‘The Bourne Legacy’ Review

Published 3 years ago by , Updated November 26th, 2014 at 6:52 pm,

Jeremy Renner Bourne Legacy The Bourne Legacy Review

Most moviegoers will find enjoyment in The Bourne Legacy – as it offers the same government conspiracy storylines and realistic action beats as its predecessors.

Fans of the Jason Bourne series have been skeptical about the prospect of The Bourne Legacy ever since the project was first announced back in 2010. While franchise leading man Matt Damon, who played the titular hero in the first three movies, was originally attached for a fourth film (to be directed by Paul Greengrass), the pair later dropped out of the project, and instead, Jeremy Renner (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and The Avengers) as well as Bourne Supremacy and Ultimatum writer, Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton), were tasked with bringing an entirely new Bourne universe character to the big screen.

As indicated, the notion of a Bourne series film without an appearance by Jason Bourne did not sit well with fans of the franchise – leading many to dismiss The Bourne Legacy as little more than a thinly-veiled cash grab. However, does the final film defy the naysayers and live up to the lofty bar set by the original trilogy – delivering the same visceral action and sharp storytelling?

Unfortunately, The Bourne Legacy is neither as exciting or as intriguing as the Matt Damon-led films – but that doesn’t mean it’s a total misfire. In general, the movie’s biggest shortcoming is an overlong runtime that is the result of a number of drawn-out scenes and action set pieces. Nearly every moment of the film is interesting, whether a meditative character beat or a fast-paced chase sequence, but not everything is essential. As the minutes tick on, these less-engaging elements begin to distract from the core narrative – resulting in a diminished return for the on-screen drama.

Jeremy Renner Aaron Cross Bourne Legacy The Bourne Legacy Review

Jeremy Renner in ‘The Bourne Legacy’

An overstuffed, and overcomplicated, plot is largely to blame for a bloated Bourne Legacy experience. Not only does Gilroy, who also wrote the film (along with brother Dan Gilroy), introduce an entirely new sympathetic operative: number 5, Aaron Cross – the filmmakers also attempt to weave further plotlines into The Bourne Ultimatum story.

Essentially, the rogue actions of Jason Bourne, namely his attack on Operation Blackbriar, cause the CIA, headed by Retired Col. Eric Byer (Edward Norton), to shutter black ops programs including Treadstone – leading to the execution of countless field agents and support staffers. After narrowly avoiding an attempt on his own life, new franchise face Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is forced into a kill or be killed chase as he flees the covert purge. Unfortunately, Cross is low on his “green and blues” – drugs supplied by the CIA through “Operation Outcome” (a Treadstone offshoot) that give agents an intellectual and physical edge in the field. Cross seeks out another CIA purge target, Outcome physician Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), in an effort to find more of the necessary medication. Without the drugs, Cross and Shearing don’t stand a chance against Byer’s ruthless (and blood-drenched) attempt at containing Blackbriar fallout.

It’s an intriguing setup, even if much of the film is centered around chasing down a MacGuffin, and despite this stock man-on-the-run format, there are some truly engaging plot developments and character moments. However viewers who haven’t recently watched the prior Bourne films (especially Ultimatum) will be wishing they’d prepped for Legacy with a refresher screening. Even though Jason Bourne appears in name (and static image) only – the plot spends a lot of time casually referring to the character (and the events surrounding him) as if they were common knowledge. Even for those who can easily recall the core Bourne storyline (loaded with covert names, government cover-ups, etc), the film will still get bogged down in disconnected exposition. That said, anyone who can’t easily recall prior plot elements and characters (especially Operation Blackbriar, “Pam” Landy, and Dr. Albert Hirsch) will likely feel as though the characters cut away from the Aaron Cross situation too often – in favor of reacting to a person who isn’t actually in this film.

Jeremy Renner Edward Norton Bourne Legacy The Bourne Legacy Review

Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) and Retired Col. Eric Byer (Edward Norton)

The whole setup creates a weird introduction for the Cross character, and Renner, to his credit, still manages to make it work. While The Bourne Legacy doesn’t always make it easy to accept the new leading man (since it spends loads of time winking at the last one), Renner helps ground Cross with the same balance of compassion and ruthless neck snapping that fans of the series have come to expect from rogue Treadstone operatives. At this point, the Cross storyline isn’t as rich as Bourne (who spent a lot of time attempting to uncover his past) but scene-to-scene the character provides enough intrigue to keep his freshman outing interesting.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Norton’s Eric Byer – who, in spite of a fascinatingly grey morality, does little more than sit in a CIA operations room and react to various pieces of information that other agents present to him. He’s an exposition machine and very little connects Byer to the outside action – significantly limiting the character’s utility and intrigue.

