Time to put Bourne to bed?
DIRECTED BY TONY GILROY
Somewhere near the middle of Tony Gilroy’s The Bourne Legacy is an effective 90-minute espionage thriller. This compelling central segment sees newcomer Jeremy Renner’s pharmaceutically enhanced field agent narrowly escape execution when his black-ops program is canned, and then track down an elite scientist (Rachel Weisz) who can cure him of his employer-mandated chemical dependency. Because Weisz has extensive knowledge of Renner’s op—a parallel program to Jason Bourne’s Treadstone—she, too, is marked for death. Viewed as little more than loose ends by a ruthless senior spook (Ed Norton, enjoyably sinister, despite dialogue consisting mainly of unintelligible intelligence jargon), the pair must team up to evade his satellite-enhanced, globe-spanning powers of detection.
The trouble is that the decent bits of the 135-minute Bourne Legacy are preceded by muddled attempts to situate this new story within the convoluted context of the earlier Bourne films’ timeline, and followed by a third act so slack that one imagines a wide-eyed Gilroy demonstratively shrugging his shoulders. Prematurely axing the Norton-Renner cat-and-mouse game, the film instead becomes an unlikely Terminator imitator—though it’s doubtful James Cameron could shoot a motorcycle chase as visually incoherent as Legacy‘s climactic pursuit, even if he tried.
Narratively, Legacy’s denouement is similarly untidy, featuring tacked-on scenes of senate hearings, and a series stalwart resurfacing to blow the lid off of…something. Beyond the personal safety of our underdeveloped protagonists, precisely what’s at stake is never clear. If Renner and Weisz manage to remain easy enough to root for, enthusiasm for the future of the franchise is harder to muster. Most of this film’s unwieldiness results from clumsy attempts to tie what is a serviceable if generic spy flick back into the larger brand. Bourne‘s true legacy, it seems, is bloat.