Following in the footsteps of the successful Jason Bourne trilogy (Identity, Supremacy
, and Ultimatum
) starring Matt Damon, The Bourne Legacy introduces a new lethal, top-secret assassin, Aaron Cross, portrayed by Jeremy Renner. As in the previous three films, director Tony Gilroy provides a targeted-for-death agent on the run, dizzying chase sequences, and a fairly high body count. He adds a beautiful scientist, Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), and the radical idea of genetic engineering which makes the gap between the Ultimatum
film and this one a bit too wide.
The film brings back a number of characters from the previous films, but very briefly. Scott Glen returns as Ezra Kramer, Davis Strathairn as Noah Voson, Albert Finney as Dr. Albert Hirsch, Paddy Considine as Simon Ross, and Joan Allen as Pam Landry. Their appearances are little more than cameos to link the Treadstone and Blackbriar programs to the present action in the story. In The Bourne Legacy, Edward Norton is in charge as Ret. Col. Eric Byer, and Stacy Keach portrays his liaison to the CIA/government, Ret. Adm. Mark Turso. Never mind that Edward Norton looks much too young to be a retired colonel!
The film opens with Cross (Renner) deep in the wilds of Alaska for survival training, ostensibly. He makes it to the cabin of another “outcome”, as they are called, where he begins to suspect something is not right. Unlike Jason Bourne, Cross knows who he is – and who he was – and that he’s been “modified” to be stronger, quicker, and more intelligent. He and the others must take two pills each day to maintain their modifications. What he doesn’t know is the lengths the higher-ups will go to to keep his existence a secret. He begins to get the idea, however, when everyone associated with the program, “outcomes” and scientists included, begin to drop like flies. The craziness begins when he ends up on the run with the only scientist to escape, Dr. Shearing ( Weisz). By the way, Cross’s just-in-time rescue of Shearing seems incredibly convenient – or contrived might be a better choice of words. Their flight from various assassins takes them to Manila in The Phillipines, where the program’s meds are manufactured. There, they end up in the sights of a new kind of “outcome”, LARX #3 (Louis Ozawa Changchien), modified to have limited empathy.
The inherent problem with the story line is the CIA ultra-secret division’s motivation for deciding to kill everybody. They learn at the beginning of the film that the two major scientists responsible for Treadstone and Blackbriar have become friends, and a YouTube video of them making some veiled references to their work has surfaced. One of the agents at the meeting says, “What does it matter? No one’s going to understand it anyway.” That statement, added to the generally accepted idea that the CIA sometimes has a hand in, shall we say, regime changes, makes Byer (Norton), along with his associates, seem like a paranoid psychopath when he insists that everyone with knowledge of the program must be “neutralized”. As a device for beginning the chase-and-evasion action that you’re paying to see, it’s weak at best.
Jeremy Renner, as Cross, does a good job, but he’s no Matt Damon. Jason Bourne is mentioned several times in the film. In fact, he’s supposed to be hiding somewhere in NYC. There’s still a kill-on-sight order regarding him. Bourne’s skills in the preceding films seemed much more impressive than those of the genetically-altered Cross. There’s no mention of Bourne having been altered, so apparently, he’s just that much better than everyone else. Will Damon appear in the next film -- which is heavily implied at the end of this one? That would be a welcome addition. The promos for the film may claim “There was never just one,” but it really feels like there is just Bourne -- and he’s MIA until further notice.