The star of Bourne Legacy, Jeremy Renner, isn't playing Jason Bourne. In fact, Bourne is nowhere to be seen.
New Bourne movie strangely un-Bourne-like
Jason Bourne, who art not in this movie, why does the title bear your name? The original Bourne trilogy never felt much like a franchise along the lines of James Bond, but somehow it has now managed to get this treatment. Despite the title character being nothing more than a casual mention in this film, The Bourne Legacy finds its own strides with a new likeable assassin, sans amnesia.
To call The Bourne Legacy a sequel would be a little misleading -- it’s more of an appendage or supplementary device than anything. It takes place sometime during the first two Bourne movies where Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is at large and looking for answers about his forgotten past as a super assassin for the government project, Treadstone. Aaron Cross, played by Jeremy Renner (The Avengers), has a parallel journey to Bourne as he escapes the program and seeks independence from the drugs Operation Blackbrier (the “new Treadstone”) has been giving him and to help a Blackbrier doctor, played by Rachel Weisz (The Mummy, The Fountain), along the way.
Partially Renner is running from the government after they stopped the Blackbrier program, but that’s only part of what he’s trying to accomplish. It’s difficult to explain Renner’s motivations for a couple of reasons:
1. It would delve into some minor plot spoilers
2. It’s really hard to understand his motivations sometimes
Whatever journey Renner is going on, however convoluted it might be, you find yourself caring for him just because he’s such a likeable guy. While Damon played Bourne as stoic and intense, Renner takes some liberty with Cross by giving him humor and life. This plays as one of the movies greatest strengths. Renner isn’t acting like Jason Bourne because he’s NOT Jason Bourne. Cross is a new character with a completely new back story. (Again raising the question as to why this movie has the Bourne Legacy title.)
Bourne is mentioned several times throughout the movie and serves as the catalyst for the government getting rid of the Blackbrier program, though he’s only ever seen by photograph. Other than that, the film could have carried on just as well if Bourne was never mentioned and this could have been a standalone action film. And looking at it as a “standalone action film,” The Bourney Legacy is actually a much better film.
Tony Gilroy takes over directing for this Bourne film and makes some stylistic changes that make the film a bit more approachable. Most evident is the minimization of the “shaky camera” effect. There is still plenty of action, which Jeremy Renner convincingly kills (pun intended), but it is much more crisp and easy to follow. Audiences are treated to familiar super sky techniques, like killing someone with a fire extinguisher, which resonate true to the films genre.
Weisz's character feels oddly similar to that of Franka Potente, who played Marie Kreutz in the first two films. Both women are swept into a former assassin’s world by unforeseen circumstance and end up supporting them along the away after getting over some strong hesitations. This all comes across more as straight copy rather than homage. Weisz plays it well for the most part, aside from some moments of over-exaggerated rage scenes. She also has the unfortunate duty of delivering some of the most poorly written lines in the movie. “I was doing it for the science!” or, “I work in science” and so on and so on. Audiences should be given a bit more credit; surely, they can comprehend a doctor’s career that is described more in-depth than just, “science.”
If the producers continue with the series, it will be interesting to see if they try to make it play more into the original trilogy and make the “Bourne” name more relevant. If Damon ever comes around to reprising his role, a Damon and Renner team up would be no short of glorious. Until then, this adjunct film plays confusingly in the Bourne-world, but holds up as a decent summer popcorn flick. Maybe next time they’ll be able to use some science to recreate the perfect Bourne movie formula.
The Bourne Legacy opened August 10 and is playing at Majestic Bay Theatre in Ballard on Market Street