Bourne is back—well, kinda. The Bourne Legacy picks up right where The Bourne Ultimatum left off (or technically in the middle of Ultimatum); but this time it follows Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner). Cross, like Bourne, is an agent in a U.S. Defense Department black ops program. This program, Outcome, deals with genetically enhancing their agents for greater strength—both physically and mentally. But as Bourne unveils the secrets behind Operations Treadstone and Blackbriar (as seen in Ultimatum), Cross' life is put at risk.
The CIA goes into full crisis management mode, led by retired Air Force colonel Eric Byer (Edward Norton), to deal with the fallout from the Bourne incident. All involved in Outcome must be eliminated to prevent further discovery. Aside from killing off the genetic soldiers (using poisoned pills and unmanned drones), the scientists involved in the project must also be taken care of. With a little chemical manipulation, Dr. Foite (Zeljko Ivanek) locks all the scientists inside the lab and shoots them before killing himself. The sole survivor, Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), soon finds her life at risk as well.
Aaron hunts down Marta believing she has access to the chems—little green and blue pills—that keep him alive. Of course, she doesn't; but as a geneticist she does know how to cure his system of a reliance on the pills. The catch is that these two fugitives must journey to the Philippines to find the cure.
Despite the political turmoil and genetic manipulating, Legacy squeezes in plenty of action sequences. Aaron's genetic enhancements allow him to scale the side of a house in record time or slide down a small crack between two buildings to land on Philippino cop, making for some very fun fight scenes.
Because the film is helmed by Bourne screenwriter Tony Gilroy, it continues to do a superb job of adapting the book series continued by Eric Van Lustbader (who took over the series after Robert Ludlum’s death) while still incorporating callbacks to previous Bourne films. The opening shot is of Aaron underwater (like in Bourne in Identity). The film occurs at the same time as Ultimatum allowing for crossover moments throughout the film (usually involving Byer on the phone). And they, of course, incorporate an extensive car chase scene—this time using mostly motorcycles.
After Paul Greengrass' exit from the series, Tony Gilroy took over as director and turned it into a full-blown family affair. He co-wrote the script with his brother Dan, and his other brother John edited the film. Tony Gilroy's involvement in the film is its true saving grace. His knowledge of the series allows him to keep it true to everything that's happened before. And the way he incorporates the continuing stories of Dr. Albert Hirsch (Albert Finney); CIA deputy director Pamela Landy (Joan Allen); and Blackbriar supervisor Noah Vosen (David Strathairn) will make you want to rewatch Ultimatum (and most likely the first two as well).
However, the incorporation of those previous characters also distracts from the film. In the opening scenes, the story bounces around between so many new and recurring characters that it takes almost 30 minutes for the true story of the film to emerge. And the recurring characters get very little screen time, making their brief reappearances somewhat distracting—and also disorienting, unless you've just watched Ultimatum. Yet, with the open ending for the (surviving) characters, it feels like the next film—if/when there is one—could better combine the older characters with the new in this continuing saga of governmental conspiracy and paranoia.
The Bourne Legacy is definitely missing something without Matt Damon, but the new team of characters is fully engaging on their own. Jeremy Renner and Rachel Weisz are great actors who make their characters immediately interesting. And the film itself employs all the same elements of the series, making it another fun yet smart action film.
Along with the deleted scenes is "Re-Bourne," a behind-the-scenes look at how they turned Bourne into a broader franchise. "Enter Aaron Cross" is another behind-the-scenes featurette, more focused on Cross than the franchise in general. "Crossing Continents: Legacy on Location" explores in detail all the locales used to shoot the film and how they managed it. "Man vs. Wolf" and the "Wolf Sequence Test" look at the training and coordination of the wolves for some of the opening sequences. "Moving Targets: Aaron and Marta" focuses on Marta's character and the actors working together in the film. "Capturing Chaos: The Motorbike Sequence" examines how they shot the extensive motorcycle chase. And commentary with the Gilroys (Tony, Dan, and John); cinematographer Robert Elswit; second unit director Dan Bradley; and production designer Robert Thompson gives a more extensive look at the film production.
"The Bourne Legacy" is on sale December 11, 2012 and is rated PG13. Action. Directed by Tony Gilroy. Written by Tony Gilroy, Dan Gilroy. Starring Albert Finney, David Strathairn, Edward Norton, Jeremy Renner, Joan Allen, Oscar Isaac, Rachel Weisz, Scott Glenn, Stacy Keach.