I wouldn’t say that “The Bourne Legacy” is a bad movie. As a sequel, or spin off, it works as an interesting diversion, and has a unique concept. Treadstone perhaps wasn’t the only test subject, and now we’re faced with the potential of others out there fighting for their lives when the government decides to burn the entire house down and murder their subjects. Jeremy Renner has proven to be a charismatic action hero, and “The Bourne Legacy” is altogether a fine movie, in the end. And that’s the problem. It’s just fine. The first three “Bourne” movies were incredible.
Which is not a knock on Jeremy Renner. I’ve been a fan since “12 and Holding,” but even he can’t save what is just occasionally monotonous and utter mediocrity. “The Bourne Legacy” spends half of its time trying to reconcile the story with the arc involving Jason Bourne. It spends the other half trying to create some sense of tension and suspense. Sometimes when it manages to rise above tedious, it can be quite entertaining. But I was never sure why we needed a fourth film at all, beyond the obvious cash grab here. “The Bourne Legacy” is a decent if forgettable epilogue to “The Bourne Identity” trilogy, but it’s not one that was wholly necessary. To make things worse, Jeremy Renner is teamed with Rachel Weisz who plays one of the most annoying and shrill love interests and sidekicks I’ve ever seen in an action movie. Franka Potente really raised the bar, contributing to the survival of Jason Bourne, and learning from his tactics.
Her character was also smart enough to follow Jason Bourne’s instructions, and could even think on her feet. Weisz as a doctor caught in the middle of the government’s extermination program of everyone involved in a sub-branch of their Treadstone operations, really does nothing but run around screaming and crying. For most of the film, she’s relatively helpless and useless, and can barely run from the bad guys without Renner’s character Aaron Cross having to save her hide. Renner is Aaron Cross, a test subject for a chemical meant to work as a sub-weapon to the Treadstone program. When the information for all the government’s top secret programs go viral, they recruit an elite team to wipe the slate clean. Cross is left to fend for himself, and has to fight for his survival.
All the while, “The Bourne Legacy” leads audiences in to a dull and utterly convoluted storyline that rarely forms a cohesive narrative wrought with tension or excitement. When you care more about what the villains are doing, you know an action movie has failed to build a respectable hero. Edward Norton is a scene stealer as the enigmatic Eric Byer, assigned to wiping all evidence of the programs off the map, leaving a pile of bodies in his wake, and sticks to his job. He’s mainly about getting his work done, and cares nothing about sacrifices, or bystanders. “The Bourne Legacy” had potential to really take the entire “Bourne” concept in a new direction, but it instead just treads water as a forgettable action entry that really fails as a sequel and spin-off.