In summarising the plot of The Bourne Legacy, I may fail somewhat, as I was more than a bit lost throughout my viewing of the film (a free advanced screening at a rather plush Vue cinema in Finchley Road, if I may say so). To the best of my understanding, what it involves is a group of people who were involved in “Outcome”, a different strand of the project Jason Bourne was involved, but the difference here being science is used to doctor their mental and physical capacity. A glitch in the set-up of the plan involving a YouTube leak of the connections between the people involved occurs and the film documents the lengths the creators take to avoid the catastrophic results of the Bourne saga. Eric Byer (played by Edward Norton), is the man trying to “shut down” the people involved, and whilst the majority are done so with ease (they are given a “new pill” to take which they believe will make them stronger but in fact sends them into cardiac arrest), Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is the last man standing, who refuses to go without a fight.
I think the main problem with The Bourne Legacy is actually that they tried to tie it in with Robert Ludlum’s initial creation, and the Matt Damon films, when in fact everything that happened in the preceding films is very much in the background here. Had The Bourne Legacy been a different film, the character of Jason Bourne just been something of a prelude and the characters been given new names and companies, then I would have found The Bourne Legacy a lot less confusing. The continual attempts to try and tie the events of this film in with the third movie (the two storylines are supposed to be running parallel) definitely over-complicates matters. The story-line is more than cerebral enough to hold its own, and, as mentioned, the attempt to try and make this a spin-off of the Bourne movies is its ultimate downfall.
That being said, there’s a lot of good stuff here. The script is somewhat too clever for its own good in regards to the plotting, and there is little left in terms of characterization, but Renner, Weisz (playing Marta, a scientist working for a company who does the legwork of Outcome) and Norton all give strong performances. Norton in particular is very strong, as his character is far removed from the archetypal villain in that he is doing what he thinks he is doing for the greater good. He gives a brooding, tense performance and it is possible to imagine what it’s like for his character. Jeremy Renner has never been one of my favourites with his individual AVBesque brand of surliness, but I don’t find him as annoying her as I have found him in other movies, namely Mission Impossible III and The Town. And Rachel Weisz, though unfortunate in that the script makes her out to be some kind of hysterical bint, acts very well indeed to make us sympathise for her character when the script was practically calling out for histrionics, as well as giving depth to Dr Marta Shearing in her facial expressions that is painfully remiss in the screenplay.
As with all the Bourne movies, the action sequences are a thrill to watch, and a chase sequence through the streets of Manila certainly doesn’t skimp on crashes, explosions and various other calamities. Slickly edited with some wonderfully glamourous locations spanning London to the Philippines, and featuring some genuinely tense moments (a showndown at Marta’s house when she is required to draw on her wiles in ordr to survive), it is, on the whole, an interesting watch, but not one that I was altogether satisfied by.