Dir. by Tony Gilroy - 2 hrs. 15 min.
by Clayton Hollifield
Going in, "The Bourne Legacy" is in about as big of a hole as any film can be in: following up a well-regarded and well-received trilogy of films, and doing so with a new lead character (and the star of the previous films is nowhere to be seen in the advertising). That sort of thing is the province of straight-to-DVD films that trade on a famous title without offering any actors you've ever heard of to back it up. But I'll be damned if "The Bourne Legacy" doesn't pull it off.
As the trailer says, there was never only one. The same program that yielded Jason Bourne has also yielded other agents. This time, the focus is on Aaron Stone (Jeremy Renner), who is in the middle of a frozen wasteland, doing nothing but popping meds and dodging a pack of wolves. The call is made to terminate the program, and Stone narrowly misses being rendered obsolete. Despite surviving, Stone (presumably like the other agents) is dependent upon meds, and heads back to mainland United States to locate more (and to figure out what's going on, exactly). However, since the government program that created Stone doesn't want him around anymore, this isn't exactly a cake-walk.
I didn't see any major negatives to "The Bourne Legacy," other than having warmed up to Matt Damon's character that was the focus of the first three films in this series. Here, he's mentioned in dialogue and shown in file pictures, leaving the door open if they should want to return to Jason Bourne's saga. I'm not going to say that Jeremy Renner is an equal replacement as the lead, but he's talented and believable in the action sequences. Also, Renner's not the only actor of note here; both Rachel Weisz and Edward Norton play large roles, making it clear that this film is not a low-budget piece of crap that's only exploiting the "Bourne" franchise name and not backing it up.
In terms of the action sequences, there's some very good material here. The big parkour/car/motorcycle chase in the Philippines is spectacular and filled with tension all the way through. The setting itself is used to great effect and not just as a backdrop. There's also a shoot-out at Dr. Shearing's (Weisz) house that's a very effective introduction to Stone's abilities. But the things that make the action sequences matter are the ideas behind the film. Both Shearing and Stone are given the opportunity to explain why it is they are doing what they're doing, and it's both relevant and meaningful. Discussing them would be heavy spoiler territory, but it sheds a new light on the Jason Bourne films, as well.
Walking into "The Bourne Legacy," I kept my expectations low. The original batch of films are some of my favorite action films, and I felt there was no way this film was going to be able to reach the bar set by them. It's fair to mention that this film didn't reach that bar, but was still a pretty good action film. "The Bourne Legacy" manages to stand on it's own, even if it's not a stand-out film like any of its predecessors. As long as you're not trying to hold this film to the standards of the previous installments, I don't think anyone would view this as a let-down.
3.5 / 5 - Theatre