The Bourne Legacy is a very interesting sequel. I watched it in school with my 7th graders because one of them suggested it. Most of them hadn’t known the earlier movies and were very confused by the plot. I would argue that this comes from a rather intelligently written screenplay by director Tony Gilroy and his brother Dan Gilroy. I know the movie was rather panned by critics but I enjoyed it a lot. The plot is demanding, the acting is excellent because of its amazing cast (especially Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton and Dennis Boutsikaris) and the action is well-made and mostly has a story-telling purpose. There is a moment where Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) climbs up a house parkour-style and shoots someone, which is expressive physically (although there probably was some trickery involved) but is also filmed amazingly as the camera (by the great Robert Elswit) follows him from the outside of the house through the window to the inside in one amazing take. The action scenes in Bangkok are less convincing, though, and expect us to suspend a lot of disbelief.
An aspect of the movie I found very fascinating was the depiction of drones. We hear about drones all the time, about their use against terrorists and the scary possibilities they imply. It distances people who kill terrorists from actually being the killer, while being more “effective” than bombs. But they also suggest that it is a safer way of killing bad people, which from everything we know, it is obviously not. The movie shows us drones in action, killing people who are not terrorists, showing us how the drones are controlled by people sitting somewhere far away who don’t talk about people but only objects that need to be eliminated. Suddenly you have actual images of how people can be eliminated from the other end of the world by someone sitting there with a joystick. In a time where passenger planes are shot from the sky, it’s a scary image even if the movie does not make any explicit political statements about the drone strikes.
Which is kind of surprising since otherwise it follows the Bourne franchise in being very paranoid about the U.S. government and all the things that happen behind closed doors. It becomes very clear how messy things can get and how much power people have over, well, everything. This is represented well by the Edward Norton character who sums it up fittingly well with: “That is the job. We are morally indefensible, and absolutely necessary.“ Let’s not even mention the whole surveillance angle that is very scary for a movie made before Edward Snowden.
To switch to a different topic, the Rachel Weisz character for a while seems to become a strong woman towards the end and she does have to fight off the bad guys eventually. But she is the damsel in distress so often and can’t help but fall for our hero who is too cool to react to that. She is an interesting character because of her questionable morals and her ignorance towards the things she works on. But in the end, she can only go the way that most female characters go, into the saving arms of the male hero. Poor Rachel Weisz.