Bourne in Hell . . . Review of “The Bourne Legacy”

By Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

The Bourne Legacy is born from the trilogy of Matt Damon Bourne movies and is intended to give birth to a new flood of cash. After rogue agent Jason Bourne does his superspy tap dance across the CIA in the previous three movies, that agency decides to terminate operations coming from Treadstone, the top secret project creating ultimate warriors like Bourne. Terminating operations means murdering all of the people connected with them. One of these uber-soldiers, Aaron Cross (played by Jeremy Renner), manages to escape his execution and goes on the run with one of the doctors who helped create his super powers, Dr. Marta Shearing (played by Rachel Weisz).

We’ll tell you right up front that we didn’t like this overblown excuse for a movie, but that was definitely due to no fault of the actors. They did the best they could have done with this cinematic travesty. In fact, the acting was the only redeeming quality of the entire two miserable hours.

image from

Now for our individual observations.


Understanding that this is fiction, I’m generally pretty charitable with movies. However, I do not give them license to be stupid. Shortly into this movie, I knew The Bourne Legacy crossed that IQ line when I cracked up laughing, thinking, “What? He’s got a rifle? Why didn’t he just shoot the damn ****** instead of dancing with them?”

It did not get better. In fact, about a half an hour in, I had to stop myself from moo-ing because The Bourne Legacy is what I call a Dairy Farm Movie. I understand that the movie business, like every other business, is in the business of making money. But movies, books, paintings, dance, etc. should give us something in exchange for that money, and that something should not be to treat us like cash cows to be milked.

As an author, I’ll say I found this story sorely lacking in structure. It has a beginning; it has a middle, a middle, and another middle, all of which consist of chase scenes punctuated by an occasional dramatic pause. In fact, if it’s true that visualizing a physical activity is almost as effective as doing the thing, I burned at least 5k calories watching these chase scenes. It finally got to the point that I thought I’d taken a wrong turn and ended up in The Terminator.

Unlike The Terminator, though, The Bourne Legacy has no actual end beyond a trite committee meeting held with people who would have already known about the project in the first place for it to exist at all. At no time do the “white hats” actually take charge of the situation and dominate the “black hats” to obtain satisfying resolution to the story problem.

Bottom line? I want those two hours of my life back, please. I could have been ironing my pantyhose or watching my dog catch flies.


This movie was Bourne in Hell, and then it got worse.

It’s rare for me to walk out on a movie, but if I hadn’t been there to review it, I would not have stayed. Generally, if I’m going to review a movie, I watch it at least twice so I can catch more detail and find more things to appreciate about it. I’m sorry, folks. I did my best but I can’t tolerate The Bourne Legacy a second time. All I can offer is my honest first impressions.

If a movie with a well-developed plot or great action is what you seek, then by all means spare yourself the agony of sitting through this one.  And if you’re hoping to see a Jason Bourne movie, it isn’t one of those, either. The producers saved themselves a bundle by only flashing a brief glimpse of Matt Damon’s photograph rather than hiring the actual actor.

As to plausibility of the movie concept, there isn’t one. I won’t claim that the CIA has never, ever killed anyone, but it is not their normal and customary practice to run around killing each other. No intelligence organization in a democratic society could sustain itself by routinely murdering its own employees or citizens. That was standard operating procedure for the Soviet Union, and you see how well that worked out for them.

Most of the “action” scenes are severely edited, resulting in a hint of action amidst abundant kinetic energy. It’s more like a stop-action animation film with bad editing. For example, one moment a woman is upright on a motorcycle, and the next she is falling off the side, clinging to a bus, but we never see how this happens. It is frenetic activity, but it is not fluid action.

This is, unfortunately, a money-saving trend in modern films. While they clearly saved a lot of cash by cheating on the action scenes in The Bourne Legacy with staccato film editing, it gave me annoyance rather than the tension and interest it was supposed to be creating.

And the plot?  Are the writers on strike again?

So far some critics have been upset by the lack of an “ending” to The Bourne Legacy. I’ll let them slide on the ending. If you never quite start the movie, why should you have to end it? Besides, in the case of The Bourne Legacy, my favorite thing about the movie is that it finally stopped when it did, though sooner would have been better.

