Five years after Matt Damon had his third adventure as Jason Bourne the franchise has returned. But with Matt Damon not being willing to do a fourth part Jeremy Renner was hired to keep his seat warm.
Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is an agent in the secret defense program Outcome. Contrary to Bourne he is not only trained to his physical and psychological limits – he also uses drugs to enhance both mind and body.
Starting in a frosty survival course The Bourne Legacy tries to give us a different protagonist than Jason Bourne. In Alaska Cross has not only to withstand the snow but also battle wolves in a Neeson-esque fashion (one of the funniest scenes in the movie).
And while the movie tries to be not-all-that-Bourne the characters have to constantly remind us that Bourne is still out there.
This quasi-reboot is following a trend in franchise movies by being set parallel to another installment. In this case the events of Legacy are happening around Bourne Ultimatum and Jason Bourne’s actions in that movie lead to the decision to stop program Outcome and kill all the agents in it.
And here lies the problem – the plot does not get going until a very long time in the movie. There is a lot of talking and foreshadowing but not that many substantial things are happening. Parallel to Cross’s storyline we are introduced to Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) who is working for program Outcome as a medical consultant. Based on the trailers we know that Weisz and Renner will meet at one point to play the usual “we have to work together” “who are you” “why should I trust you” game. But it is a long way until that and every minute is felt.
At 135 minutes The Bourne Legacy is just way too long for what is happening. The storyline can be summed up in 1-3 sentences and the most time is passed by showing us things similar to Bourne-movies… but without the consequences.
People are standing in rooms around Edward Norton talking about finding Cross and Shearing but there is never a sense of dread. Every suspense scene is fake-suspense as they are constructed so that the only way the story can continue is if the hero evades the government. This is no Breaking Bad suspense, where both options are probable and we don’t know which way it might go.
There is also a notable absence of outwitting the government. While I don’t love the Bourne trilogy I think they provide solid entertainment. And a big factor is the constant outsmarting. Both sides are using state of the art ways to either find Bourne or avoid being found.
This dance of skills is what makes the Bourne series so entertaining. But in Legacy nothing feels like this. I was interested in this spin-off because it made sense that there were more programs similar to Treadstone (the project from the Bourne Trilogy) and it sounded more logical than rehashing the same origin story.
But there is no point in denying that this movie is just a placeholder. A DVD to keep the name Bourne alive until Damon returns. What we are left are the feeble attempts of trying to be a movie the product clearly isn’t. If the characters were not constantly talking about Bourne this movie would be a cheap Bourne-wannabe – well, to be honest it is a Bourne-wannabe.
There is no real connection between Norton and Renner and it is sad to see all those great actors stand around uninspired. Last minute the movie dreams up a faceless antagonist and the third act is loaded with unrealistic action – both in terms of looks and feeling.
On the plus side there is no more headache inducing shaky can – but I’ll take a shaky Bourne movie over a steady Bourne imitation any day.