Connecting “The Bourne Legacy” so closely to its predecessors is both its greatest strength and liability.
However, once Bourne begins exposing the men and women behind the curtain of Treadstone, the CIA becomes desperate to cover the tracks that lead to these other programs, forcing Cross to run for his life, as well as seek out one of the scientists, Marta Shearing (Rachel Weiss), who helped make him what he is. Because while the physical enhancements were made permanent thanks to a specially tailored viral infection, the mental enhancements still require daily pill ingestions to keep the subjects at their mental peak. Get off the regimen and the subjects regress.
In other words, “The Bourne Legacy” is the most action-packed adaptation of “Flowers For Algernon” that you’ll likely ever watch. That said, it’s impressive that they managed to take a concept like gene therapy and pharmaceutical enhancements and make it seem plausible and fitting.
There are a couple problems with the film, the biggest is that it feels too short in terms of overall story. The first third or so of “Legacy” is spent establishing its connections to the “Bourne” universe, but also trying to set it apart. It feels as though writer/director Tony Gilroy felt too skittish about trying to give the audience a new character that ultimately has little to do with the film’s namesake and so went overboard in trying to sell the audience on the need to see this particular story.
The result is what ends up feeling like an overly long prologue, so long that by the time the film cuts to credits it feels like the story proper has only just found its legs. There’s practically no resolution to the story at hand. I understand the desire to leave things open-ended, but this all but stops the story dead in its tracks before things come to any sort of satisfying conclusion.
The other problem is the fact that Cross is less substantial a character than Bourne. One of the best things the previous films accomplished was so thoroughly placing us in Bourne’s corner and getting us inside his head. Doug Liman and Paul Greengrass’ films provided an excellent sense of just how thoroughly Jason Bourne had been put through the ringer mentally, physically and morally. There’s not really any of that in play here. There’s no sense of Cross’ history as an agent, what (if any) sort of missions he went on. There’s lots of talk about how an Outcome agent will perform within the morally reprehensible but necessary grey areas of governance and warfare, but we never see or get any sort of sense of what Aaron has been forced to carry out.
“Flawed” but still enjoyable seems to be the wheelhouse Gilroy works from when it comes to his directorial efforts as it’s more or less precisely how you can describe “Michael Clayton” and “Duplicity.”
What leaves me most curious is where the franchise goes from here. (And one can only assume that’s the intent. Like the film’s tagline, “there was never just one” when it comes to action films of this sort.) Where Cross is left once the credits roll, there’s very little in the way of obstacles left for him. Who knows.
Regardless, this may not have been the overall best way to have shifted the franchise onto another rail, but it’s solid enough in what it does accomplish. Gilroy, at the very least, shows he can direct engaging action, so let’s hope that we can get a little more meat on the story now that we don’t have an extended prologue to tread through.