The Bourne Identity, which introduced Matt Damon as human weapon Jason Bourne in 2002, was very good. Its 2004 sequel, The Bourne Supremacy, was great, as was 2007's The Bourne Ultimatum. Last year's The Bourne Legacy, a spinoff focused on another agent played by Jeremy Renner, was not as good as any of them but had its moments nonetheless. I'll expound a bit, without spoilers, after the poster.
Legacy was directed and co-written by Tony Gilroy, a/the screenwriter of Damon's Bourne films. It may suffer from comparison to its predecessors, and it hardly lives up to its full potential, but at the same time (as I wrote of Skyfall in last month's review of that film) it benefits from taking place within a familiar mythology — the backstory, some crossover in the supporting cast, and perhaps especially the hint of possibility that Damon and Renner's characters could team up down the line. On its own terms it would be a much less satisfying clone.
Renner, as seen in The Hurt Locker and to a lesser — far lesser, admittedly — extent
in The Avengers, has carved a niche for himself playing the stoic but emotionally wounded or reluctant warrior. I like that Aaron Cross is from a different branch of CIA super-soldier experimentation than Jason Bourne's Treadstone, one that gives him an impetus beyond reclaiming his old identity. While I'd love to see her kicking ass in her own right, Rachel Weisz as Cross's potential-whistleblower scientist companion and possible romantic interest continues her streak of excellent work no matter the role.
Damon says that he hasn't closed the door on returning as Bourne if the screenplay
is right, but that he can't see doing it without Supremacy and Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass. He also publicly slammed a draft of Gilroy's for a follow-up to Ultimatum before Legacy was made — surprisingly, to me, because Damon usually comes off as such a nice guy and because Gilroy had done a fine job not only writing previous Bourne movies but writing and directing 2007's Michael Clayton; then again, I found 2009's State of Play uneven and haven't seen Duplicity.
I caught The Bourne Legacy in theaters last year the same week I saw 2011's Hanna
on DVD. The latter is recommended if you're looking for something in the Bourne vein but found, or are afraid you'll find, Legacy to just be a watered-down riff on the Damon trilogy. Saoirse Ronan turns in a killer performance in more ways than one.
Updated and revised November 2019
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