When Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon happily waved goodbye to the possibility of any further installment in the Bourne series, it should have been a neon-flashing sign to anyone hoping to hop into the director’s chair. Why go on when Greengrass impressively predicted any potential follow-ons fate as ‘The Bourne Redundancy’? With dollar signs in their eyes, gleefully recalling the trilogy made nearly a billion dollars, for Universal Pictures the question instead seemed to be, why stop? Step up, The Bourne Legacy.
There are some action movies that provide more than the five-minute thrill of explosions and gunfight that proudly attract throngs of teenage boys to cinema doors. Some, through characters, intricate plots and smart dialogue remain in our minds and hearts for years after they’ve left the cinema screens (think Terminator), transcending their genre. The Bourne trilogy resides comfortably in this pocket of film; so die-hard fans were justified in hoping for a fittingly memorable end to Greengrass’ legend.
The Bourne Legacy is meant to run alongside The Bourne Ultimatum, so that the effects of the Treadstone fiasco (referenced through hushed murmurs of Bourne every now and then) are still being felt and are forcing the end of other secret intelligence programs, including Aaron Cross’ (Jeremy Renner); Outcome.
For a minute forgetting Tony Gilroy’s embarrassingly clichéd dialogue and almost transparent characters, let’s think about the plot. Or, rather, the lack of. Consisting of a story line that appears to have been decided through email as the writers holidayed, the goal of the film seems to be getting the two characters from one set to another. We start at an overly large, gothic mansion in the middle of nowhere (that we are expected to believe belongs to Rachel Weisz’s young, single scientist) and end absurdly on the rooftops of Manila for, you guessed it, the inevitable Parkour sequence. Chasing them is a super-secret agent, if you will, a Bourne style machine with no emotion – you’re shaking in your boots, I feel it. Even this killing machine doesn’t offer anything but comedy, his role ultimately being chasing the two, without once catching or nearing them. If someone behind the scenes had smartly decided his character wasn’t needed, we wouldn’t have noticed. Not one bit.
There you have it. That is The Bourne Legacy.
A Bourne Redundancy indeed. With lines including ‘Do you think you could run far enough or shot loud enough that they wouldn’t finish what they started?’ that left Greengrass sobbing on the cinema floor, it’s not surprising that fans of the franchise are unsatisfied.
To give them their due, the performances aren’t bad. Rachel Weisz is too smart an actress to be ignorant to the muddle of this movie, playing overly anxious scientist Marta Shearing and compensating by spending a large chunk of her performance screaming through a thick American accent and brandishing a gun. Renner plays a good would-be Bourne and although he can’t match Matt Damon’s embodiment of the solitude of Bourne (and Mr Ripley), he has enough moody-but-likeable moments to get us through the movie. To quote The News Record ‘if Damon’s face was somehow CGI animated onto Renner’s body, nobody but hardcore Bourne-buffs would know the difference’. Norton provides a strong performance as he tracks Renner, but has a back-story with Cross that is hinted at, yet never fully developed.
When Norton dramatically claimed ‘there was never just one’, in trailers, fans correctly translated it as ‘I guess Matt wouldn’t do another one then’. Although dotted with strong performances, there isn’t enough for the actors to play with, leaving us with what everyone hoped The Bourne Legacy wouldn’t be; a disappointing copy of the trilogy. Maybe it’s not Gilroy’s fault, perhaps it was just one car-chase too far for this franchise but either way, it’s sad to see such a successful trilogy tarnished.