Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross
Rachel Weisz as Dr. Marta Shearing
Scott Glenn as Ezra Kramer
Stacy Keach as Retired Adm. Mark Turso, USN
Edward Norton as Retired Col. Eric Byer, USAF
Donna Murphy as Dita Mandy
Michael Chernus as Arthur Ingram
Corey Stoll as Zev Vendel
Prue Lewarne as CNN Reporter
Tony Guida as Dr. Benezara
Sonnie Brown as Dr. Lieberburg
Neil Brooks Cunningham as Dr. Dan Hillcott
Zeljko Ivanek as Dr. Donald Foite
Robert Christopher Riley as Outcome #6 (as Rob Riley)
Albert Finney as Dr. Albert Hirsch
Dennis Boutsikaris as Terrence Ward
Oscar Isaac as Outcome #3
David Strathairn as Noah Vosen
Corey Johnson as Ray Wills
Jennifer Kim as Outcome #4
Page Leong as Mrs. Yun
Joan Allen as Pam Landy
John Arcilla as Joseph
Clayton J. Barber as Gene (as Clayton Barber)
Michael Berresse as Leonard
Elizabeth Marvel as Dr. Connie Dowd
Directed by Tony Gilroy
After agent Jason Bourne goes rogue–as seen in the original “Bourne” trilogy–CIA agent Eric Byer (Edward Norton), head of the government’s secret Outcome program which has used a chemical process to create super agents, decides to end that program by killing all the agents in the field. One such agent, Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) manages to survive the culling and with the help of biochemist Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) goes on the run from Byers’ agents as he tries to get the chemicals he needs to survive.
“The Bourne Legacy” might be the most interesting approach to reviving a franchise since last year’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” because it’s not a reboot as much as a sequel that takes place concurrently and overlapping with “The Bourne Ultimatum.” This idea is the brainchild of Tony Gilroy, who was involved in the construction of the first three “Bourne” movies before directing “Michael Clayton” and “Duplicity.” He returns to the “Bourne” franchise, turning it into a family affair, co-writing it with his brother Dan and having his other brother John doing the editing as he has on his other films.
Opening in the Alaskan wilderness with Jeremy Renner’s Aaron Cross trying to survive, it’s a really striking way to introduce a character in a nearly wordless manner. Cross eventually encounters another agent in the field (played by Oscar Isaac) and we learn he’s trying to get the chemicals he and other Outcome agents need for their ongoing treatment, and in fact, it’s what’s keeping them alive. Most of the film’s first act cuts between cross and the CIA office where Edward Norton’s Eric Byer and his team are trying to figure out the best way to shut down the Outcome program and get rid of the agents. At the same time, we’re introduced to Rachel Weisz’s Dr. Marta Shearing, the biochemist who gives Cross and the other Outcome agents their regular check-ups who suddenly finds herself a target of her own employers and the sole survivor of one such attempt to take her out of the picture.
It’s a good hour before these three stories start coming together, in line with Gilroy’s previous two films by being the epitome of a slow build. Rather than revealing the entire plot in the first 20 minutes, it instead slowly releases information to the audience and allows them to do the heavy lifting in putting those pieces together.
Much of the film revolves around Aaron Cross trying to get his hands on the pills used to modify his brain and abilities, and having a secret agent as a pill-popping junkie is certainly an idea we haven’t seen before. Renner’s already proven his worth as a dramatic actor as well as being able to deliver on the action and this role allows him to pull those things together in a way that works in a similar way as “Bourne Identity” did in raising Matt Damon’s Q-rating. The same can be said for Rachel Weisz, who brings so much dramatic weight to the role of a scientist trying to use chemistry to improve the world who finds herself a victim of knowing too much. Norton’s also as good as always, though one of the film’s biggest missteps is that we never get a confrontation between Cross and Byers, only a flashback setting up their earlier relationship. (Maybe this is being saved for future movies?) Those hoping to see characters played by Joan Allen, Albert Finney and David Strathairn may be disappointed as they barely appear in the movie, mostly reprising scenes from “Ultimatum.” Putting them on the poster is a bit of false advertising, but the new cast more than makes up for this.
There’s a lot of weighty ideas and depth to the explanation for how viruses can be used to create these super soldiers, making it fairly obvious that Gilroy really did his homework in researching the subject, since all of it feels eerily authentic. That authenticity is greatly enhanced by his decision to hire theater actors like Donna Murphy and Corey Stoll (last seen as Hemingway in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris”) to play some of the agents around Norton, knowing these actors can make anything they say convincing.
Some might worry that Gilroy’s lack of experience with action might hurt the film, and it is a bit low in the action department compared to the earlier movies by Doug Liman and Paul Greengrass. On the other hand, Gilroy wisely doesn’t try to ape the visual style of Greengrass’ fast-cut handheld camerawork, which is actually somewhat of a relief. Instead, we get a couple cool fight sequences throughout but most of the bells and whistles are saved for a fast-paced motorcycle chase through the streets of Manilla in the last 20 minutes.
The Bottom Line:
An intriguing start to another possible franchise that’s well on par with the original “Bourne Identity” in terms of ideas and storytelling. Although there isn’t nearly as much action as the original three movies, it’s doubtful anyone will leave “Legacy” not wanting to see more of Renner and Weisz in these roles.