Initial speculation behind the fourth instalment of the excellent Bourne Series suggested a rather lacklustre effort; Matt Damon, so brilliant in his role as Jason Bourne, demurred reprising his role, only wishing to return if original director, Paul Greengrass, would too return. With Greengrass opting out, the decision to effectively ‘re-boot’ the action-thriller series caused concern for some fans.
Certainly whilst the latest instalment will never be as truly genre-defining as the original trilogy, The Bourne Legacy is still a worthy addition to the series, largely aided by its intelligent lead performances.
Directed by Tony Gilroy, best known for his screenwriting work on the original trilogy, The Bourne Legacystars Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross, a recruit to the same scheme that Jason Bourne was so desperate to uncover. The events of the film take place concurrently with The Bourne Ultimatum, thus interspersed within the film’s narrative are scenes specific to the Jason Bourne narrative, skilfully interweaving Jason Bourne’s fate with that of Aaron Cross.
After Bourne exposes Operation Blackbriar and the Treadstone Project, Eric Byer (Edward Norton), a retired Air Force Colonel responsible for overseeing CIA clandestine operations, is requested to help defuse the situation. Attempting to shut down the entire operation, Byer seeks to eliminate all those involved with the project. Cross, realising the current situation, seeks the help of Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), whose work on the project leads him to believe that she may be able to assist him.
There are admittedly some pacing issues: the first half of the film undoubtedly lags, taking too long to establish the narrative. Considering those likely to be viewing the film will be familiar with the Treadstone project, it isn’t necessary to spend so much time establishing what many will already know. These pacing issues can be forgiven through in the light of the successful set-pieces; the well-choreographed action scenes, particularly the final high-octane sequence, are both engaging and highly visceral.
Much of the film’s ability to engage stems from the excellent Jeremy Renner; Renner has showcased his ability before, his performances in both The Hurt Locker and The Town were hugely charismatic and enthralling. His Aaron Cross is an altogether more instinctive incarnation than the slicker Jason Bourne. Cross’ vulnerability and desperation aid his humanisation, whilst his ruthlessness ensures his ability is never in doubt.
His rather well-realised relationship with Rachel Weisz’s Dr. Shearing is affecting and believable, the chemistry and feeling between the two steers clear of any hint of mawkishness. Weisz is, of course, wonderful, her progressive Dr. Shearing is a refreshing change; gone is the usual trophy-style female interest, instead Weisz imbues her character with real intelligence and initiative.
As a stand-alone film, The Bourne Legacy is a commendable effort; unfortunately of course, as an addition of the Bourne series, The Bourne Legacy will also be held in comparison to the series’ prior and undoubtedly superior efforts.