Jason Bourne was just the tip of the iceberg as Jeremy Renner takes on the new secret agent action role in this fourth instalment of the espionage franchise.
Set at the same time as The Bourne Ultimatum, the life-or-death stakes that Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) faces are the direct result of Jason Bourne’s (Matt Damon) actions. Bourne tries to help a Guardian journalist uncover the truth behind Treadstone; one of the CIA’s behavioural projects that he was part of, but to no avail as the journalist is shot before he can publish his story. The Bourne Legacy reveals that Treadstone is not the only secret behavioural manipulation project that the CIA is running under radar, but is just the tip of the iceberg. Aaron Cross belongs to the Outcome project which uses blue and green pills to enhance physical and mental activity, turning Cross into a Neitschean übermensch. His addiction to these pills raises life-or-death stakes when Eric Byer (Edward Norton), the man in charge, takes action to eradicate all living evidence of the projects (as a result of Jason Bourne’s actions), which means Cross must be terminated.
Despite being set in the same time frame as The Bourne Ultimatum and the plot seemingly complicated, it is possible to watch this film without having seen the previous Bourne films, but this would of course help. Jason Bourne does not make an appearance, instead Cross becomes the new Bourne hero figure. He rescues Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz); who administers him his pills, and must find a way to supply his addiction and evade death, which luckily (for Bourne fans) means a lot of roof-top chasing in developing landscapes. Full of action, suspense and drama this ingenious instalment, by writer/director Tony Gilroy, expands on the Bourne universe created by Robert Ludlum to bring us an original supercharged conspiracy story that will keep you gripped and wanting more with its open ending.
Rather suffering from Bourne-like amnesia, Cross suffers from addiction as the narrative follows the simple idea of a soldier who becomes disillusioned in public service and is taken under the wing of the CIA where he becomes addicted to “meds” (blue and green pills) and is afraid of going cold turkey. Cross refuses to give up his “superpowers” if you like, despite the fact that they seem to make him less human. The existential element of finding one’s self was present in the first three Bourne films as Jason Bourne lost his memory and sense of self and sought to uncover who he really was and become the man he wanted to be. This same existential question of personhood is found in The Bourne Legacy, but with a different angle, as Cross has his memory but he starts to feel less human as time goes on. Although his personal story may not be as compelling as Jason Bourne’s, Renner’s Aaron Cross soon proves that he is a force to be reckoned with.
With a supercharged performance by the new action star Jeremy Renner and a solid cast alongside him, including Edward Norton and Rachel Weisz, this fast-paced thrilling espionage sequel takes the legacy of Bourne to new heights.
Hopefully there will be more of Aaron Cross to come.
Written by Shirley Welton, who also blogs at Beyond the Edges of the Frame.