I’ll be honest. In a year of amazingly awesome movies, this was one of the ones I was looking forward to the most. Which is kind of ridiculous since this year also includes The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Dark Knight Rises, Les Miserables, and The Hobbit. It is a GOOD YEAR for movies, folks.
So why was I looking forward to The Bourne Legacy so much? There’s a few reasons.
1) I love The Bourne Identity with great massive chunks of love. I enjoyed the other two as well, but that first one holds a special place in my heart for sheer awesomeness.
2) I also love Jeremy Renner with great massive chunks of love, the kind I do not have for Matt Damon. Don’t get me wrong. Matt Damon is great. I have seen and enjoyed many a Matt Damon movie, and Identity is probably my favorite of his movies. But I love Jeremy Renner more.
So you combine a franchise I love with an actor I love, and you get this movie. Hence my fevered anticipation.
After watching, I have mixed feelings. Many of them are good feelings. But not all. So let’s get into it. I’ll try to be as non-spoilery as I can.
The plot for The Bourne Legacy was absurd, and I don’t mean that in a good way. Here it is in a nutshell:
Aaron Cross (Renner) is an agent that has been enhanced, both physically and mentally, by a secret branch of the government known as Outcome. Due to a leaked YouTube video (yes I’m serious), the government decides the only way to cope is to kill everyone associated with Outcome. But, through pure luck, Cross survives the missile intended to kill him. HOWEVER, he runs out of his special performance-enhancing drugs, and without them, he will become too stupid to function. Again, yes, I’m serious.
So Cross goes to kidnap one of the scientists working on Outcome, Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), also a survivor of an attempt to wipe out everyone associated with Outcome, because he thinks she may be able to get him more drugs. And then the rest of the movie is Cross and Shearing running from assassins/unfortunate cops and security guards all in a race to get Cross more drugs before he turns stupid, as Edward Norton, a.k.a. Evil Government, tries to find and kill them.
As I said, the plot is absurd. (And as an interesting tidbit, all those parts in the trailer where Ed Norton et al seem to be discussing how Aaron Cross is some sort of stunning new scientific marvel, even more amazing than Bourne? Yeah…they’re pretty much always talking about someone else. Sneaky trailer.)
Oh, and meanwhile, The Bourne Ultimatum is happening. Sometimes the movie reminds us of this. I watched the Bourne trilogy this week in preparation for Legacy, and while it enhanced my understanding of the plot a tiny bit, it probably wasn’t necessary. Most of the Ultimatum tie-in is superfluous, and even though they really try to make it relevant, it doesn’t actually have a ton to do with the get-him-drugs-before-he-turns-stupid-and-they-kill-him plot.
As a side note, since most of The Bourne Ultimatum takes place between the last two scenes of The Bourne Supremacy, we now have three movies covering the same 6-week time frame in this universe. Since they all end around the same time, I’m hoping that if we get another one (oh please oh please), Cross and Bourne can join forces to do…something. The whole movie felt like a setup for that to happen, even though from what I’ve heard, nothing is in the works.
The acting in this movie was so good you kind of want to forget that the plot is terrible. Renner is fabulous. They should hire him to make ALL THE ACTION MOVIES. (Oh wait. I think they already did that.) But he’s also good at making you sympathize with him and cheer for him, even when he’s asking EVERYONE where he can get some more not-stupid drugs. He even injects a bit of humor into mostly humorless dialogue.
Weisz is actually more than just a damsel in distress (and I love her leagues more than the snooze-fest of a character that was Nicky Parsons [Julia Stiles]. Someone explain to me why Nicky Parsons was ever a character I was supposed to care about, because I think I missed the memo). She does useful things. She actually saves Aaron once in a crucial moment.
Edward Norton is, as always, spot-on. He does well as the “bad” guy who’s convinced he’s doing the right thing. He almost made me believe that killing important government assets was a reasonable response to a somewhat awkward YouTube video.
I could have used more of Joan Allen and David Strathairn’s characters, who were mostly there just to remind us that Yes! The Bourne Ultimatum is happening RIGHT NOW! Again, if there could be another movie where this story all comes together (the government conspiracy assassin story, not the give-me-drugs-or-give-me-stupid story), I would be a fan of that.
And then we had lots of sinister old men played by awesome actors like Scott Glenn and Albert Finney, who were mostly wasted as they just sat around being sinister and threatening Edward Norton.
As with all the Bourne films, this one is chock-full of action. Lots of fights, running, chasing, and gunplay. Oh, and there’s one part where he wrestles a wolf. YES. That happens.
I have to admit, out of the four Bourne films, I liked the action in Identity best because you could actually see what was going on. The use of extreme zoom + shaky cam makes it a little hard to follow in the sequels. Plus, it’s hard to top the fight where Bourne stabs the guy with the pen. I mean, it’s a pen.
However, I did think this one did a better job of filming the fights than Supremacy and Ultimatum. In those movies, I had a hard time figuring out who was getting punched in the face. In this one, I could follow the face-punching pretty well. And it was some pretty excellent face-punching.
And it wouldn’t be a Bourne film without a crazy chase scene, although this one is on a motorcycle to prove how hard core Aaron Cross is. Yes, even more hard core than Jason Bourne, as evidenced by the fact that Cross kills a lot more people and sports facial hair and wears sunglasses and goes shirtless for a good portion of the movie.
The motorcycle chase is fun, because high speed chases are awesome. Which is why every Bourne movie has at least one.
Much as I really wanted this one to be my favorite of the Bourne films, it wasn’t. Identity still holds that honor. However, even though the plots for Supremacy and Ultimatum are much tighter and smarter, I think Legacy is my second-favorite on the basis of sheer enjoyability. Yes, the plot is terrible and it is riddled with head-scratching inconsistencies, but honestly, I didn’t care. I loved the characters and the action, enough that I could forgive the plot.
That said, I really hope that if there’s a fifth Bourne film (and again I reiterate, oh please oh please), they put a little more thought into the story and motivations of the characters. Up until this movie, Bourne was one of the smartest action franchises out there, and I’d hate to see the intelligence factor thrown out the window in the hopes that the action will carry it. For this movie, it did, but I’m not sure if that tactic will work more than once.
The Bourne Legacy is rated PG-13 for violence and action sequences.