The prior three installments in the Bourne franchise – "The Bourne Identity," "The Bourne Supremacy" and "The Bourne Ultimatum," were all adapted from best-sellers by Robert Ludlum and starred Matt Damon as espionage agent extraordinaire Jason Bourne. "The Bourne Legacy" represents a major departure in that it's based on a book by Eric Van Lustbader and only makes slight references to the title character.
In place of Bourne, this reboot revolves around Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), a pill-popping protagonist being turned into a killing machine by way of an experimental CIA program. At the point of departure, we find the unassuming spy on assignment in the Alaskan wilderness where he is very dependent on government issued medication coming in blue and green colors designed to improve his mental and physical abilities, respectively.
However, when he watches a guided missile fired by an American drone blow up the cabin where he's been training, the sage spy instantly realizes that the Agency inexplicably now wants him dead, and he's almost out of the drugs he's become utterly dependent upon. This sets in motion the sort of frenetic, high body-count race against time we've come to expect of every Bourne episode.
The adrenaline-fueled adventure first brings our peripatetic hero in from the cold for a fix as well as for some answers. But he's only frustrated back at headquarters where he determines that a yellow pill recently added to his regimen has already killed his other colleagues in the top secret Blackbriar Program.
After convincing the gorgeous medical researcher (Rachel Weisz) monitoring his vital signs that she's on the hit list, too, the pair escape to the Philippines by way of Canada for a spectacular motorcycle chase scene replete with a hired hit man (Louis Ozawa Changchien), frightened pedestrians and a sacrificial fruit stand.
Don't be surprised to find the episode end in a way which sets the table for Bourne 5 as much as it closes the curtain on this action-packed roller coaster ride. A primer on how to make a successful sequel sans a hit franchise's title character, star or source material from the series' creator.
Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence and intense action sequences.
Running time: 135 minutes
Distributor: Universal Pictures