Jeremy Renner begins a new chapter in the franchise Matt Damon left behind with The Bourne Legacy, an unremarkable follow-up to the popular action series. This installment picks up somewhere in the middle of 2007's The Bourne Supremacy and introduces new hero Aaron Cross (Renner). Though Jason and Aaron's paths don't cross, Jason's presence is riddled throughout the film. A couple of familiar characters make brief appearances, but for the most part, The Bourne Legacy showcases an entirely new cast. Writer/director Tony Gilroy is also new to directing the Bourne series (though he wrote the screenplays for the first three) and seems to be attempting to capture the same frantic energy of the prior films, but instead he falls flat, strapped with snooze-inducing material and a story that takes way too long to get to the point.
Like Jason, Aaron is part of a top-secret government program, but is left out to dry when it gets shut down. Agents start dropping like flies all over the globe, all except Aaron, who is isolated on some "bullsh*t scavenger hunt" in the mountains. He realizes the mission he's on is no longer routine and life is in danger shortly after a missile destroys his cabin. Unfortunately, Aaron can't sever ties with the agency just yet; he needs the mysterious strength-building pills that its pretty scientist Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) has been supplying him with. The fact that we never find out what will happen to Aaron if he fails to take these pills is just one of the issues I have with this movie. To find out what else I thought, just keep reading.
You don't have to have seen the previous movies to watch The Bourne Legacy, but you will have to be familiar with them in order to have any idea of what's happening outside of Aaron's own story line. That said, fans of the Bourne series will likely find many of the film's scenes cryptic, if not completely impossible to follow. For those who haven't seen the movies, the numerous discussion scenes will sound like straight mumbo jumbo. Even when the action finally picks up, the combat scenes are spliced with lots of foreboding meetings, mostly led by operative Eric Byer (Edward Norton, whose screen time is completely wasted on standing around looking angry).
The good news is that there is action. There's a whopper of a scene in the mountains when Aaron wrestles a rabid wolf. Once Aaron joins forces with Marta, whose knowledge of the agency's labs has also landed a target on her back, they head to the Philippines where Aaron is chased atop roofs and stealthily disarms scores of security guards, police, and callous assassins without batting an eye. Renner pulls off the stunts of his physically demanding role, but at times his intensely urgent dialogue delivery plays more like he's in a parody of the Bourne series than an actual installment of it.
Despite some unbelievable sequences, The Bourne Legacy goes nowhere. There is clearly a national conspiracy occurring around Aaron and Marta, but they are solely concerned with getting his meds back. The whole movie consists of them running away from villains, but they're not running toward anything in particular. They're not focused on avenging the deaths of Aaron's fellow agents or exposing the agency that killed them, they're just trying to get out alive. And let's face it, that's boring.
What's so great about the Bourne series is that those first three movies do fit together, but they also work as stand-alones. This installment, however, spends too much time poising backstories for assumed sequels and not enough time developing characters and a story worth caring about within its own runtime. There's some excellent action, but the film refuses to explore all the avenues that it sets up and ultimately ends on an unsatisfying note.