The Bourne Legacy (2012) Review

The Bourne trilogy contains some of the best action / espionage films ever created. They are extremely well scripted, acted and executed, and really raised the bar for what is possible for these types of movies. When that trilogy came to an end, many people were still thirsty for more (especially considering how fantastic the final film was). However, director Paul Greengrass and the series star Matt Damon would not be returning. How can you continue a franchise without the main character? Do you make a reboot, prequel, or a sequel that focuses on somebody new? Well, the answer to that, more or less, is all of the above. The events of this film run parallel with The Bourne Ultimatum, while fleshing out background info from previous installments while simultaneously building things up for future installments.

The Bourne Legacy stars Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross. He’s a member of Operation Outcome, which is a Department of Defense black ops program. They enlist people who – like Jason Bourne at Treadstone – take on a new identity, though the difference is that they are physically and mentally enhanced by blue and green “chems”. These pills that Outcome are giving their field operatives are a genetic breakthrough, though they are top-secret and are known only to those involved in the program. The movie begins with Cross being in the middle of training assignment for Outcome in Alaska, which is basically supposed to test everything that he is capable of doing.

However, things quickly start to fall apart, and it turns out Operation Outcome has found itself in hot water. Operation Blackbriar and Treadstone have been publicly exposed (as witnessed in the 3rd film) which leads to an investigation by the FBI and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. They will be digging up as much information as they can on known faces from previous films in the franchise, such as Pamela Landy and Dr. Albert Hirsch.

The conflict truly begins when Eric Byer, a CIA clandestine operations leader, discovers a video on the internet in which the lead researchers of both Outcome and Treadstone are seen together. Byer does not want this link to lead to an exposure of Operation Outcome, so he decides to completely destroy the program. He plans to kill all of those involved so nothing about the program ever sees the light of day, and he has no problem with doing that because there is a backup plan. Aaron Cross eventually realizes this, and must now avoid assassination from the very same people he is working for.

The main thing that everybody is wondering is whether or not Jeremy Renner is a fitting replacement for Matt Damon, and I can answer that with a resounding yes. Renner is every bit as capable as Matt Damon, acting-wise, though the difference in the two characters allows Renner to do more. Aaron Cross is still very much a person who is aware of his situation, unlike Bourne who is very confused about everything, which gives us a character who is tough but extremely likeable. Aaron Cross was a character that I found more compelling, which is probably because Renner is a better actor than Damon.

Renner and Norton

The cast is definitely one of the highlights of the film, as it is rounded out by some truly talented people. Rachel Weisz is the leading lady this time around, and she gives a very powerful performance. Her character is constantly in turmoil, and Weisz brings the proper amount of hysteria for her particular situation. Ed Norton is another new face, being the man who is tirelessly hunting down Aaron Cross. He appears to be an average person, but he has many things up his sleeves that he must subdue in order for his master plan to work. He’s evil but you can understand the circumstances that lead him to what he’s doing, and that makes him quite the compelling antagonist.

Tony Gilroy takes over the directing duties as previous director Paul Greengrass stepped aside, and he does a fantastic job. Gilroy has been the screenwriter for all films in the franchise up to this point, so he definitely is no slouch in knowing what the heart and soul of the movies are all about. His action scenes are not nearly as choppy or shaky as what we saw in previous installments, and that was a definite improvement. Gilroy also wrote the screenplay and delivers another compelling story that is both familiar and unique compared to the ones that came before it.

The Bourne Legacy is a very worthy addition to this fantastic franchise. It introduces new characters, conflicts and ideas, and it’s all wrapped up in a narrative that is very compelling. We get to see an entirely different perspective to the story we have been following for years now, and it sheds a new light on everything we have learned up to this point. Jeremy Renner is absolutely fantastic as Aaron Cross, giving us a protagonist that we can relate to far more than we could with Jason Bourne. I hope that the filmmakers decide to continue on with him at the helm, though it’s looking iffy with the mixed reception. Whatever happens, it doesn’t change the fact that this is an awesome addition to the franchise and continues to cement this series as one of the best ever made.

Release Date: August 10, 2012

Genres: Action, Thriller, Espionage


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