Take a man who does not know his own identity and have the agency he is working for hunt him down and you have a pretty good movie. Make two more stories out of this idea and you have the Bourne trilogy.
Now continue on with a new agency trying to cover up the old agency by killing all of their agents. But one of them survives and for some reason doesn’t want to die. This is the premise behind “The Bourne Legacy.”
Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) knows his identity and he knows he is part of a program of spies who are deep undercover. Each one of them must check in periodically for blood tests and to receive their “chems.” These are the drugs that give them increased abilities, both physical and mental. Retired Colonel Eric Byer (Edward Norton) is the head of the program and he sees all his work going down the drain because of the “Bourne” situation. As a result he decides that all the agents in the group must be eliminated. The drugs are changed to kill the agents but Aaron somehow escapes receiving them.
Once he realizes his “team” is being dismantled, Aaron is on the run. The doctors he reports to are all killed in a work “shooting spree,” and he realizes he must get to the only surviving doctor, Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), to get more drugs. She joins Aaron after her life is threatened by the dismantling of the organization. Without revealing an ending — which you can probably guess — that is this film in a nutshell.
It’s not a normal practice to reveal a lot about a movie in a review such as this one. Unfortunately, when the story is as thin as this one is, there is not much choice. The problem is that "Legacy" wants to rely so much on the trilogy before it that it has no life of its own. Yes, a new character is established by "Legacy," but only by the premise that there are more organizations such as the one from which Jason Bourne came. That means there could be any number of sequels because a filmmaker can just make up a new organization and new spies.
When that premise was used for the Bourne trilogy, it was different and exciting. “Legacy” is neither of those. Yes it is a sequel, but there should still be something new in it. Something that will excite the audience besides the same old fight sequences and escapes from death.
The PG-13 rating comes from the violence associated with trying to dispose of a whole group of spies and their support personnel. There is a lot of hand to hand combat, and many guns are used to dispatch people. Missiles are also used in one scene to take out one of the agents. There are a few instances of profanity, but not many. The big surprise is there is no love scene in the film. Usually there is some sort of uniting of the two main characters to show their solidarity against the enemy, but not here. There is a connection between the characters and maybe that will mature in the next film.
Lots of people love the Bourne trilogy. The filmmakers are banking on that to bring people to the theater. Instead, they should have improved the story for this film, then they would know that people would be coming to see it for its own merits.
Shawn O'Neill is the Family Man Movie Reviewer on BYU Radio. His reviews can be heard on BYURadio.org and on SiriusXM Channel 143.