Legacy takes place around the same time that The Bourne Ultimatum does. After Jason Bourne (Damon in Ultimatum) upsets certain government systems, the agencies are forced to try and wipe out programs in order to cover their tracks. This includes Operation Outcome, which contains mentally and physically enhanced agents. Eric Byer (Edward Norton), an operations leader, sets up plans to kill these agents and other people connected to Outcome. These actions send agent Aaron Cross (Renner) and Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) on the run, with Cross searching for specific pills that help him to keep his improved intelligence and skills.
The Bourne Identity was directed by Doug Liman and had a brisk pace and unique feel. Paul Greengrass took the films to another level when he directed The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, with an even more breathless pace and intense, kinetic action. Up to the plate for directing Legacy is Tony Gilroy, who wrote the screenplays for all four of the films. Not only does Gilroy’s direction of the material feel less compelling than that of Liman and Greengrass, but his writing here is also noticeably weaker. The original Bourne films had a great balance of sharp writing and eye-popping action, with the added complexity of Jason Bourne’s character arc. This film has less interesting characters and spends too much time setting up its pretty basic ideas. This causes the pacing of Legacy to occasionally feel awkward, with a few dull stretches of dialogue and less action than the previous films.
The action that is in Legacy is impressive and exciting; this includes a terrific sniper scene in the mountains and a climactic motorcycle chase. While most of it is less snappy than that of Greengrass’ work, the situations and decisions that characters are involved with in them add thrills. The globe-trotting element of the Bourne films is still there, too, with Gilroy aided by the fantastic locations and the capturing of them by Robert Elswit.
What really keeps Legacy working, though, is Renner. Damon is missed, but Renner has a very solid presence and makes his character more interesting then he probably would have been – as Cross has less history to him than Bourne. Renner further displays that he can command any type of scene with his quiet intensity. He is also supported here by Weisz and Norton, who do the best with what they have. Oscar Isaac also does well in a brief scene as an Outcome agent in Alaska. Some previous cast members pop up, too, but Renner is the shining star among everyone.
As a Bourne film, Legacy is a tad disappointing. But that is only because its predecessors were so great. Gilroy makes a few satisfying connections to the previous films, but Legacy’s story and Gilroy’s direction of it just doesn’t quite have the Bourne-ness of the other ones. The movie still makes for solid summer entertainment, though, with Renner raising it further than it could have gone.