THE BOURNE LEGACY IS SITUATED between a rock and a hard place. How could it not? It is clearly a film that is meant to be a reboot of the Bourne franchise that was in a comatose state for the longest time since trilogy director Paul Greengrass and star Matt Damon left. But it is also a reboot that HAS TO be a sequel because there is a need to justify the use of the name Bourne in its title.
If my opening paragraph makes little sense to you, either grammatically or stylistically, don’t worry. Watching the first 30 minutes of The Bourne Legacy will give you the same feeling. I am in excellent company because Tony Gilroy – previously writer of the trilogy, currently director and writer of the reboot – is apparently capable of making such hiccups.
That’s why at this point of the review, I will have to assert this statement: Hollywood, just stick to the books next time. It’s not like The Bourne books are made of papyrus and lost for all eternity for your writers to adapt, you know?
Disjointed is the word I would use to describe The Bourne Legacy. The movie opens with wilderness scenes that intercut with scenes where people react to the events in Bourne Supremacy. But while the idea is acceptable, the execution is not. The editing makes for highly awkward pacing and the camera work makes for highly awkward angels. Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross battles the cold weather, wolves and Oscar Isaac’s stoicism while Edward Norton as the mysterious Rick (or was it Eric?) Byer cryptically goes around, seemingly in circles, dealing with a Bourne induced mess. None of this is coherent enough to remind longtime fans of the story of the previous Bourne film (I should know; I watched the movie with one such fan) or introduce new fans to the greatness of a Bourne film. And it’s long – so incredibly long – that it takes a lot of patience to wade through the muddled waters of this Legacy reboot.
But when Rachel Weisz’s Marta Shearing goes through her own version of a nightmarish office shooting, Gilroy finally hits his stride. There’s less chatter and more movements; he starts to show rather than tell. Admittedly, Gilroy’s narration still falters, such as when he portrays Byer as a prissy douche instead of the cold-hearted bureaucrat he could be, but the engaging scenes and action set pieces he comes up with should keep everyone occupied so that the convoluted plot that can be put aside for a while.
The climax of the story takes place in Manila, the Philippines, where Shearing and Cross does Something Very Important in a lab while Byer and his cronies remain Stateside and monitor the situation through the advanced technology that makes the USA one of the most suspicious countries in the world. The 120 minutes-plus movie culminates in a chase scene – first on top of buildings, reminiscent of Bourne Supremacy (or Casino Royale, if you’re a Bond fan), and later on motorbikes – between another enigmatic secret agent and Cross and Shearing that pump the adrenaline and have us hanging on the edge of our seats. Original, it is not. But thrilling, it is guaranteed.
If the above descriptions still don’t tell you much of the story in this review, then – once again – don’t panic. Watching the movie, you’ll probably come out of the cinema admiring Renner’s excellent performance and his strong chemistry with Weisz (while wishing he had more scenes with Byer) and remembering the great action sequences that Gilroy put together. But you’ll probably have to wait until the DVD comes out, or find the will to shell out yet more money for a second viewing, to properly understand what Bourne Legacy is really saying.
To put it bluntly, The Bourne Legacy will not answer any questions that are carried over from the previous trilogy. It doesn’t even answer its own questions and crop up more of them as the story unfolds. Credit is given to Renner for showing his charm and skills as an actor, but without a coherent story and a strong direction, which Gilroy himself doesn’t have a full handle of, the shadow of Matt Damon still looms heavily. His Bourne films was a journey of identity- and soul-searching. Renner’s Bourne reboot is nothing but a tale of a junkie looking for a fix. And that is, to be honest, the real legacy of this franchise.
Not as cerebral as it wishes to be and overly ambitious in its execution, Legacy will please with its thrills and penchant for shocking action. Renner charms but Damon is sorely missed.