As of now The Bourne Supremacy is my favourite of the film adaptations of The Bourne Trilogy. Mainly because it doesn’t involve a pretty lady risking her life simply to be a part of this ride. Of course, their relationship later develops into a half-baked affair. Well, that’s fiction for you. And I’m not complaining. I’m just naturally more inclined towards realism. The Bourne Legacy, within its fictional confines, is the most realistic instalment to date. Rachel Weisz’s character doesn’t hop on because she wants to begin an affair with Jeremy Renner’s Aaron Cross. She has no plan, not a clue about saving herself from a very powerful organization and she needs Aaron Cross, just as much as he needs her pharmaceutical experience to disinfect him.
Despite running in parallel to the previous instalment, The Bourne Legacy somehow doesn’t share so much with its predecessors. It’s the same world but the approach begins from elsewhere, the take is different and the perspective is through another pair of eyes. The hunted doesn’t interest film-maker Tony Gilroy as much as its hunter, or hunters. The Bourne Legacy is The Ghost Writer meets Michael Clayton meets Bourne, in that order. Even the swarm of antagonists are given a fair share of screen-time and their mastermind, Eric Byer (Edward Norton), a good deal of characterization.
The Jason Bourne mess accompanied with a video leak ties up Eric Byer in knots. There’s only one thing left to do- “Burn the programme to the ground” as he says. The programme he is referring to is black ops programme, Operation Outcome. The programme enhances physical and mental abilities of field operatives through pills commonly referred to here as chems. Byer’s foremost target is a private lab that produces these pills. One of the doctors is engineered to pick up a gun and shoot everyone including himself. But he leaves behind a survivor, Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz). She and a field operative, Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) are loose ends that need to be eliminated. The chase begins.
In the former films, Bourne was pretty much on his own and kept slipping through the fingers of a major organization. Yet he seemed quite in control. He kept negotiating with their guys, insisting that they come alone to meet with him. He seemed to be giving them second chances, not the other way round. There’s no room for that in Legacy- they’re ruthless; and with the resources they have, they simply cannot be outrun. They’re wiping out every little link to them from the face of the earth. Assassinations of those involved appear rehearsed and feel real. This is more grounded in reality than the rest of the series.
What interests me most is Tony Gilroy wanting to express his views on corporations, just like he did in Michael Clayton. He hints at the power corporations have over people who unknowingly sign up for monetary perks. He even goes as far as asking “You keep us on a leash. Who says you can do this? Who says this is all right?” Except for this exchange and the closing line, the dialogue is authentic.
While Jason Bourne was the heart, soul and energetic centre of the Bourne series, The Bourne Legacy is held high by multiple entities. Rachel Weisz’s Dr. Marta Shearing is the only character you really know and care for. She’s been serving the organization for long, promised confidentiality and has not the slightest idea what her contributions in science are being turned into. Without Rachel Weisz’s tender performance, I doubt it would’ve been possible for us to make any kind of emotional investment. Jeremy Renner complements her by bringing athletic grit and survival instinct to Aaron Cross. Considering that the real focus of Legacy is the organization, I think it’s a wise decision to paint Eric Byer in shades of grey. Where Chris Cooper and David Straithairn were painted as angry, nervous villains desperate to put an end to this chase, Eric Byer discusses it as if it were a strategy game. He acts far ahead of a potential catastrophe pushing aside his emotions and thinking his way through because he believes he has the strength to do what is necessary. It’s an interesting, morally ambiguous character and Edward Norton manages to bring out his steely-veined nature. Still, I think this a miscast.
By choosing to tread on the success of the Bourne Trilogy, Legacy puts itself under the blade of unjust comparison. I still think this is a really good film in its own right. Buckle up for the final chase sequence that’s long, quickly shot, tightly edited and suitably loud. After witnessing one of the best chase sequences ever, I had to leave the theatre feeling slightly stupid thanks to the Bourne trademark ending, which doesn’t work because the actors never had any chemistry. Don't let that stop you, it takes away very little from the experience.