Making the Grades
Don’t let a finality like ultimatum fool you into thinking the Bourne series has been put to rest. The hugely successful Bourne Trilogy has earned over $945 million to date, too much for filmmakers to let it languish in the “been there, done that” bin. So reviving the franchise with a new protagonist seems to make good financial sense.
As a sideline story to The Bourne Ultimatum, The Bourne Legacy introduces operative Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner). In the opening scene, the bare-chested agent emerges from the icy water where he’s retrieved a cylinder of information from the bottom of a river. After dressing, he sets off across the frozen landscape, scaling a mountain and arriving at the remote cabin of another agent. Aaron seems happy enough for the human contact but he’s more interested in getting his next fix of “chems”—little blue and green pills. As part of a new program to produce assassins, scientists manipulate their genetics with the pills to make them faster, stronger and smarter. (Sounds surprisingly similar to sports doping.)
Unfortunately the lid is about to be blown on the secretive training operation and Retired Col. Eric Byer (Edward Norton) isn’t about to take the fall. Rather, he orders the immediate death of every highly trained assassin stationed around the world. This dope-them-up-for-the-sake-of-science and then dispose-of-them-like-last-week’s-garbage attitude is in Byer’s words “morally indefensible but absolutely necessary.” It also serves as the catalyst for an onslaught of on screen deaths.
Recognizing he is on the hit list, Aaron slices open his leg in a bloody operation and removes a tracking device. But that doesn’t stop Byers and his team from using other options to hunt the rogue operative, especially after Aaron teams up with Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), one of the medical personnel in charge of the drug program.
Unless you’re well versed in the previous films, the opening 30 minutes of this movie are confusing as characters reference one undercover operation after another. (Either hone up on the trilogy or peruse Wiki’s The Bourne Directory.) Flashbacks, meant to introduce us to the new protagonist, don’t reveal much either. And any attempt at story feels like a weak sidebar to the almost constant parade of weapon and hand-to-hand violence, explosions, detailed bloody deaths and injuries, and a graphic surgical procedure. Countless murders are carried out without a hint of remorse from the people calling (or firing) the shots. In one scene, a man locks his work collogues in a lab and then proceeds to shoot them before killing himself. In light of recent real life shootings, there isn’t much entertainment value to be found in the portrayal.
Unfortunately this story forgoes on the thrill of intrigue and outwitting the enemy to settle for out-and-out violence. Then it wraps up with a flimsy ending that feels like nothing more than a commercial break before what may be the start of a new Bourne trilogy.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Bourne Legacy.
What moral and ethical issues are involved in this kind of scientific tinkering with human genetics? While the enhancements help characters heal more quickly and perform better, what are the risks of having this technology fall into the wrong hands? Is it in the wrong hands in this movie?
Who to trust is always a question in this story. How do characters decide whom to trust? Why are the government agents more interested in protecting themselves than their operatives?
How do the soldiers in the control center approach their work? Would you have to take a “clinical” approach to this kind of job, knowing that the “target” is a human being? Does Aaron have the same mindset when he kills others, either those who are after him or innocent people carrying out their jobs?
Dr. Shearing justifies her role in the program by saying she just does the research; she doesn’t create policy. Does her scientific role remove her from any responsibility in the outcome of the program and the people who are killed?
This movie franchise is based novels by Robert Ludlum.