A new story set in the same universe as the three previous films based on Robert Ludlum’s novels, centred on a different hero, CIA operative Aaron Cross who has been impacted by the actions of Jason Bourne during the previous films.
‘The Bourne Legacy’ represents Universal’s attempts to continue the Bourne franchise beyond series star Matt Damon’s involvement as well as the man who gave the franchise its recognisable look and feel, director Paul Greengrass. Fortunately series veteran Tony Gilroy directs the new film, having worked on all three screenplays for the first three films.
Gilroy’s involvement in the franchise to date can be felt in ‘The Bourne Legacy’, as similar to the previous two films, the events of ‘Legacy’ are closely intertwined around the events in ‘Ultimatum’. Gilroy clearly wanted this new film firmly grounded in the events of the existing films and it helps maintain the continuity despite launching a new main star for the series.
With a new director however comes a new look and feel for the film and ‘Legacy’ feels far more akin to ‘Identity’ (directed by Doug Liman) than it does to the Greengrass films ‘Supremacy’ and ‘Ultimatum’. ‘Legacy’ exhibits a more constrained style of film making, and audiences will not find the same intense action sequences here that Greengrass brought to the series. This isn’t to say the action to be found in ‘Legacy’ is bad, (it isn’t), however there’s a certain visceral impact from the previous two films that is likely to be missed.
Gilroy doesn’t get overly caught up in action sequences however, large set pieces are few and far between in ‘Legacy’, as Gilroy opts to focus more on events taking place around the new main characters, and their response to them than he does on creating gritty close quarters fighting sequences.
Action aside ‘Legacy’ exhibits many of the series staples for Bourne, with covert programs run by shadowy conspirators, field agent super spy’s being placed at odds with their unknown command structure, and agency assets on the run.
Character Aaron Cross has been cleverly designed to exhibit a character in a similar vein and style to Jason Bourne however without being a simple clone for the franchise to continue. Similar to Bourne, Cross carries a past that haunts him, and survives through the use of his brains and his physical prowess but also exhibits an entirely different personality to Bourne, Cross is chattier, openly inquisitive, and seemingly more personable than Bourne.
Jeremy Renner’s addition to the franchise is a big win, he’s appearing in various blockbuster franchises and has the potential to become a strong leading man in the action/spy genre. Here Renner gives an excellent performance, personifying the Cross character on screen with enough familiarity to Damon but with enough variation to leave his own touch on the franchise. There’s an excellent opportunity now in the franchise to have Aaron Cross and Jason Bourne involved in the same film, with any luck Matt Damon hasn’t entirely written off his involvement in the franchise.
Rachel Weiz and Edward Norton both provide good performances in their respective roles but at the same time don’t quite have the same material to work with that Renner does.
Unfortunately ‘The Bourne Legacy’ does come with more than its fair share of problems particularly for a Bourne film, the antagonists of this instalment lose some of their effectiveness due to a lack of screen presence for large sections of the story, the central character is at his most interesting when interacting with others but there’s limited opportunity for this during the film, and the action is enjoyable but lacking some of the grittiness that Greengrass turned into a signature of the series.
Overall ‘The Bourne Legacy’ is an enjoyable and serviceable spy thriller, it doesn’t leave quite the same impact as the previous two films however it succeeds in establishing a solid new central character for the series, and establishes a new direction from which the series can go to from here.
I’m giving ‘The Bourne Legacy’ six out of ten stars, it’s currently showing in cinemas.