I suppose it could be said that “The Bourne Legacy” isn’t exactly the picture that fans of this billion-dollar franchise were expecting, except that I suspect it actually is. The movie is a predictable letdown.
Paul Greengrass, who directed the last two “Bournes” (Doug Liman directed the first one), has a gift for exciting, high-style action that defies replication. New director Tony Gilroy–the lead writer on all three previous installments–isn’t noted as an action man (his two other pictures are “Michael Clayton” and “Duplicity”), and he may have known going in that there was no way to completely fill the huge boots left empty by Greengrass’ departure. So Gilroy has made his own kind of picture. It’s not a bad movie; it’s just not a great “Bourne” movie.
Since Matt Damon bowed out of the series along with Greengrass, there’s no more Jason Bourne, either. You’ll recall that the renegade CIA assassin was teasingly seen swimming out of frame at the end of “The Bourne Ultimatum.” So the character is still alive, and while we never see him, he’s said to be nipping around the edges of the events in this film, compromising the Agency’s black-ops programs and endangering a related military undertaking called Outcome.
Like the earlier Treadstone and Blackbriar, this super-hush operation also involves a group of medically bent lone-wolf killers, among them Aaron Cross, played by Jeremy Renner. Renner is an actor of distinctive presence, projecting an iron intensity he can instantly soften with the smallest of smiles. But although he’s suitably buffed-up here, and very fast on his feet, he hasn’t yet acquired Damon’s movie-star magnetism, which in this high-octane world is requisite.