“The Bourne Legacy” is a brisk and challenging film. It is not what most fans would expect, but given the right frame of mind, it actually carves out an identity of its own. Ultimately, it is a decent entry to the series as it is able to put a characteristic taste to the nearly impossible task of creating an entirely new story arc away from its title character.
This espionage movie is intriguing for many reasons. It clearly capitalizes on the “Bourne” brand, while simply showing Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne character as a mere bio-data photo seen for a few seconds. Doug Liman and Paul Greengrass, the helmers of the multi-awarded trilogy, are also out of this quasi-spinoff. Moreover, there is one critical realization after watching this fourth picture based on Robert Ludlum’s books: its look, mood, and storytelling turn out quite different from the first three offerings. This makes it a hit-and-miss work with some people finding its new treatment welcoming, while others finding it frustrating. But one thing’s for sure, it intends to work as a sort of origin movie meant to spawn its own set of sequels.
The need to link this saga to the first three films is quite understandable. It is pretty clear from the very start that there is already a massive weight on this pseudo-reboot’s shoulders. The major personalities working both on- and off-screen including director Tony Gilroy, the writer for the “Bourne” trilogy and an Oscar-nominated director and writer for the critically acclaimed “Michael Clayton,” and the two leads Jeremy Renner, a two-time Oscar-nominated actor, and Rachel Weisz, an Oscar-winning actress, bring enough value to the project. They serve as main anchors that significantly contribute to the progress of the story.
If it were a standalone film without the craving for more tense-filled moments early on, more viewers would probably be more pleased with this cinematic piece. But the expectation of the general audience is that: “It’s a ‘Bourne’ movie.” From the very beginning, action and suspense should already be in its storytelling DNA.
The film’s fundamental issue is that it doesn’t get into the breathtaking parts for the first 30 minutes or so. This is not to discredit the long establishing scenes that attempt to introduce the audience to the franchise’s new and expanded storyline, which utilizes a more dramatic than a more action-packed approach. On a positive note, it rightfully presents its new hero while still embracing the series’ crucial past.
Considering its strengths, this movie can work for the willing audience. However, a number of people would still expect the more gripping aspect of the initial “Bourne” films to be readily made available in this follow-up material’s first few minutes. Although the “Bourne” mythology is kept intact as the plot moves forward, the wild chases and big fight scenes only arrive about halfway through the story.
The speaking lines, while delivered with enough command and conviction by the talented actors, end up too verbose for a supposed action thriller. The affected sequences lack the propulsive narrative flow of the earlier movies. There are a couple of instances where the scenes end up over-explaining things, while the audience becomes even thirstier for some adrenaline-pumping moments.
The production team proves that there are more stories to tell for the franchise. However, it is not easy to really bring the right ingredients together. Accepting the sudden change of pace from the prior “Bourne” flicks is essential to have a better appreciation of “The Bourne Legacy.” Gilroy clearly understands the core of the “Bourne” canon even though he skimps on high-octane action on the film’s first half. But still, he is confounded by the various demands of keeping up with the expectations for such a successful franchise. With the title character out of the project, things become even more difficult. Taken such perspective, it is but justifiable to have a complete change of treatment and direction for this cinematic venture.
The tale benefits from Renner’s magnetic personality on screen. His charismatic role as the rugged lead Aaron Cross effectively registers as a more vulnerable and sympathetic protagonist compared to his predecessor. Weisz adds enough flavor to the narrative without merely ending up as a damsel in distress. Edward Norton and the rest of the “government team” do their best to get things done, no matter how challenging their long conversation scenes tend to be.
From a calm suspense drama with plenty of commotions and a handful of finely orchestrated action parts, the picture shifts into a bona fide chase thriller by the time the main characters arrive in Manila. From this point forward, the film is already “all about momentum.” Its twists and turns start pouring in through energetic action scenes. Its kinetic pace is what the spectators have long been clamoring for. The long build up considerably pays off as the earlier sequences happening in a dozen or so locations at once make it much easier to follow the more brisk moments seen later on in the story. Gilroy’s strong grips for drama validates the sense of urgency of the latter undertaking.
The key action sequences are brilliantly engineered to showcase the bravura a “Bourne” movie is ought to have. The slam-bang chase climax packs enough visceral wallops toward an abrupt and anticlimactic conclusion. By its end, there is a “love it” or “hate it” affirmation for such a light, campy, and exotically classic denouement that leaves the door wide open for more “Bourne” sequels.
“The Bourne Legacy” mixes slow-burning drama and fast-paced escapism to introduce a brand new chapter to the franchise. This is an entirely new combo that actually holds up well for its straightforward plot. Essentially, it has a strong sense of what it wants, which somehow covers up its shortcomings. It may not be an epic entry from the series, but as a momentum-driven piece that depends less on its star power and more on its characters’ intensity and the shots’ slick action moments, it still manages to thrill and entertain by the time the closing credits appear.