First off there's nothing really wrong with this film. It's fine. It goes from A to B understandably, you know who everyone is and what they're doing, it takes places in locations and situations you'd expect and it climaxes with a genuinely exciting stretch of chase based action.
If you're looking for a serviceable action thriller that doesn't exactly manage to reach the heights of former Bourne movies but doesn't exactly embarrass itself either then read no further, go, enjoy and come home content.
The cast are watchable and the direction and cinematography assured and, when given the chance by the surroundings, genuinely stunning.
Nothing overly bothersome at all.
The trouble is, nothing really exciting, tense or original either. If you've seen a Bond film, a Bourne film, a Mission Impossible film or hell, even the Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz starring Knight and Day (which also features a bike chase sequence on a red bike with our hero in sunglasses and a leather jacket) then you've seen this film.
It doesn't really start and it doesn't really finish, it just is. If you've seen the trailer then you know the plot and if you've seen films like this before you know the outcome. That's not to say it's bad, it's not, I am just not sure what the point of it was except, of course, to allow the studio to just continue making more of these.
One of the problems for me was the pacing. It spends a lot longer setting up the premise and characters than it needs to, repeating and slotting in bits of information that we already knew from the last two Bourne films and while it's done very well, it also feels a lot like the studio saying to someone somewhere 'We have to make this a film anyone can see, even if they haven't seen the first three films' and despite the lengthy feeling set up, it just isn't. Without the previous two films, at least, this film doesn't really work. It could've worked as a stand alone, it actually didn't need to be a part of the Bourne series at all and that might have actually served the story better but that's another discussion.
Now I sat through all the exposition expecting maybe a twist I didn't see coming or a plot strand I wasn't expecting but after 2hrs plus of this movie and nothing deviating from it's directive of 'there be big nasty government types who screwed up and so are now hunting down genetically modified super human Jeremy Renner and his pretty, scientist, would-be girlfriend' I was a little nonplussed as to how it took the film-makers so long to get to the actual 'chase' part of the film when clearly that's what it is: a CHASE film.
It's a bit like The Fugitive only you don't root for the hero because he's been wrongfully accused, has to, while on the run, find out who the actual killer is etc. because, you know, that's a plot. In The Bourne Legacy you root for your hero because it's Jeremy Renner, he's all kick ass, the pretty science lady likes him and because governments are evil, right?
Which is fine but A) seen it all before and B) see point A
The words of Matt Damon and Paul Grengrass calling the fourth part 'The Bourne Redundancy' now keep echoing around in my head.
Ok so to individual aspects of the film itself.
Like I said, it's well shot and especially the opening scenes in the Alaskan wilderness and the last few shots of the film look amazing.
We see, at one point, a stunningly beautiful, old house in the woods that is apparently being renovated by Rachel Weisz and yet looks like a house in the latest edition of 'You'll Never Be Able To Afford To Live Like This' monthly.
It is captured on film well and much like a hero cop in an 80s buddy action film who shows up with a suspiciously pristine vintage car, we know that sucker isn't making it to the last reel in one piece.
Despite all that, everything else in this film takes place in tiny rooms and merely has the illusion of a Bond style, globe-trotting adventure. On the government side it's all oak paneled offices at the beginning before transitioning into secret, bluey green tech rooms filled with screens covered with every bit of information they could ever possibly need, which is all delivered to those screens in a split second by the kind of powerful speedy computer you could only ever dream of. On the Bourne side it's little crappy bedrooms, factory basements, an airplane toilet or a Holiday Inn, not the stuff visual cinema is made of.
Lastly on the directing side my only other point would be that when the action does kick in it is handled ok and in certain parts they remember to keep the camera far enough away that I know what's happening but yes, in an attempt to ape the more capable Paul Greengrass, it suffers from Chris Nolan levels of shaky, I don't know who hit who and how (even though it's on a 40 foot cinema screen), close up camera work which actually feels badly done and a bit old. This may have something to do with the fact that, for the most part, they have Aaron Cross (who's NOT Bourne right?) doing everything in very close, narrow quarters but it's also just annoying especially as, just occasionally, you get a glimpse through the swishes and blurs that something actually cool is going on.
Sorry Jeremy you did all that training etc. for nothing
As for the acting, for the most part it's great.
Jeremy Renner is, as always, watchable, although it was the TV series The Unusuals (criminally only got one season) that really endeared me to him and not his series of fairly bland film roles.
I personally felt Rachel Weisz wasn't spectacular and her American accent wavered all over the place in scenes with long passages of dialogue, but she is pretty though and believable, just, as a scientist.
Ed Norton is Ed Norton and I can't decide whether that's ok yet or not, as an actor he confuses me. I can tell you that their attempts to make him look older and more like someone who would work for the government is a tad laughable and a big grey kids wig would've looked better but, for the most part, he plays the 'villain' well but despite some scenes designed to hammer home the point, you never really get the feeling of ambiguity about all our protagonists that I think the director was going for.
No one is really a hero and no one is really a villain, which would've been a great story to tell but alas, this is an 'action' thriller and so we need a long pointless chase sequence where we see Renner and Weisz escape America through and then watch the Government figure out EXACTLY how they did it despite that being what the audience just saw, just a few seconds ago! and why do we get that scene? So that the film can happily jump the genetically altered shark in its third act.
All that said, I will re-itterate, the film is fine, enjoyable and even exciting in places, I am just not sure there is any point to any of it but I am sure you could say that about most films... I never will but I am sure you could say that.
6.5 out of 10 predictable sandwiches (because there's nothing else in the fridge)