‘The Bourne Legacy’ is Bourne Lite

By Susan JAMES

Despite the title, “The Bourne Legacy” under the direction of Tony Gilroy is trying to move the franchise on from Jason Bourne and reinvent it around another government medical experiment gone rogue named Aaron Cross. Cross is played with grim determination by Jeremy Renner but Matt Damon’s Bourne, the boyish, brain-washed assassin of the earlier installments, is sadly missed.

If you haven’t seen the first three Bourne movies, you may find yourself at a loss during the opening sequences of Legacy. Familiar faces and past plot points are all scrambled together in a quick rehash of earlier events without actually enlightening any newbies in the audience. In the emerging on-screen saga, Aaron Cross is a brain-injured U.S. soldier who is co-opted into an experimental government program that has turned him into a high value asset, aka invincible killer.

The main character of Aaron Cross in “Bourne Legacy” is played with grim determination by Jeremy Renner.
The main character of Aaron Cross in “Bourne Legacy” is played with grim determination by Jeremy Renner.

The film opens with Cross spending four months of survival training alone in the wilderness with wolves. He’s strong; he’s smart. He looks great in mountain gear. Meanwhile back in D.C., a bureaucratic feeding frenzy has erupted over Bourne’s ongoing but now off-screen duel with the devil at the CIA. Edward Norton as baby-faced retired Air Force Colonel Eric Byer, who seems to have more power than the president, decides to close down and erase all signs of the top secret programs that are turning men and women into undercover killing machines. Close down is government code for kill everyone on screen and soon Aaron Cross is the last guy standing while simultaneously running for his life.

Aaron’s companion in evading the malevolent minions of government is the unbelievably naïve Dr. Marta Shearing, played by the usually capable Rachel Weisz. Shearing has helped to develop the medications that Cross and his former fellow program participants were given to stimulate physical and mental superiority.

“But I was just in it for the science,” she bleats when Cross points out to her the practical results of her scientific obsession. A gut-churning massacre in Shearing’s lab followed by a hit team that tries to take her out at home convinces her that operating without a moral compass is a losing proposition.

Written by Gilroy and his brother Dan, the script depends too much on the previous films to provide a story. Shearing’s unbelievable obtuseness about her part in those nasty secret human experiments is not convincing nor is Weisz’s “I can’t believe this is happening to me” performance.

A motorcycle chase through downtown Manila filmed with handheld cameras goes on far too long and should have anyone with motion issues running for the exits.

But what is missing most is any hope for a positive outcome. In the previous films, a rogue unit of the CIA was attempting a power grab through unauthorized violence, but there were still people left to challenge them, like Joan Allen’s Pam Landy. In Legacy, Landy has been neutralized and it seems as if the entire U.S. government has been taken over by the henchmen of evil.

Jason Bourne had Landy to turn to. Without any sort of good guy on the horizon, where is Aaron Cross to turn? A sequel is expected.

See you at the movies!