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Film / The Bourne Legacy

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He's the new Bourne but without the inconsistency. In other words, he's Hawkeye but without the bow and arrow.
"We are the sin eaters. It means that we take the moral excrement we find in this equation and we bury it down deep inside of us, so that the rest of our cause can stay pure. That is the job. We are morally indefensible, and absolutely necessary."
Eric Byer

The Bourne Legacy is the fourth entry in The Bourne Series, directed and co-written by Tony Gilroy and released on August 10, 2012. It is notable for being the only Bourne film without Jason Bourne, which resulted from Bourne's actor Matt Damon refusing to make another installment unless Paul Greengrass (director of The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum) was involved, and Greengrass insisting that he hadn't found a story good enough to merit a continuation of the franchise.

As a result, the film centers around a new character, black ops agent Aaron Cross (played by Jeremy Renner), who is a trained operative much like Bourne and has to deal with the fallout as the government eliminates any programs linked to Blackbriar, eventually joining up with a female scientist from the same program. Edward Norton plays an official involved with the deeper aspects of the program trying to cover up the fine details. The film generally takes place immediately after the events of Supremacy and Ultimatum, although parts of it take place at the same time as Ultimatum.

Gilroy, the film's director, also wrote or co-wrote the first three entries of the series, and in his involvement with this film, he sought to continue the story of the series without changing key events.

This film was followed in 2016 by Jason Bourne, an actual sequel to Ultimatum, with Matt Damon reprising the titular role.

This film provides examples of:

