'The Bourne Legacy' Review: Light On Action But Still Lots To Like

Even with a two hour-plus run time, The Bourne Legacy feels short. Tony Gilroy, who wrote the first Bourne three films, directed this extension of the franchise which gives an intricate, chemical context to everything you loved about the first three. However, in its run time, the percentage of actual action is pretty small. When it hits, the action is big, exciting and almost always innovative. But the fights, gun battles and car chases are few and far between.

Gilroy co-wrote with his brother, Dan Gilroy, and they've packed the movie with loads of expository information and characters that'll do wonders to kick start a franchise, even if it won't do wonders for an impatient audience. This is way more in line with Gilroy's previous directorial efforts, Michael Clayton and Duplicity, than the Bourne films, and your opinion on those will likely impact your enjoyment of The Bourne Legacy.

The main through-line of The Bourne Legacy is exactly that: Jason Bourne's legacy. At the end of The Bourne Ultimatum, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon, appearing here only in photos) outed the program that made him a lethal killer. This film takes place partially in response (and parallel) to that. If Bourne wasn't the only other agent out there, how would his actions affect the rest? They'd be wiped out. Aaron Cross, however, played by Jeremy Renner, survives. He's on the run from the people who made him, and eventually kidnaps one of the few people who understands how to give him an edge.

As the prime mover of The Bourne Legacy, Jeremy Renner is a formidable and smart presence. He's good in action scenes, but he's great when he has to explain himself or figure out what the next move is. Thankfully his main co-star, Rachel Weisz, helps out as she takes a smallish role and makes it feel more whole.

The rest of the supporting cast, including Edward Norton, Stacy Keach and even cameos from previous Bourne stars – Albert Finney, Joan Allen, David Strathairn – all give the movie some solid and fun context for the fans, but ultimately feel a tad superfluous.

The Bourne Legacy is all about the audience understanding the behind the scenes workings of these agents. The screenplay turns the cat and mouse structure on its head as the authorities are miles behind the good guys and we see them struggling to keep up. As that happens, an intricate web is woven and it all ties together pretty well. Still, when you settle in for an action movie and it takes roughly a third of the movie to get to the first big action set piece, audiences are likely to get frustrated.

Even so, once the film reaches a conclusion, its momentum and constantly-increasing tension are working so well it's hard to believe there aren't 45 more minutes to go. I'd definitely spend more time with these characters. But the story is not over, and we'll likely get that chance in the future. So that's really the best and worst thing about The Bourne Legacy. It gives you so much information, it takes away from the action, but the information is so interesting, you want more than it provides.

/Film rating 7 out of 10