Spy vs. spy
For Bourne fans, a disappointing Legacy
By Tim Pompey 08/16/2012
The Bourne Legacy
Directed by Tony Gilroy
Starring: Jeremy Renner,
Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton,
Rated PG-13 for violence and action sequences
2 hrs. 15 mins.
As a big fan of the Bourne franchise, I came to The Bourne Legacy with high expectations and some doubt. Three pics. Three winners. A trifecta. How much luckier could we get?
We all know how fickle luck can be. As it turns out, Legacy misses the mark. Great premise. Good cast. Solid director. Not a great film. So what went wrong?
Note how there is one essential element missing from the above list. Storyline. Legacy is as complicated as an engineering schematic, and tends to hurry along without sharing many clues.
Even more confusing, it’s not a sequel as much as a spinoff. In terms of timelines, it actually happens during the third Bourne film. So in essence, it’s a parallel story. This means, if you haven’t seen the previous films, you’re going to be lost. And even if you have seen them, with all the plot threads this film generates, you might still get lost.
While Jason is headed to New York, Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) has traversed through mountains in search of the viral drugs he needs to keep his body stabilized.
As it turns out, he’s one of six superspies connected to another secret government program called Outcome, this one headed up by retired Adm. Mark Turso, USN (Stacy Keach) and retired Col. Eric Byer, USAF (Edward Norton).
Byer has been keeping track of the Bourne debacle and decides that he needs to shut down Outcome. This means getting rid of everything (and everyone) connected to the program, including Cross and brilliant research scientist Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz).
Cross knows Shearing from his previous medical exams. He knows that she has helped develop the viral technology that keeps Cross super. Most important, she knows how to make his favorite drug cocktail.
With Byer and company bearing down, Cross saves Shearing’s life and convinces her to keep him alive. Her house in flames, her life in danger, Shearing realizes she needs Cross for protection.
There are some good moments in this film. For one, it takes a little more time to explore the human cost of being a scientific guinea pig. Co-writers Tony and Dan Gilroy unveil more of Cross’ internal sufferings. What will a superagent do to stay super? And at what cost? Brothers Tony and Dan keep that idea percolating.
The cast is also strong, particularly Renner, whose superspy energy is offset by his struggle to understand what’s happening to him. In contrast to Bourne’s supreme confidence and relentless pursuit, Cross is more practical about his goals. He just wants to live with his body and brainpower intact. Renner successfully portrays a man with a brilliant mind and a lunch bucket mentality.
As for director Tony Gilroy, who wrote and directed the Academy Award-nominated Michael Clayton, he tries hard to put all these parts together, but given his own bulky script, it’s a hit-or-miss proposition.
Sometimes Legacy moves along at a brisk clip. Sometimes it sags under its own technical jargon. Sometimes it feels too frenetic, as if someone bounced a camera down a mountain and left it running.
At its best, Legacy has some great stunt sequences and a bit of humanity and tenderness between Cross and Shearing. At its worst, it plods along with its head down and its eyes shut.
This is a case of a good idea gone amok. Too many threads to follow. Too many questions that go unanswered. While it has some interesting parts, as a whole Legacy comes undone like a tipped-over scrabble board. As for all those scattered pieces bouncing wildly up on the screen, I can’t begin to make sense of them.