There is an irony to The Bourne Legacy. The soldiers in the movie blindly do what they are told and never question the mission or authority. If an important task needs to be accomplished, they go head first, with an eye on the prize and don’t blink. They are only controlled by what seems to be a reliance on the same two sets of pills. The redundancy of these tasks echoes the movie. The film charges forward without questioning its path despite the ripe material it glances upon but we continue to eat it up because we don’t question the monotony of what we view on the screen, which results in a generic action thriller that only scratches the surface of a greater story.
In the fourth installment of this series, Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is a genetically enhanced field agent similar to Jason Bourne (Matt Damon, who shows up in spirit only). He is part of the Outcome program, a more sophisticated, controlled program than Treadstone from the first three films. These soldiers are genetically enhanced for higher motor and physical skills, as well as better mental dexterity and ability. They have a reliance on a set of two pills, as previously mentioned, which breaks down into the blue and green. It does remind of The Matrix in which the control and enhancement of their abilities is based on whether they take the pills or not. The major difference is if they take the pills, they play into the control aspect of being reliant on their prescriptions from their providers (granted, if they don’t take the pills, they probably get shot).
Unfortunately for these Outcome members, Jason Bourne is happening. More specifically, the third movie’s events, The Bourne Ultimatum, is running concurrently during this movie. He raises the profile of the possibility of other programs in the CIA so in turn, all evidence must go. That includes Outcome and its members. So Aaron Cross must survive and find answers, and of course, he is almost out of the pills so he must find a doctor connected to Outcome (Rachel Weisz, who follows the Hollywood tradition of aging backwards) in order to get his dosage and survive.
The best part about the Bourne movies were its ability to take a small detail and make it rich in detail, or provide an essential purpose. Whether looking at the limits of patriotism or the idea of fighting for freedom with people who had theirs taken from them, I loved the Bourne Trilogy because there was that underlying message of the cost of ‘whatever it takes’. Of course, being able to use a magazine to disarm someone or a towel to take out a knife wielding villain helps too. I feel this movies brushes against these issues yet won’t attach themselves to them.
Edward Norton plays Eric Byer, the guy tasked with cleaning up the Treadstone mess and anything related to it but him and his character were surprisingly one note. There was no tension on what he provides on-screen, no sense of urgency that he felt like a character born out of the necessity of moving the plot along. He was there to explain to the audience why Aaron Cross is the person we were following in this movie. Byer and his team were into the players from The Bourne Ultimatum like Pamela Landy (Joan Allen), Ezra Kramer (Scott Glenn), Albert Hirsch (Albert Finney), Noah Vosen (David Strathairn) and the most frustrating thing was to not watch their stories unfold. I wanted to know how or if there were going to be punished for their roles in the clandestine world of black ops, whether Landy uncovering Treadstone made her a patriot or a traitor to the country; if CIA Director Kramer covered up what was the best means possible to get the job done and if the ends justified the means; if Dr. Hirsch opened up the gates to super soldiers; or if Vosen was correct in his definition of patriotism and loyalty to his nation. I got none of this. Writer and director Tony Gilroy went the wrong way for this movie because it merely scratches the surface and nothing more.
It doesn’t help that the movie was boooorrrriiinnngggg. This is of no fault to Renner or Weisz, who were both good in their roles. The flick just comes up short and as it just wants to be a carbon copy of actions movies. For the first third of the movie, I felt I was watching The Grey. The chase was straight out of The Bourne Ultimatum. Heck, I felt like I was watching Spy Game during certain pockets of the movie. I wasn’t sure if I was watching a survivalist movie, a straight action flick, or a detailed espionage flick. Regardless, we’ve seen the movie before. It brings nothing new to the table and sadly, felt like it had no purpose. This movie did not follow its namesake and expand upon the legacy of Bourne. The action was decent but never anything ground breaking or having cause to talk about it right after the movie about “hey, did you see that one part?!”
There were good parts in the movie, such as the Manila rooftop and car chase (although I’m biased coming from the motherland myself) and less reliance of shaky-cam but this movie could have been so good. Maybe my expectations were too high dealing with the Greengrass/Damon combination. There is no creativity in the movie and that takes away from the mythology of Bourne. Even more frustrating is how the movie just ends with no real resolution to the plot or characters in this story. This movie is nothing more than diversionary ploy to look aesthetically pleasing yet provide no answers while asking the wrong questions. Skip the Bourne ‘Letdown’.
On a side note, another program that is chasing Cross all around Manila, is a beta subject that exhibits even less empathy. He basically came off as the Asian T-1000. Sunglasses, police motorcycle, him running and giving the quick turn and stare before launching him arms in perfect 90 degree swinging motion…seriously entertained Dr. Kronner and myself. Some of my exes might even think that’d be me considering how “emotionally unavailable” I am…So apparently based off of that, I am the next Jason Bourne – with NO EMPATHY.