I should write tabloid headlines, really.
Regardless of how much love the Bourne movies get, it was time for a change and some new blood. I liked the first three, but if this had been a fourth Damon-led Bourne, I’m sure I would be feeling sequel-fatigue by now – successful fourth entries are far and few between. But if they’re absolutely going to do it anyway, may aswell shake things up.
So while it may have been bourne of studio-greed (last one, I promise), the new direction nonetheless seemed interesting and promising – Renner was “fresh” and “cool” and “hot” and “with it” and Gilroy was a mainstay of the franchise. I was excited to see if they could take what was so great about the originals and point it in a slightly different direction.
And that’s what they’ve done, essentially – albeit not entirely successfully.
All the Bourne-marks are there: grim real-worldy shooting (thankfully, with less shakey-cam), close hand-to-hand action, convoluted government schemes, morally-grey guys in suits shouting instructions behind screens with satellite views. But it all feels less intelligent, somehow – like a standard low-rent action script was snapped up and then given a Bourne-universe makeover. The first half of the film presents itself as this fiendishly intricate, global epic, but when the actual plot is revealed, it’s all disappointingly simple.
The film’s main weakness is its insistence on reminding us all that it is a Bourne film. Too much time is spent beating the audience over the head with incidental characters and flashbacks to the previous films that it becomes distractingly exhausting. Worse, barely any of it is even consequential to the plot of this film. The occasional newsreels of Jason Bourne would have sufficed as a tie-in, but instead we get press hearings, interviews and character-retreads that only convolute what should essentially be a fairly straightforward story of boy meets girl meets drug addiction.
The other glaring flaw is the lack of any physical antagonist. Norton does a fine job of playing the usual shady suit cover-up guy, but besides a too-late-in-the-game character introduction, there’s no physical threat to put a face to – something that could have really made a difference to the tension.
But if you take away the inevitable comparisons to its predecessors, this is still a very solid, fun action thriller. Renner is a great actor and a superbly likeable action hero – the guy is essentially a murdering drug addict, but you’ll care about him anyway. Rachel Weisz is good as the “helpless” female companion and Norton does a fine job at playing the “guy behind a desk making tough calls” kind of villain the franchise is partly famous for. Tony Gilroy proves himself as a very competent director, showing off a couple of really nice action touches – one particular scene in a country house sold it for me
Legacy isn’t a bad film, but its flaws are spotlit by its occasional greatness and the (ahem) legacy of Bourne, which towers over this like a big Damon and Greengrass shaped shadow. I can’t help but think that if Gilroy had just focused more on this film and this story and spent less time tying it all up with the last Bourne, we could have been watching a cleaner slate and a fresher break.