At the “end” the non-action switches abruptly to a non-love scene. We are all better off not seeing that love scene. It would have no doubt amounted to something like “Fifty Shades of Bilge Grease” or “Last Tango in a Tropical Hell.” I want to personally thank the writer and producer for sparing me that agony.

On the positive side, if you haven’t seen this movie yet, it’s not to late to avoid the pain. If you have ten bucks that are burning a hole in your pocket and you are in dire need of some action, then use the cash to buy a pair of knitting needles and a skein of wool. Learning to knit would be a better bet for entertainment than paying to see The Bourne Legacy.

The Bourne Legacy will soon be coming to a theater near you! Warn your loved ones!


The Bourne Legacy earns our first Dud Chinese-Manufactured Ammo* rating. We know better than to look for documentary style reality in movies, but this film did not bother to employ the many modern techniques available for producing a satisfying story or exciting action scenes. If you’re looking for action or for a movie, this isn’t either.

Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

*Our Movie Rating System:

  • Dud Chinese-manufactured ammo: Stay home and do housework. You’ll have more fun.
  • .22 rim fire:  Not worth the big screen, but ok to rent.
  • .380: Go to the matinée if someone else is paying.
  • .38 special: Worth paying for the matinée yourself.
  • .357 magnum: Okay to upgrade to prime time if you can stand the crowd.
  • .44 magnum: Must see this. Potentially life-altering event.

Piper Bayard is a recovering attorney with a university degree or two. She currently pens post-apocalyptic sci-fi and spy novels with Holmes when she isn’t shooting, SCUBA diving, or chauffeuring her children.

‘Jay Holmes’, is an intelligence veteran of the Cold War and remains an anonymous member of the intelligence community. Piper is the public face of their partnership.

You may contact them in blog comments, on Twitter at @piperbayard, on Facebook at Piper Bayard, or by email at

© 2012 Piper Bayard. All content on this page is protected by copyright. If you would like to use any part of this, please contact us at the above links to request permission.

34 comments on “Bourne in Hell . . . Review of “The Bourne Legacy”

  1. Bobby Gladd says:

    Love the review. I guess I won’t be wasting my money on this. I loved the Bourne series (and “The Green Zone”, which some wags dubbed “The Bourne Zone”).

    I watched the Bourne Trilogy so much I can tell you that the average shot length is ~1.5 seconds and that there were about a total of 15 expletives uttered across the 3 flicks.

    I recently bought “Safe House,” starring Denzel. OMG! How Much Bourne Series Stuff Can You Rip Off For One Knockoff Flick?!! The Bourne people should be getting residuals. Denzel was awesome, but, REALLY people?

    Two other great movies of the genre:

    – Traitor
    – The Kingdom

  2. Have you read the books the movies were supposed to have been made from? If they’d stuck with the storyline, would have IMHO, been really great movies, because the books had logical storylines, etc. I don’t get why they have to redo really well done story lines. Thanks for saving me from seeing this!

    • Piper Bayard says:

      I haven’t read the books, but I have always suspected they had to be better than the movies. Certainly better than this one. I don’t know why they mess with stories so much, but it reminds me of a sign that hung in the journalism building in college. “Man’s greatest desire is to edit another’s copy.”

      • Reminds me of the Alastair Maclean adaptations. Most of those were messed up, too. What surprised me about the Bourne adaptations, it looks like the author was in on it. I could be wrong and I know from my own experiences with H-wood, that the author has very little control. There’s a very good mini series version of the original Bourne (first) book. It was a tv mini-series.I’m blanking on the male star, he was the priest in The Thornbirds (why can I remembver that and not his name?) I’m sure it will look dated, but they were pretty faithful to the story. And really, the basic premise of the amnesia was SO much better in the book. The evil govt agency is so overdone and a total cliche, IMHO.

        • Piper Bayard says:

          Richard Chamberlain?

          And as far as I know, the only actual evil government agency is Dept. of Homeland Security. CIA-like intelligence on citizens combined with FBI-like law enforcement powers is the definition of gestapo. I’m saying that while I still can.

