Movies like Bourne Legacy are a difficult breed to deal with. Because you can’t accuse them of being non-engaging on account of being non-cerebral as they are not aspiring to be one. But the catch is, you can’t dismiss them completely either, labeling them vacuous, like you would to a movie like Expendables. These movies sit precariously between being sagacious and mindless. In Bourne franchise, the meat for the most part is still a clichéd genre movie, but superficially garnished with intelligence. And frankly, there is nothing wrong with that. If executed with élan, it stands a chance to woo two different kinds of cinema aficionados whose choice of movies barely match.
For a movie like Bourne Legacy, which takes great pride in telling a story through disparate and sprawling landscapes, the journey of the central character, or clearly, its hero, is very important. Not only should the journey be heroic enough, it should also be engaging. Something that tells us, that there are crucial things at stake. But here, instead of keeping things really simple and laying the crux of the conflict upfront, Gilroy inexplicably resorts to being esoteric for the initial fifteen-twenty minutes. Although being esoteric by itself is not particularly egregious, but the frames have to hold your attention. The initial couple of scenes dangle the carrot in front of us, teasing us, making us wonder about the big revelation [for instance, in one of the scenes, we see Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) popping pills and performing extraordinary feats. We want to know what is there in those pills]. And this tease does work for some time, but when mundane subsequent scenes just keep piling on, existing only to keep that revelation afloat, it starts getting tiring.
If only the movie would have been a lot simpler structurally, like one of its noted predecessor (Bourne Identity), where we quickly got a sense of what was at stake, and hence easily got sucked into its world . And it’s interesting because so many movies in this genre reveal themselves in fragments, where one truth builds onto another before showering us with that moment. And that’s not the only place where this movie fails. The movie’s main lead, Jeremy Renner, is for the most part stiff, non-inspired, and oddly, passive. There is nothing in his journey or in his character arc that makes you root for him. The performance especially pales in front of what Matt Damon has done before. Of course, both characters are different, and have their own motivations and origins, but one can’t help think what Damon would have done to the same character.
And at a running time of 135 minutes, the movie also loses its rather potent quality – being kinetic. As a result, the movie takes a lot of time to gather any sort of fierce momentum. And it is especially puzzling because there is nothing in the narrative that demands such extravaganza, running-length wise. The movie’s only saving grace could have been its celerity, which could have lent the journey its much needed urgency, but sadly it does not. Although there are rapid cuts galore in most of the action scenes, but there’s no profound rapidity when different scenes are sewn together. Which makes this movie bloated, and it is really a shame because amongst all the rebukes the previous Bourne movies might have invoked, being slothful wasn’t one of them.
Not that anyone expected The Bourne Legacy to be cinematically audacious, but even within its confines, it fails us, and most importantly, fails itself.