The Bourne Legacy - movie reviewNo-one ever called Jason Bourne slow. While the first three Bourne movies might have been light on story – this was a trilogy so hard up for things to do that the second and third films actually used the same plot points twice - they more than made up for it by never slowing down for a second. Jason Bourne was a super-spy on the run and he never stopped running; Jeremy Renner might be playing a more advanced model in The Bourne Legacy, but his version never really gets above a mild trot.
Continuing the trend of having as many Bourne movies as possible take place at the exact same time, Legacy also takes place at the same time – but with slightly different main characters – as The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum: Jason Bourne (here seen only on a wanted poster) is on the run wrecking up the place and America’s various spy agencies are freaking out. Much as everyone loves the results they’re getting from their awesome new Bourne-style super-spies, the man in charge (Edward Norton) is firm: time to kill everyone and pretend all of this never happened.
While Norton is making the tough decisions, Aaron Cross (Renner) is letting us know he’s a total badass by doing an Alaskan survival course in record time, complete with mountain climbing and wolf dodging. In fact, he’s so badass that not only does he know to pretend to lose his super-power pills – “the chems” – so he’s got a backup supply, he manages to dodge a missile designed to make him as dead as every other super-spy.
Why they fired a missile at him from a drone he could hear coming when they simply swapped everyone else’s super pills for poison is a question a better Bourne film wouldn’t leave you time enough to ask. But it’s already taken half an hour just to get this far and we’ve still got a whole bunch of plot involving Dr Marta Shearing (Rachael Weisz) to get through. Things do pick up slightly with an actually creepy office shooting at her lab – as part of the team that administers “the chems”, Shearing and her workmates have got to go – but when she survives and a squad of slightly sinister police officers arrive at her house, this film’s real problem becomes crystal clear: it thinks we’re stupid.
The second these “cops” arrive we know they’re going to try and kill her. Why else would this scene be in this movie? We also know Cross (last seen flying a stolen plane) is going to turn up because he’s the main guy in this film so obviously they’re going to team up. In the previous Bourne films this kind of scene would have been cut short by a shock development to keep us on edge – maybe as the cops turn up Cross just pops up and shoots them then shows her proof they were killers and away we go. But here the scene just plods along like there’s the slightest possible chance it could go another way. And then it doesn’t.
When the first Bourne film came out a decade ago, its vision of a world where your every move was being tracked by spy agencies was fresh and unsettling. Now it’s feeling a little stale. Worse, this film doesn’t do anything new in terms of showing us ways to track people: it’s still the same old satellites and fuzzy security camera footage. Jason Bourne was always one step ahead of those satellites and security cameras, but he was often one step ahead of the audience too, suddenly turning up in places we didn’t expect. Here we see our heroes sneak past security on a trip, then we go back to see Norton and his henchmen (including, in a surprisingly decent turn, Shane “Kenny” Jacobson) trying to keep up and not quite managing it. Just like the way this film doesn’t quite manage to be suspenseful.
Even if it is the fourth film in the series, it’s hard not to be a little disappointed in the way there’s nothing new going on here. Renner’s acting strength is his sly humour, none of which he gets to display playing a deadly serious man on the run, and he’s stuck with a fairly dull character arc that revolves entirely around him needing more pills so he doesn’t go back to being stupid. Weisz does better in the “scared bystander” role and there are hints of actual chemistry between her and Renner, but this film takes itself way too seriously to let either of them ever be enjoying each others company. Everyone else here either has nothing to say or babbles on, and the brief cameos from earlier Bourne film characters just remind you that those films had a lot more fun with their supporting casts.
This film may be too in love with its dull, over-extended plot (having Tony Gillroy direct his own script may not have been the best idea), but The Bourne Legacy’s biggest sin is that it fails to deliver on the action front. For a film that goes over two hours this has way too many fat men in suits and way too few thugs getting slapped silly. It’s never a good sign when you look at your watch and realise the somewhat average chase you assumed was leading up to the film’s real climax is the actual climax. For a film in a series that once redefined big screen action, it’s unforgivable.
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