          • That’s him! He was pretty hot stuff back in the 80’s. LOL! And yeah, I wonder if Homeland security got the idea from watching the Bourne movies?

          • Piper Bayard says:

            I loved him in Shogun and The Man in the Iron Mask. He came out as being gay and the earth shifted on its axis with the power of 30 million women in simultaneous mourning.

            As for DHS, that wouldn’t surprise me. Let’s just hope they don’t watch Minority Report.

  3. Should have been titled “The Bored (to tears) Legacy” IMHO. 😉

  4. Jess Witkins says:

    Ouch. I’m really bummed. I was hoping to see this one cause I do like the actors, so that’s disappointing the storyline blows.

    Then again, I have little free time and would wait to get it from the library anyway, at least I know now that there really isn’t a rush.

  5. This series has been getting weaker as it goes because it’s trying to explain the mystery that made it interesting. Now they’re just trying to milk it. It’s sad because it started well.

    I got a grin out of the line “No intelligence organization in a democratic society could sustain itself by routinely murdering its own employees or citizens.” … classic.


  6. Donna Newton says:

    LOL. I love you guys!

    I am, however, eagerly waiting to see this movie. If Jeremy Renner is in it, flexing his muscles, kicking ass, and looking hot – I couldn’t give too hoots about the plot 😀 (and that is a really BIG smile).

  7. Rob Mahan says:

    Thanks, you guys. I’d share the two hours with you that you saved me from wasting on this one, if I could just figure out how to pull it off!

  8. amyshojai says:

    Wow. Glad to know this. I met the author at Thrillerfest who will be taking over writing the Bourne books. It will be interesting to see how that turns out.

  9. Julie Glover says:

    The camera work in the last two Bournes drove me nuts, so I hadn’t intended to see this one either. It sounds like they kept all of that frenetic activity and didn’t bother with a story this time. I think I’ll watch another episode of Bones instead.

  10. Amanda says:

    Awww, I actually LIKED this movie. Not nearly as good as the first Bourne, but I didn’t think it was horrible. Horrible is a designation best reserved for any of Jason Statham’s last couple of movies (with the exception of The Expendibles).

    • Piper Bayard says:

      We love hearing from people with differing opinions. 🙂 What did you like about this movie? Genuinely interested in an opposing point of view.

      • Amanda says:

        Aside from the fact I’m a huge Jeremy Renner fan, what worked for me was all the backstory. My local paper’s movie reviewer made the comment that as background for the whole Bourne mythology, it worked. We see it was never just about Treadstone, and Ed Norton managed to pull off his role well enough that I was intrigued to want to find out just what all these other programs were. I’m also a fan of the spy genre in general, and this film opened the door (at least in my mind) to a number of possibilities if they wanted to turn it into a franchise, similar to the Bond films. The lack of jittery camera work on the chase scenes was a bonus as well.

        And Renner did his best to turn Cross into a wholly different character, not some Bourne knockoff. He didn’t have to. He could have tried to emulate Matt Damon, and as talented as he is, he may have been able to do so, and do it fairly well. But the film marked a change in direction for the series (I have no doubt Tony Gilroy will pen another Bourne screenplay) and Renner’s portrayal carried it forward. So yeah, I’ll line up to see the next one.

        I DO wish it had more chase scenes. The final sequence was awesome, and proved Cross was human, instead of just some single minded killing machine, but the movie could have used a short sequence right around the middle. Or more gun fights. Or physical fights. Or more stuff blowing up. Oh, and more David Strathairn.

        On a side note, I tried to read The Bourne Identity before the first film came out. Ludlum spent far too much time setting the scene, and not enough developing his characters. Six chapters in, I wanted to claw my eyes out.

        • Piper Bayard says:

          Thanks for giving your perspective, Amanda. I would agree that Renner did a good job making Cross a completely different character from Bourne. Just goes to show there’s room for everyone. 🙂

  11. Tammy Salyer says:

    Oh no!!!! I was totally counting on this one to be the one movie that didn’t suck this summer. Agh! Perhaps the time has come for me to lower my standards, or find a time machine that can take me back to 1983-84 when the last really excellent action movies were made. *sad face*

Talk to us. We talk back.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.