The Bourne Legacy 2½/4

August 16, 2012 by James Berardinelli - Reelviews
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The total worldwide box office gross for the first three Jason Bourne movies (The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum) is nearly one billion dollars (more if adjusted for inflation).

With that kind of money in play, was there any chance that Universal Pictures would not bankroll a fourth Bourne movie? Even when neither director Paul Greengrass nor star Matt Damon showed much interest? (In fact, Greengrass once jokingly referred to a fourth movie as The Bourne Redundancy.) Changing leads is nothing new in cinema. It has been done most successfully with the James Bond franchise, but there are plenty of other examples. Perhaps that should have been the template used here. However, instead of having Jeremy Renner step into the role of Jason Bourne, the filmmakers have given him another character in the same universe. The problem is, viewers are invested in Bourne and not seeing him in a movie that bears his name feels like a cheat. Hearing him mentioned every ten minutes and never seeing him (except in still photographs) is a recipe for disappointed expectations. To really work, The Bourne Legacy either needed to turn the title character into a 007-type who can change his face or bring back Damon in some capacity, even if just for a cameo. Neither happens and that works to the movie’s detriment.
The Bourne Legacy is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s “refrigerator movies,” in that it succeeds pretty well “in the moment” but starts to fall apart when considered in retrospect. It’s not hard to become caught up in the action as its going on, but the story does a lot of straining, at times threatening to rip at the seams. At least those who despaired of Paul Greengrass’ shaky-cam style (a major drawback of The Bourne Ultimatum) can be comforted to know that Tony Gilroy possesses a tripod and knows how to use it.

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