Identity Crisis


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 graphic.

Jeremy Renner in 'The Bourne Legacy' poster / 'There was never just one'
Poster © 2012 Universal Studios.

Legacy was directed and co-written by Tony Gilroy, a/the screenwriter of the previous 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 even 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 accent or 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, both 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 didn't see Duplicity.

I caught The Bourne Legacy in theaters last year the very same week I saw 2011's Hanna on DVD. I'd recommend the latter 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.


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