The best thing I can say about The Bourne Legacy is that it tries. It tries very hard, in fact. Tony Gilroy, who wrote the screenplays for all of the previous Bourne films, clearly wants his film to be better than the previous entries and the failures herein have nothing to do with his effort. Likewise, the performances of the respective cast members are all of high quality. Norton excels when given the opportunity though he is underutilized and suffers from a character that should be bigger than it is. Weisz proves herself a valuable member of the cast and supersedes the one dimensional damsel in distress that I generally expect from this sort of role. Her character has a purpose and she brings it to life appropriately. More than anyone else, Renner acclimates himself to his role quite well and carries on in the tradition of Jason Bourne with flair. Renner shows off a range of abilities including action star potential and one scene in which he makes you forget you’re watching a summer blockbuster and instead remember his Academy Award-nominated turn in The Town.
That’s about where the positives end, however. All of Gilroy’s efforts to create a significant action thriller are for naught due to the listless nature of the pace and the overly complex narrative that sucks the life out of the better action sequences. Legacy takes FAR too long to gain traction and start moving and once it does it’s difficult as a viewer to switch gears. Gilroy needs a solid hour to explain his plot before we can get down to the action-centric entertainment we expect from this film. I can enjoy a complex action film as much as the next guy but whereas the original Bourne trilogy excelled in combining plot with action, Legacy just stymies itself over and over. The script is kind of a mess to be honest and plays out like the Michael Clayton of Bourne films, a comparison that seems lazy considering that film is Gilroy’s claim to fame but is also completely fitting. There are some great action sequences in which Renner is fantastic but they are almost always swallowed up by an abyss of boring and seemingly needless plot complications that don’t serve a purpose. I believe Gilroy set out to make a thinking man’s action movie and instead created an incredible film to nap through on a Sunday afternoon if not for a few noisy interruptions.
As I seem to find myself typing far too often this year, Legacy isn’t a bad film. There are inspired moments and I think it’s worth seeing if only to catch Renner upping his physical game. Above all else, it lays the groundwork for future installments in the series which I have to believe will be much better than this one is and will hopefully bring Damon and Renner together for a round of pure, unadulterated awesomeness.