August 12, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 13, 2012 15:08
A new chapter in the Bourne series is upon us, and like many, I was skeptical as to how this film would compare to the first three installments. Unfortunately, my fears were confirmed as The Bourne Legacy falls well short of its predecessors.
Writer — and now director — Tony Gilroy continues the saga with the story of Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), an agent similar to Jason Bourne — except for the fact that he knows exactly who he is. We are introduced to this new character in Alaska, where his survival skills are tested in a life-threatening gauntlet.
Eric Byer (Edward Norton) is a former colonel in the U.S. military who is attempting to prevent the disclosure of sensitive information regarding secret governmental programs. After all, “Jason Bourne is just the tip of the iceberg,” as Byer deadpans in the trailer.
While Byer goes to extreme measures to tie up loose ends, Cross — who is deemed a liability to the program — does what he can to protect himself from being eliminated. He shares this task with Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), a scientist who assists in the aforementioned programs and whose knowledge has made her a risk. As the pair attempts to flee from the clutches of their former employer, they encounter numerous obstacles on their path to safety.
The Bourne Legacy is complex and draws heavily from the previous three movies, but instead of elevating the story, this makes it barely understandable to those who haven’t seen Matt Damon’s trilogy. There are flashbacks that attempt to explain relationships and details, but, with a few exceptions, they are irrelevant and unhelpful.
Even if one has seen the past movies, the plot is confusing but linear, thrusting the audience into the characters’ stories with very minimal explanation as to their origins, which becomes a problem. Furthermore, the story tries too hard to be fast paced and overly complex, forgoing development of characters and situations.
The film tries to follow in the footsteps of the other Bourne movies, but this one lacks the smooth transition with its story, leaving scenes scattered. The fact that Cross and Byer never interact directly is particularly detrimental, since it takes away from the conflict’s dynamic and makes the movie choppy and disconnected due to the repeated necessity to cut back and forth between the two.
The film, however, is visually striking. The action sequences are impressive, though some of the chase scenes are lengthier than one would like and they spend entirely too long in Alaska. But the icy landscape is beautiful to look at, and good camera angles provide breathtaking views that are well incorporated into scenes.
In terms of acting, Renner continues to demonstrate he is fit for genres that contain fight choreographies and an arsenal of challenging physical requirements. This, however, is unfortunately overshadowed by an occasionally awkward performance when he is forced to deviate from the stern, focused demeanor we are used to. His attempts to be funny and jovial come across as helplessly clumsy.
Weisz is a little tougher to judge, since aspects of her performance are impressive, while others seem overacted — a criticism also applicable to Norton. This is especially evident in her interactions with Renner. The duo is convincing at times but awkward at others due to the clear lack of chemistry. At points, both actors are clearly uncomfortable with their lines.
The film was backed into a corner from the start. Comparisons with the previous films are inevitable, but instead of creating a new identity, The Bourne Legacy attempts to emulate its predecessors and is ultimately unsuccessful in this endeavor. The movie introduces a new character but continues with the story as if he would smoothly fit into the plot with no explanation necessary. (He doesn’t.) The plot’s heavy dependence on the first three films, a questionable decision that gave fans high expectations for The Bourne Legacy, only drags it down.