There was never just one. The Bourne Legacy has the task of trying to not only prove that it’s a worthy addition to the Bourne franchise, but try to make it work with a new leading man and explain how exactly he fits in. Jeremy Renner takes the weight of the Bourne franchise and carries that burden well. He makes for a great addition to the franchise, showing a harder soldier than the Bourne we knew in Matt Damon.
While the first Bourne films centered on Matt Damon and his search for identity and revenge against those who put him in his position, Renner’s Aaron Cross knew exactly what he was getting in to and does everything he can to stay just who (and what) the government made him. Bourne had a vulnerability and innocence to him at first, while Cross is all soldier, all the time.
The film doesn’t bother trying to explain who Bourne is or what went down in the previous films, it just throws you in to the thick of it with Cross in the wilderness and the US government running around like chickens with their heads cut off to keep the problem contained to just Bourne and agents who helped him. They decide to eliminate the entire program of Bourne-like super agents, but somehow Aaron survives and goes on a quest to make it so he can stay super without the help of the diet of pills they’ve been feeding him, constantly referred to as “chems.” He grabs the lone surviving scientist (Rachel Weisz) and they’re off to the other end of the world to try to escape the government that has now turned on them.
This portion of the film – the build up to their escape out of the US – is filled with tension, yet still drags on too long. By the time the real action starts in the Philippines, the film has used up much of its run time. The action feels crammed in at the end, but it’s definitely worth the wait.
While it was slow to start, it has one of the best chase scenes I’ve seen in years and solid action in the final act. The chase scene between Cross and another agent through the compact streets of Manila was filled with parkour and high flying jumps, then it just keeps going on motorcycle, on foot again, back on the bike, and all through the large city. The Mini Cooper chase scene in The Bourne Identity was an action film highlight of mine for years and this motorcycle chase through the crowds of Manila tops that. It’s edge-of-your seat action that keeps you guessing on how Cross will get out of this mess now. Then, the chase scene ends and the movie is over far too soon. Just as it seemed to be picking up, it’s over and left open for a sequel.
The only major flaw was the chemistry between Renner and Weisz. Their working relationship was great – both after a common goal of staying alive. However, when they would venture into more romantic territory it felt completely unearned and seemingly out of the blue. It goes back to the character of Cross – he’s so focused on getting those chems that shoehorning in anything more than a mutually beneficial friendship seems out of place.
Maybe their relationship will have better chemistry and more of a romantic foundation in the sequel. They definitely left it open for one, and should the box office show up, count me in!