film review: The Bourne Legacy (2012)

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film review: The Bourne Legacy (2012)

The Bourne Legacy is in a bit of a conundrum.

Basically it was a sequel that no-one wanted but most were still optimistic about.

The Bourne Legacy posterThe news last year that Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon would not be back for next installment had people worried… However the fact that the new director was involved in the last ones and that they were getting a new credible lead was encouraging. Certainly I was looking forward to seeing what Tony Gilroy and Jeremy Renner would do with this new chapter in the Bourne story.

Unfortunately, this step in a new direction has serious problems. Given that Gilroy wrote all three of the previous films I would have expected more cohesive storyline. Instead what we get is something very simplistic dressed up in a mystery. There seems to be a belief within blockbuster screenwriters these days that simply not telling the audience what’s going on, is enough to create tension around what’s happening.

It’s not.

There needs to be a hook. I need a reason to want to know what’s going on. In The Bourne Legacy there are shadowy government officials talking in jargon about secret programs… but I don’t really care about those secret programs. Because I know that all it’s going to lead to is our blockbuster action hero running around dodging bullets. All those scenes where they talk about it are just… time wasting really.

That was a surprise to me as well, how action-focused this film turned out to be. Not that the others weren’t but this film never quite marries its dual focus. The thriller / mystery never manages to lend true urgency to the action and the action never really becomes thrilling. I don’t know if it’s a case that the way the action scenes are shot makes them less visceral or whether the scenes were just never set up very well, but they just don’t quite work for me.

Jeremy Renner was also a disappointment. I am a fan of Renner… and we know he can act – two time Oscar nominee that he is – but his character is so paper thin that he never fits into it. I’ll come out and say it, he’s not action hero material. He may have the build and in The Avengers he pulled off the detached henchman, then confused soldier very well but it’s those confused puppy dog eye he turned on in Avengers that give him away here. He needs to play a character, not a punching bag.

The plot is… shameful to be honest. Well, ok, it’s not quite the plot, more the plot driver. I couldn’t quite believe it when they reveal why Renner’s Aaron Cross is doing what he’s doing. It’s played so seriously but I had to laugh. That’s why this is all so important to him? Really? If or when you see it, do tell me what you think it was because I still can’t quite believe it.

In the end, this was a film that just doesn’t know what it’s fighting to be.

Fitting I guess.


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