The Bourne Legacy: A Review

I admit to watching The Bourne Legacy only out of curiosity. The film shot for several weeks in the Philippines — Manila in particular and I remember that the circus had caused news channels to focus on the shoot and the stars rather than the humongous traffic that the film was causing due to detours. I wanted to see whether the weeks-long traffic was worth it. I guess a lot of Pinoys felt the same.

After the Jason Bourne saga blows out, leading investigative reporter Simon Ross to start an expose about Operation Treadstone/Blackbriar, the super secret program by the CIA to create superspies through behavior modification, former Air Force colonel and high ranking troubleshooter Eric Bryer (Edward Norton) orders the termination of the program from top to bottom, eliminating any loose ends in order to stop more information from leaking out and destroying the agency. It turns out that Jason Bourne/David Webb (Matt Damon) was only the first in the series of participants that the program has. When the “participants” are picked off one by one, former Outcome agent Pfc. Kenneth James Kitsom/Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) survives and goes after Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), an Outcome scientist who specializes in synthesizing a virus that can enhance physical, as well as mental abilities that are being used for participants of the program, to get answers (and more program issues pills). When Shearing too, becomes a target,  the two travel to Manila to make Aaron’s enhancements permanent which will give them a chance against authorities and hitmen who are on their tail to silence them.

Before doing this review, I checked out the original plot of the Bourne Legacy novel because frankly, aside from the mention of Jason Bourne, Operation Treadstone, and the recurrence of the characters Noah Vosen and Pamela Landy to tie up the films, the connection this movie had with its predecessor seemed forced at best, aided constantly by flashbacks that basically became repetitive because everybody who saw the first three movies already knew what the project was about. So basically, what I got was that the real novel was so titled because the original Bourne, David Webb’s son Joshua was the assassin who was tasked to get rid of his father in the CIA’s fourth attempt to kill the infamous rogue agent — thus, the Bourne Legacy. When Matt Damon backed out of the film because original director Paul Greengrass left the project, screenwriter/director  Tony Gilroy was left to salvage the film by reangling the plot to focus not on Jason Bourne, but another superspy in the program.

I would say that the detour was obvious from the way the film was made. Not that it was sloppily done or anything. Rather, the storytelling lacked the impact of the original three movies in the franchise, relying too much on Aaron’s “abilities” rather than the overall situation. While hit squads and even the police were on the tail of Aaron and Marta, it would seem that the high level team that that is supposed to be the most elite of all operatives had to trail them by over 17 hours, and days from the time of Aaron’s attack before finally establishing a lead.

MOTORCYCLE CHASE. The only fairly memorable action in the film is the motorcycle chase through EDSA and Intramuros.

When they finally find out where the two were heading, they merely left authorities in Manila to deal with a superspy with enhanced abilities, as if that made sense. Just when a ray of light comes in the form of yet another hitman from another ultra secret government program, there is not even a spectacular mano y mano fight between the two. I for one, felt cheated that there was no major highlight for the LARX-3 assassin, the character played by Louis Ozawa Changchien, who was the Yakuza dude who squared off with an alien in the remake of Predators. He kicked a predator’s ass and all he got was a prolonged car chase and a motorcycle chase. Boo!

I just could not understand why, if Aaron Cross was such a threat, no one from the higher ups even bothered to follow him to Manila to direct the local team. Just saying, its hard to take the pursuit seriously if only the henchmen are in charge.

I would have to say that I was fairly entertained by all the inconsistencies about the police in Manila. When I saw on the trailer that they were pursuing two Americans on foot and yelling at them to “Tigil” (Stop), I almost split my sides from laughing. Way to underestimate our police force! For clarification’s sake, over 90 percent of our entire population can speak English and even the most ordinary tricycle driver can speak basic English, what more the police? Yes, even in the slums, people can understand and speak the language so when the pharmacist kept addressing Marta in Filipino, even when she was so clearly American, it was really a moment of utter ridiculousness for me. I was giggling so hard that people in the cinema probably thought I was nuts.

There were some decent car chases in EDSA and Intramuros, but basically, that’s probably all the action that the film can boast of. And the abrupt unresolved ending hinting at another sequel? I think that the franchise should probably stop at this one if they can’t bring Jason Bourne back. Sadly, Bourne Legacy just lacks the heart of the original that made it so good. Even if the two superspies originated from one program, one can’t help but feel indifferent to Cross because his story is just a rehash of Jason’s. As a legacy, it just fell short in all of the aspects that made the franchise legendary — action, stunts, and a great story. To make matters worse, it will always be compared to the first three movies, and unfortunately, it is the weakest by far. It’s not the actors’ fault, or the directors’, the Bourne movies are just not the same without a Bourne.