Okay, so actually, The Bourne Legacy isn’t all that bad – it’s well directed, competently acted, and full of cool action – but still somehow, this is the response that comes to mind when I think back to it. I’ve heard some have this response because the lack of Jason Bourne or Matt Damon being in the film. One person even mentioned to me that they didn’t like the title having “Bourne” in it when the movie did not, but actually it makes sense in context, as everything that happens is fallout from the actions of the original trilogy’s hero.
I’ve never been a huge fan of the Bourne movies. They have always been enjoyable at the time, but nearly completely forgettable otherwise. So it took me a while before I realized that a lot of what I was watching for the first 15 minutes or so in this movie is actually dancing around the climax of the previous installment, The Bourne Ultimatum. When I finally cottoned on to that, then the overall plot of the movie’s opening, as well as the set up for all that follows, actually makes a fair amount of sense.
Edward Norton plays a guy who turns out to be even further behind all the shady government activities of the original trilogy than anybody we saw then, whose concern over the falling apart of the whole “Treadstone” thing leads him to ponder the implications to all of his other “morally indefensible but absolutely necessary” operations. An obscure connection leads him to decide that the best way to keep certain activities out of the public eye is to abruptly shut down another operation, called “Outcome.” This means deliberately murdering nine highly capable and loyal drug-enhanced spies, some by poison and others (for some reason that I guess was mentioned at the beginning but which I didn’t really catch) by missile. They are all killed but one, our protagonist…Aaron Cross (played by Jeremy Renner, making this third movie of his that I’ve blogged about – see here and here).
Aaron successfully eludes termination by using all his best spy moves, including cutting a tracking device out of his own body and shoving it into an unwilling wolf. However, his brain & body enhancing drugs are running out, and unhappy about the prospect of returning to his less intelligent self, he races into the second act of the movie and goes to find the scientists who made the drugs in order to get more.
Now, sadly, it turns out that Ed Norton has decided he needs to kill all these scientists too, and the only one who survives is fortunately also the most attractive female, played by Rachel Weisz. Cross finds her and together they travel to the Philippines where they can find the resources necessary to make the drug’s effects on him permanent. Meanwhile, Ed Norton and a bunch of other guys sit in a control room and make a lot of phone calls and examine a lot of video surveillance feeds and start tracking them down. They send their assassin from their other other secret program, and a mad chase around ensues around Manila that ends with Cross permanently “super-soldiered” and the assassin dead. Our heroes are found by a kindly old Filipino fisherman who takes them out to sea, and into the third act of the movie.
In the third act, Cross and his new potential girlfriend briefly ponder their options before deciding to not worry about it for the present, and just sail around. The end.
Normally with a movie like this I’d be snarking away about the absurdly complex way that the scientists in the film are murdered, or the questionable justification of why the team sent to kill the survivor take so long to get on with it, or the lunacy of a how the little motorcycle stolen off the streets in the Philippines is able to do all those stunts. Actually, my biggest question is why only certain people involved in the top-secret-black-ops-espionage-operation have to be killed when it’s shut down, but others don’t seem to make the cut. But none of that seems to matter to me or the friends who I watched the movie with when it abruptly ended on us all, leading us to wonder where the climax was. Where was the showdown with Ed Norton? Maybe that’s unrealistic, but where was the something that would make it feel like I’d been watching an actual story? Suddenly, I’m forced to reorganize things into my little three-act worldview, and I realize the climax was playing out before my eyes during the motorcycle chase and I missed it. If this story was really just supposed to be about these characters surviving, than I needed to care about them a lot more than I did for that to really be meaningful.
There are lots of movies that I’ve seen in which there comes a point when you realize that all the trust you’ve put into the film makers up that point are not going to be satisfied. I remember it happening in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol for instance, and in Green Lantern (I think I held out longer than most that time). But this is one of the only times where that moment came in literally the final seconds of the film.
Of course, the truth is that probably all of that is being saved for the presumed sequel, and possibly presumed trilogy. But that’s an awfully long time to wait. And it’s not like the film ends on a cliff hanger or anything – it just sort of peters out, like an unfinished song. But maybe that’s a more successful stratagem than I’d like to admit – it seems like I may end up remembering this film better than the others, and if I still feel this way when The Bourne Ontology comes out, I may just have to go see it just to look for the satisfaction of that final chord.