Dir. Tony Gilroy,USA, 135mins, 2012
Review by Matthew Rodgers
Absentee director, Paul Greengrass, amnesiac killing machine Jason Bourne, aka Matt Damon, have both gone missing-in-action for this latest instalment of kinetic spy dodging. Mutually reluctant to commit to anything unless there was a script that continued the narrative, and would do justice to a legacy that had rivalled, influenced, and re-shaped the action genre post-Identity. Problem number one.
In order to maintain continuity, series scripter, Tony Gilroy takes command of proceedings, so you’d think he’d be the right man for expanding the conspiracy theories beyond that of the closure which was seemingly achieved at the conclusion of Ultimatum? Problem number two.
Running parallel with the Waterloo based events that had kicked and punched started the last film; Legacy introduces us to Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), an agent from a similarly shadowy super-soldier programme currently seconded to the Alaskan wilderness for unexplained disciplinary reasons.
When the fall-out from Bourne’s expose begins to have repercussions for the government, project leader, Col. Eric Byer (Norton) decides that it’s time to disavow all the field agents by varying methods of assassination. Cleverly avoiding being blown to smithereens using one of the few inventive evasion techniques in the film (involving a wolf!), Cross goes radio silent in an attempt to turn the tables on those pursuing him and get his hands on the medication he’s become dependent on to live.
There is one glaringly obvious difference between this and the previous incarnation; the titular star is missing. That is in no way a reflection upon Jeremy Renner’s brooding, sporadically cocksure turn, he just doesn’t dominate in the same way that Damon prowled around the big-screen. But that’s an unfair comparison. The real issue is with the character. Jason Bourne gave us a mysterious protagonist on an intriguing journey of self discovery, which we as an audience could latch onto, as eager to understand who Bourne was as the character. Cross knows who has wronged him, and his mission to recover his multicoloured meds is weightless against his predecessor’s physical and emotional turmoil.
The action is also a pale imitation of Greengrass’s kinetics, not helped but the sluggish start the film makes, drowned in exposition and contextual scene-setting it results in a complete lack of plot propulsion.
Gilroymakes no attempt to establish his own imprint on the franchise, aping techniques used in the series but without any of the impact. The fact that the action culminates in a familiar motorcycle chase, already done better in the series, doesn’t help. The action sequences are a gentle slap in the face compared to the bruising claustrophobia of Bourne’s encounters.
It is also an extremely arrogant film; glossing over plot contrivances such as car engines left running and extreme examples of coincidence, and ending in such an abrupt “Is that it?” manner, satisfied that it’s done enough to warrant a sequel in which it may answer some of the questions its posed.
Legacy is to the previous films what U.S. Marshals was to The Fugitive; an almost identical scenario of running, jumping, and driving vehicles, but lacking the magic of those films. If this is Bourne’s Legacy, then I think it was better left alone.