My initial reaction to a movie pitch like this would be that it is a cheap Hollywood cash in to keep a franchise alive. Which this is, but I was still somewhat looking forward to it. It is directed by Tony Gilroy who wrote some of the previous installments and directed the excellent Michael Clayton. True, he did then go onto direct Duplicity but I’m willing to chalk that up to sophomore slump.
Unlike The Bourne Legacy, I will get to the point rather quickly. This film takes way too long to get to where it is going and where it ends up isn’t all that interesting. The writers had two problems when they were drafting this movie. First was how does Aaron fit into this universe (and the Bourne storyline) despite no one in any of the previous three movies even hinting at this program. The explanation is long and drawn out and doesn’t even completely fit once you know everything. And which seems like the easier solution to your problem: simply recast Bourne with Jeremy Renner, or spend forever during your movie explaining another super secret sect of the government that wants to chase another rogue agent that totally has to do with Bourne but doesn’t?
The second problem is what the hell do you have Aaron do in this movie? I’m not really spoiling anything by saying the government tries to kill Aaron in the beginning and they think they do it. The issue comes in when our protagonist really doesn’t care to get revenge. All things considered he would be happy at being ghosted since he didn’t like being in the program at the time of the movie. It is not until we are well over half way in the movie do we figure out what Aaron is going to do for this movie. Yes, we know he wants these mysterious “pills“ but we are not explained why until that point and we therefore don’t care until that point. See how unnecessarily complicated this is? In the Bourne trilogy, Bourne had very clear goals outlined from the start whereas in Legacy we spend over half the time with the writers justifying why we should give a crap about not-Bourne Aaron. Just make Renner Bourne already!
Keep in mind that during all of this there is hardly any action. The other Bourne movies were able to cut quickly between the action scenes and the talky intrigue scenes and it all flowed smoothly. Here it feels like we are trapped in a board meeting with Edward Norton followed by Renner and Weitz putzing around their respective work places. Even the final action scene feels like Gilroy felt obligated to throw in an action scene for this since it’s a Bourne movie. It seems like it is chucked in there at the last minute so fans wouldn’t be pissed at a non-action Bourne.
The only thing I can hope for is that now they got all the dirty business out of the way, if producers do decide to continue the series, they can just get on with it and deliver the action fans want. I can’t say I hated this movie. I like Jeremy Renner and Rachel Weitz and would like to see their characters return. The action scenes, when they actually came, were fun of the time they lasted. Everything else is just so flat and uninteresting. The writing has to bend over backwards to both justify its existence in this universe and provide something for our protagonist to do and it gets bogged down in endless uninteresting exposition dumps. I think anyone going in looking for the same action in the previous Bourne entries will be severely disappointed and should wait (if they haven’t gone already) for DVD.