Movies are getting shakier and shakier. This is a strange development. Action movies of yesteryear featured well-photographed fight scenes with stable cameras that gave you an idea of the geographical and special distance of the good guys versus the bad guys (think Die Hard or Hard Boiled). Your mind was able to understand the positions of the people fighting because the camera let you know exactly where they were at all times. Then 2004 rolled around and director Paul Greengrass came out with The Bourne Supremacy, highly touting the fact that the entire car chase was filmed with hand-held cameras. It was fun at first, because of the novelty of it, but then it became the norm and people have been getting nauseated at the theaters ever since.
The Bourne Legacy is the fourth installment within the Bourne franchise only this time around Matt Damon has given up the role. The role has been passed down to Jeremy Renner who never really has that killer, icy instinct that made Damon’s Bourne so fun to watch (oh, and he’s not really named Jason Bourne, so there’s that). Renner is more of a joker and garners a few laughs during the movie, until you ask yourself if you should be laughing during a Bourne movie, then the laughs feel awkward and ill-timed.
The movie takes place on a linear timeline running alongside The Bourne Ultimatum. I’d suggest watching Ultimatum before going to the theater to see Legacy since they try to tie this story in with that one as much as possible. We even see news stories of the train station shooting scene that Jason Bourne was involved in during the events of this movie.
The entire plot revolves around a CIA program that was genetically engineering soldiers to be assassins. They’d created a perfect blend of synthetic strength and intelligence and made the soldiers take them in pill form. That’s really all you need to know. Much of the movie is covered in so much governmental and scientific jargon that you’ll hardly know what they’re talking about anyway.
Now the CIA wants the whole program shut down because Jason Bourne found out about the secret CIA operation called “Treadstone” in the last movie. Now people like Eric Byer (Edward Norton) are frightened that if they’re investigated their genetic engineering program will be found out and then they’ll really be in trouble.
The first part of the movie is great. It’s a slow-burning political thriller featuring shadowy-faced high-raking government officials making plans in darkened meeting rooms, while Aaron Cross (Renner) treks his way through a snow-covered wilderness supposedly testing out the genetically modifying medications as one of the soldiers in the group of participants. It’s like a fun mix of Hanna and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Then, almost like a light switch getting flipped, you can sense the filmmakers felt like they didn’t think they had enough rock’em-sock’em action going on so they filled the last part of the movie with as much as they could.
The problem with the action is that it dumbs down the smart beginning that the movie had, and it doesn’t make sense anyway. The camera swings wildly around capturing images here and there, but mostly you’re bombarded with quick shots of legs, arms, heads, and torsos, edited together at lightning speed. There’s no sense of continuity to any of the action scenes. Just a quick succession of shots spliced together to give the illusion of continuity. The soundtrack with all its punches, kicks and gunshots has been ratcheted up to ear-splitting levels to try to compensate for the fact that your eyes simply cannot follow along with the visuals. The action scenes in “Legacy” are maddening to watch. The camera whips around as fast as possible; never framing an actual shot the whole time it’s bobbing and weaving. What’s the point of choreographing these huge action sequences if no one can see them anyway?
Then comes the ending, which is like hitting a brick wall. After the slow, but good start, and the lackluster shaky-cam action climax the movie ends as abruptly as a car explosion. It just stops. That’s it. No resolution. Only a promise of another Bourne movie, without Jason Bourne, in the future. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of Bourne and the shaky-cam he’s been dragging around since 2004. This franchise has run its course.