Rachel Weisz as Dr. Marta Shearing is in the same camp – the film attempts to position her as a unique foil to Cross, but unfortunately the character is mostly led around out of fear and (for the most part) is relegated to typical action movie damsel tropes. The filmmakers were clearly trying for something deeper – as Shearling enjoys a competent backstory and some compelling character moments. However, despite a solid performance from Weisz, who plays Shearling with an entirely straight face, the character’s beat-by-beat endeavors are more reminiscent of a typical popcorn action heroine – not the gritty and realistic approach that comes standard with a Bourne experience.

Rachel Weisz Bourne Legacy The Bourne Legacy Review

Rachel Weisz as Dr. Marta Shearing in ‘The Bourne Legacy’

Fortunately, that “realism” is definitely present in the film’s action beats – which offer a nice break from the overabundance of CGI-heavy movies Hollywood typically churns out. Renner’s hand-to-hand combat is hard hitting and exciting to watch – especially when the character is first on the lamb (and out-gunned). Creative use of various filming locations has always been a strong suit for the series, and while Legacy has difficulty living up to set pieces in the Paul Greengrass (and Doug Liman) installments, there are a number of memorable scenes this round as well. Some of the chase sequences are symptomatic of the film’s bloated runtime, grinding on a bit too long, but that hardly detracts from the moment-to-moment fun.

Most moviegoers will find enjoyment in The Bourne Legacy – as it offers the same government conspiracy storylines and “realistic” action beats as its predecessors. However, the film is a step down from the Matt Damon trilogy in nearly every way imaginable – presenting a less compelling protagonist (though there’s room to flesh him out in future installments), an increasingly convoluted overarching plot, and drawn-out action with a softer payoff. Legacy is by no means a bad film, it just, ironically, has trouble living up to the real world Jason Bourne “legacy.” As a result, the movie will at the same time confirm the misgivings of cynics while providing enough of an entertaining ride to keep moviegoers interested in the possibility of a Bourne 5 (especially if there’s hope for some Jason Bourne/Aaron Cross face-time).

If you’re still on the fence about The Bourne Legacy, check out the trailer below:


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For an in-depth discussion of the film by the Screen Rant team check out The Bourne Legacy episode of the SR Underground podcast.

Let us know what you thought of the film in the comment section below. If you’ve seen the movie and want to discuss details about the film without worrying about spoiling it for those who haven’t seen it, please head over to our Bourne Legacy Spoilers Discussion.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future reviews, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.

The Bourne Legacy is rated PG-13 for violence and action sequences. Now playing in theaters.

Our Rating:

3 out of 5

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  1. I took my 13 year old, and while we both liked some of the action, he liked the film more overall than I did. I felt the film was too long and didn’t have enough of the action scenes to really keep my entire interest. I thought the plot and acting were very good, especially from Weis and Renner, but I agree with Ben that this is about a 3/5.

  2. I thought this was a very good sequel to the original trilogy. After three movies, it is hard to surprise the viewer and continually create something new. This movie accomplishes that. Renner is excellent as the new agent. Aaron Cross (Renner) is clearly a different agent then Bourne who spent the entire trilogy trying to figure out who he was. To be honest, this got a little old. Cross is stronger and smarter than Bourne, and, much more likable because we actually get to know him…he talks! Bourne said very little in “Identity.” I see this series expanding, maybe indefinitely. It could be the American version of James Bond and our children will be watching Bourne 23 in thirty years.

    • To add to my previous post. Best scene…. MINOR SPOILER ALERT!!!!!! The wolf scene in Alaska. Renner was so good, I actually believed this guy could do what he did, I was sold on Aaron Cross immediately. He pulled off a scene that in many movies would come off as jumping the shark. I loved the way new story was woven in to Ultimatum. In the 4 movie series, I would put this movie as number 3 behind Identity and Ultimatum. 4 out of 5 stars.

    • Good writeup. The chase on motorcycles was probably too long, but all the movie goer needs to know is that the crew led by Edward Norton and Stacy Keach wants to eliminate everyone that may reveal the originators of this probably illegal operation. The action was fast, and there was no gratuitous sex or weak girlie saving going on. The female lead or her stand in could actually run when it was necessary, and there was a clear sense of why they were in the position of running for their lives. Despite some obvious computer generated action, think drone attacks, I liked what I saw and look forward to #5.

    • I said the eeexact same thing about the Bond connection. That’s why I was so surprised to see them call it the “final film” in this review here.

