[Review] The Bourne Legacy (2012) by Dan McIntosh

So I was fortunate enough to win a ticket to the premiere of The Bourne Legacy. Like most who watched the Matt Damon Bourne movies, we were all hoping that he would return for another outing as Jason Bourne. At the time, Universal were not overly happy with the speed at which Director Paul Greengrass was making the movies and the ever increasing budget. Added to which the performance of Green Zone which was another team-up between Damon and Greengrass failed to deliver, I think caused Universal to feel like they couldn’t trust their successful Bourne franchise in Greengrass’ hands. The studio still wanted Damon to reprise his role, however Damon made it clear that he would not work with any other director than Greengrass on the Bourne series. Like all movie studios that want to retain the film rights to different properties, Universal elected to create a new spin-off film using the already established universe and expand upon it. Was Legacy successful at doing this? Yes I think so, but I think there is a little more to the answer of that question than a simple yes. I guess foremost on most people’s mind is do I need to watch the other Bourne movies starring Matt Damon in order to understand this? The answer once again is not so simple. It is a yes no answer. I think that someone could walk in cold and watch this movie and be entertained without having seen the previous films, however they would walk away with probably about half of the experience that was intended. I made it my mission to watch the first three movies before seeing Legacy. I didn’t quite get there and had to finish Ultimatum off after I watched Legacy, but I am so intimately familiar with these movies that it really wasn’t necessary to sit and watch them intently from start to finish.

So why should you watch the original Bourne movies? Well for the simple fact that your appreciation for the universe is much better and that you have a solid understanding of the Treadstone program, the Black Briar program and the history of some of the characters that appear in Legacy. It is not essential to know every detail of the previous movies as the start of Legacy seeks to provide a very light explanation of these programs and events, however watching the preceding Damon movies will help you know exactly where the Legacy piece fits within the puzzle. I won’t say that it is a perfect fit as I think that Tony Gilroy who wrote and directed Legacy (co-written with Dan Gilroy) did not tie some of the details of Legacy into the original three movies. I think more work was needed to establish a better connection between the mythology Legacy attempts to establish and that of the Damon movies. I would say that it was 90% there, but really needed some polishing work to really round off some of those sharp corners which makes Legacy hard to fit snugly into the previous films. I think that the headaches that were discussed in the Damon movies and some of the other concepts could have been tied to some of the plot devices established in Legacy. Legacy does however fill in some of the back story and provide answers to some of the questions or curiosities people still had after seeing the Damon movies, particularly in reference to how do these guys become in effect super spies!

Legacy stars the ever popular Jeremy Renner who has seriously made a name for himself in a big way in recent years and rightly so. Is Renner a great actor? I think he is pretty damn good. He has played a diverse set of roles, mostly within the action tough guy genre, but to each of those roles he brings something unique and Legacy is no different. Cue Spoiler alert. Yes ladies the first time you see him in the movie he is topless. End spoiler alert. Is this Renner’s best performance? I would say no. I personally rate his performances in The Town and S.W.A.T. as better. I just think that he nailed those characters just that little bit better. Can Renner pull off action? Do you really need me to answer that… There was one particular scene where I basically said “holy shit… I got dibs on him for my full-contact dodge ball game”. He was just downright fierce and lethal. Having said that, I think that Renner contrasted that with some nice moments with his co-star Rachel Weisz. I did feel at times that there wasn’t enough chemistry between the two or that things were a little forced, but then there were scenes where I thought that they really had some good moments together. I don’t believe it was the acting, I just think that the directing probably let them down in one or two moments.

The production quality of this movie was extremely sound and the overall story was fine. I think that Legacy lacked some of the smarts that the previous movies had in that with the Damon movies I felt like I was watching a game of Chess, while with Legacy I felt like I was watching a game of Draughts. For those of you unfamiliar with those games, Chess and Draughts are similar games, however Chess has those few extra degrees of difficulty and strategy involved that separates the two. I won’t say that Legacy was overly predictable, but compared to the Damon movies I think it lacked just that extra layer of complexity and twists that we got with the Damon movies. In terms of the action sequences it was certainly on par with the Damon movies and is worthy of the Bourne franchise name. One thing I really did like in this movie over Supremacy and Ultimatum was the camera work, particularly in the fight sequences. Paul Greengrass who directed Supremacy and Ultimatum is a great fan of the in your face movie the camera violently about with the action style of shooting. I personally find that too jarring and it takes me out of the overall experience of the film. I think that camera work needs to be dynamic, but not overly so and Legacy certainly did this much better.

Overall Legacy had a feel like it was attempting to remake The Bourne Identity, but at the same time it was good enough not to come off as just rip-off of Identity just with a new actor. It most certainly provides a springboard for a new trilogy or spin-off franchise, which I hope happens. Now that Renner has been established in the role, I am keen to see where he can take the character. I will say that Legacy is a really good movie, but I do wish that they left the franchise alone. The final scene of Ultimatum really ended the Jason Bourne story well and while Legacy has established its own thing, it is really the studio trying to cash in on an already established and successful franchise, which I can’t begrudge them of. Cue the music Extreme Ways by Moby….


Review written by Dan McIntosh


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