Where most film franchises undergo a downhill slope with every passing installment, the original “Bourne” trilogy was one of the rare series that only got better and better. “The Bourne Legacy” regrettably breaks this winning streak, being the least impressive of the series. That doesn’t mean the movie is a poor effort. This is indeed a very entertaining, well-made chapter of the “Bourne” story. After the fantastic “Bourne Ultimatum” though, it stepped a step down the ladder.
Tony Gilroy, who wrote the three previous “Bourne” pictures, takes over for Paul Greengrass as director. Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne is referenced several times here, but is ultimately missing in action. Instead, the film shifts attention to Jeremy Renner’s Aaron Cross, a field agent who is given enhanced strength, agility, and intelligence thanks to a special medication. With Operation Blackbriar falling apart due to Jason Bourne, the CIA decides to dispose of its field agents. The only people who manage to getaway are Cross and Dr. Marta Shearing, a scientist played by Rachel Weisz. Edward Norton is Eric Byer, the man burdened with the task of terminating the two.
The vital question with this reboot of sorts is whether Aaron Cross is as interesting a character as Jason Bourne. Renner is undeniably a phenomenal actor and does a plentiful job shaping Cross into a gripping, motivated and at times humorous hero. What he lacks is the sense of vagueness that made Jason Bourne so interesting. Where the mystery behind Bourne’s fractured past kept the audience invested in the first three films, Cross is a more straightforward protagonist.
Thus, the film becomes more of a kick-ass action picture than a mystery. As fast-paced summer entertainment though, “The Bourne Legacy” does indeed distribute some exceptional action set pieces influenced by suspense and applause worthy one-liners.
The relationship between Cross and Shearing is also admirable. Weisz specifically nails it as a woman thrown out of her cozy environment into the center of the action. Although she’s not as physically gifted as Cross, the movie doesn’t limit her character to a cheap damsel. On the contrary, she proves to be a very smart and resourceful woman despite not at all being prepared for such a venture. Shearing and Cross have exemplify enormous chemistry on their run from the law, making the romance factory the movie’s driving force.
“The Bourne Legacy” may be heavier on setup than payoff. Nevertheless, I like the characters and circumstances Gilroy has introduced and am looking forward to where they will go in future entries. Somewhere down the line it would be marvelous to see Jason Bourne and Aaron Cross come face to face.
Although “The Bourne Legacy” is only the fourth-best addition to this series, the fact that it has me anticipating upcoming installments is more than can be said about other aging franchises.
• Ahwatukee native and Desert Vista graduate Nick Spake is a student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for five years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.