  3. I was excited for this film before I saw it. Unfortunately though it turned out to be pretty bad most of the time. I like some of the characters and plot ideas, and there are a handful of well done character and action scenes, but most everything was executed really poorly. There was almost no real story at all. Which is a real shame because personally I felt that it could have been a great side story and addition the Bourne-verse. I’m kind of disappointed that this review rated the film a 3, but w/e.

  4. I tried really, really hard to like this movie, as The Bourne movies are some of my favorite action films. I left feeling very indifferent about it, which is rare for me.

    • Bourne movie is my favorite film ever…but in this bourne legacy, i am really disappointed because i was expecting a more exciting intelligence story and action…i hope there will be a new bourne film that more exciting like bourne identity, supremacy and ultimatum…i am really really disappointed in Bourne Legacy…

  5. my wife and i watched Bourne Legacy last night i really disappointed. i have the Bourne movies and love them. i felt like the Legacy was pointless. it was slow and the actions scenes were just someone else doing what had already been done in one of the previous movies. the hype was BIGGER than the movie! i feel it should not have been made.

  6. like the Plot, Dialogue, Action in the house was fresh, but I thought the ending was weak

    • l agree! Loved the fighting in the house but the whole 3rd act was bulshit

  7. I have not seen the film. Having had to sit through the seemingly 5 minute-long preview a few times before other movies, I was pre-emptively bored out of my mind. But I could be wrong; I might really enjoy the film. Those preview were like cities of visual cardboard, though.

  8. Loved it. Still worth seeing without Jason Bourne ever showing up.

  9. It wasn’t that it was a bad film it just didn’t feel as good as it could have been. It felt like a complilation of elements from the previous films throughout which was a shame as soem of the ideas it presented could have been interesting. If it had managed to break new ground in the plot threads more effectively it would have been more satisfying. All in all its a 3 out of 5 for me.

  10. I absolutely loved this movie, though the script was weaker than the originals. The characters were strong, since I managed to get invested in them, particularly Cross and Shearing. The run time didn’t even bother me like it seemed to do to others. I hardly noticed that two hours went by, finding myself very engrossed in the story. The problem for me was that they spend TOO much time trying to connect this film to the Jason Bourne films. I found the concept brilliant, connecting Legacy to Ultimatum by having their timelines converge, but at the end of the day this was an Aaron Cross film. The focus should have been just a bit more centered on that. Several of my friends, who have no previous past with the Bourne movies, found a lot of that too confusing to follow. I guess my summary is this: there should definitely be a sequel, but unless Damon decides to show, let’s leave him out of it and move forward with the current hero. Personally, I found him quite intriguing and human in his own right.

  11. Some possible SPOILERS ahead.

    I quite like Renner, and Rachel Weisz is one of my favourite actors, however it sadly lacked any real action sequences. Apart from the shootout at her home and the motorcycle chase at the end there wasn’t really all that much to it.

    To me it seemed like a rehash of the first Bourne film except he doesn’t have amnesia. Bourne meets girl, they travel together, become emotionally involved and saves her life, Aaron Cross, meets girl, saves her life, they become emotionally involved. Both films end on a happy note.

    Renner is quite capable, and his character was getting interesting to begin with, as was Weisz character, but I didn’t find myself that invested in them or there situation the same as I did with ‘The Bourne Identity’.

    To me just a slightly inferior remake of the first film (and some of the rooftop chase sequence’s from the second). Enjoyable but in the end a bit disappointing.

    Hope they don’t do any more.

  12. I usually do not comment on movies but since I am a big fan of the previous Bourne trilogy with Matt Damon I was eager to see the Bourne Legacy. Going to see this movie was a big mistake. I left the movie threatre feeling cheated. First of all the script was a knock-off of The Bourne Identity and the actions and the acting was not as good. I think the reason why the previous Bourne Trilogy was a success is that Matt Damon was not your typical government operative. He was the boy next door who could fit into any environment, a person no one would suspect as being a killer. On the other hand Aaron Cross looks like your typical government operative, there is nothing original or mysterious about the character and furthermore for the role he is playing he should have gone to the gym in order to look the part of an enhance operative. Overall I would rate the movie 4 out of 10. I hope that they don’t make another one. However, if they do decide make another movie I hope that they find someone else.

  13. I loved this film. Renner and Weisz gave incredible performances. The scene where the two leads meet in her house is incredibly tense. Stunning action scenes. Didn’t miss Damon at all. Totally reccommend it.

  14. I’m totally disappointed, Matt Damon is needed ,the beginning was too boring, this movie was a complete lost of interest, without M. Damon, Pamela Landin, Nicki Parsin, they are missed. Matt Damon would have got a 5 star review from me

  15. Good review,a decent movie ,the bar had been set very high by the first three films.Also,I believe the term is “on the lam”,as opposed to “lamb” as in adolescent sheep :)…