The cold and realistic direction of the highly successful Jason Bourne trilogy redefined the spy genre to such a degree that even the iconic James Bond franchise ended up revamping its flashy style when rebooting with the steely Casino Royale (2006).
It wasn’t just the clinical style of the Bourne films that made them a success, however. The highly charismatic lead Matt Damon (Jason Bourne), who rose to superstardom playing the sympathetic on-the-run spy, carried the films as the magnetic face of the trilogy. Interestingly enough, while this fourth installment in the franchise has ‘Bourne’ in the film’s name, it doesn’t actually have the title character in the film.
The Bourne Legacy overlaps the timeline of the third film and has a new lead in Jeremy Renner, who plays another agent by the name of Aaron Cross. Unfortunately, while Renner is a fine actor, this latest Bourne film feels a little lacking without Matt Damon and suffers from a style that is becoming overly familiar.
But that’s not all. After an engaging first half, things quickly become tedious and the film starts relying on a tiresomely long and jarring action finale to wrap things up. Considering the originality of the film’s predecessors, the sequence is disappointing and somewhat dents the franchise’s legacy. The overly-indulgent action finale isn’t completely surprising considering that the new director for the franchise Tony Gilroy is inexperienced with action sequences. And although Gilroy has co-written all four Bourne films, the narrative here doesn’t quite hold up either with an overly complex plot that adds more twists than were necessary.
The characterisation keeps things afloat, especially with Aaron Cross, an on-the-run super-agent looking for the pills that make him tick. While Cross is not always convincing as an action hero, the sincerity of his character makes him interesting. The other character of note is scientist Dr Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) who, after surviving a harrowing work place shooting, is rescued by Cross from CIA assassins. Here, the two start an almost formal working relationship while being chased across continents. Although there is some chemistry, the film doesn’t force a romance on its two leads, showing much appreciated restraint. It is just a pity that Gilroy didn’t show as much restraint in other areas of the film, ultimately making The Bourne Legacy a mission that suffers from too many casualties to be considered a successful part of the legacy.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, September 23rd, 2012.
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