  • Action Survivor: Marta. She may be The Load initially, but she's considerably better at surviving and helping out than the typical action movie love interest, and chooses to stay by Aaron's side despite opportunities to get away safely.
  • Actor Allusion: Aaron is an agent and master assassin who fends off minimum-wage guards in a factory. He also shoots a distant flying target as it explodes behind him.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: The Outcome agents for Bourne, and the LARX-3 agent for Aaron.
  • Anti-Climax:
    • Despite being built up as the latest and greatest of the Super-Soldier line, LARX-3 doesn't engage in an epic hand-to-hand battle with Cross, despite Bourne having done that in pretty much every film. Instead, he ends up pursuing Cross and Marta in a relatively tame car/bike chase, and gets taken out when Marta makes him crash into a pillar.
    • Similarly, Aaron never has a direct confrontation with Byer, the main antagonist behind Outcome's liquidation, nor does he make any attempt to expose Outcome to the public.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: The blue and green pills, or "chems", which serve to increase the subject's intelligence and strength. Also enables the CIA to maintain a hold on their agents: if not taken on a regular basis, the enhancements will stop working.
  • Artistic License: It is almost impossible to have a car chase throughout Manila, especially in broad daylight, due to the simple fact that Manila's traffic is a contender for the worst in the world. (Or maybe there was a Manny Pacquiao fight on then, one of the very few things that reliably empties Manila streets.)
  • Artistic License – Military: Downplayed. The U.S. military does not screen recruits by a general intelligence test which could be directly correlated with IQ, but by an aptitude test which covers specific aspects of intelligence that relate to different military roles. However, the US does have minimum aptitude requirements that, specifically with the AFQT, have been found to generally correlate with IQ.
  • Banister Slide: Aaron Cross does this on a motorcycle during the final chase scene, because the stairway is blocked by pedestrians.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Used by Aaron and Marta to infiltrate the Manila pharmaceutical factory.
    Aaron: (to Marta) Remember, we belong here.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: Played with. The CIA has to spend a lot of time playing catch-up to Cross and Shearing because spy satellites don't routinely monitor Maryland. They eventually get a feed from a Canadian forestry satellite and then start piecing things together from there. The film actually goes to some lengths to show just how arduous this process is. There's a room full of support staff calling facilities along the routes they need to cover, they routinely make note of legal warrants for the information, etc.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Aaron does this a few times, showing up to dramatically save Shearing from government agents at her house and later from police officers in Manila.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The second half of the movie has scenes with (untranslated) dialogue that would make sense to someone with a working knowledge of Tagalog.
  • Bio-Augmentation: The government use retroviral engineering to enhance human mental and physical abilities.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Despite Aaron and Shearing managing to escape the CIA's reach, the ending implies that Landy will be used as a scapegoat for Treadstone and Blackbriar while the actual villains get away clean to try again.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Inverted, out of Cross's fellow Outcome Agents, the white dude dies first, followed shortly by the black, Pakistani and Korean ones.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: When Operation Blackbriar and the Treadstone Project are exposed to the public, Byer engineers the deaths of the Outcome scientists by chemically brainwashing one of them into killing the rest of his colleagues and then himself. However, they didn't account for the one survivor. The implacable LARX agent, LARX-03, could also count as this. Shearing implies that the stuff she was working with involved the capacity for brainwashing at a chemical level, tied in with the education and training of new agents. Exactly how this works is not explained, but it could be implied that it allows brainwashing at an accelerated level over a more normal way.
  • Can't Stop the Signal: Aaron tells Marta that if she leaves him, her only chance for survival is to go public. As Landy found out, this doesn't work so well against the government.
    Aaron: But you better ask yourself this: could you ever say it loud enough, fast enough, that they'd leave you alone?
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • When Byer and his investigators were first going through the CIA investigations files at the start of the movie, the camera sweeps over the file names - Treadstone, Blackbriar, Outcome, and a forth yet unmentioned in the series program called LARX. It would soon be revealed that this is the newest and most advanced offshoot of all four programs.
    • Aaron swipes a gold watch off the factory manager at the Manila manufacturing plant. This is used to pay off a boat captain later.
  • Clock King: Aaron seems like a heroic version of one, specially while rescuing Dr. Shearing.
  • Come with Me If You Want to Live: Aaron to Marta after he saves her from a government hit squad.
  • Counting Bullets: When Cross foils the attempt to kill Marta in the house, she grabs her gun and runs upstairs while firing at everyone. When Cross follows her up, he walks right up to her and lets her shoot, informing her that she emptied the gun on the way up.
  • Crazy-Prepared:
    • In a deleted scene, when making the trip to Maryland, Aaron is pulled over by a cop suspiciously (he was going the proper speed limit). The cop started asking him specific questions and Aaron had a detailed response about being a divorcee going to see his kid play in a soccer game. When asked to look at his trunk he had a variety of sporting equipment.
    • When he knocks out the plant supervisor in Manila, Aaron makes sure to steal his watch so he can use it to bribe another man in the future.
  • Darker and Edgier: This is a darker entry in the Bourne universe than the first three films. Unlike Jason Bourne, Cross and Shearing are complete innocents who never intend to get out, let alone expose the project, and yet they are marked for death anyway. The film also has more nightmarish moments, with the vicious wolves, the laboratory massacre, and Shearing nearly being executed in her own home by agents who'd seemingly come to help her.
  • Deadly Nose Bleed: The only physical symptom of the poison given the Outcome agents is a nosebleed right before death.
  • Death from Above: A missile-armed Predator UAV is sent after the two Outcome agents on survival exercise.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: While the Outcome and Blackbriar programs weren't directly related, the CIA leadership decides to shut down Outcome and eliminate everybody involved with it solely because Outcome's project lead happened to be in a single picture with Dr. Hirsch, and there were fears that investigators could use that to find a trail of bread crumbs to expose Outcome.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: Despite working for a CIA Special Ops unit, Aaron was recruited from a Tanker unit.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Weisz's character, Dr. Shearing, manages to escape a shooting in her lab by hiding herself in a cold storage room (with very thick walls and glass) and kept the door sealed by wrapping her jacket around the inside plunger to prevent the latch from opening. This resulted in her being the only survivor and shows she won't be The Load even though she can't match anyone on a physical level.
    • When we first see Dr Shearing, she is on first name terms with security guards, on great terms with her co-workers... and barely looks at 6, the guy she's about to perform intensive medical checks on. It's a pretty graphic example of how depersonalised the experimental subjects are to her.
    • The first 20 minutes of the film shows Aaron navigating the Alaskan wilderness with unflinching focus, but it isn't until he shoots down the attack drone trying to kill him that you see just how good he is. This is commented upon by the guys controlling it. "What kind of weapons system is he using?" "He's probably got a rifle." (blank stare) "It's a high-powered rifle."
  • Fake Static: Aaron rubs the radio on his sleeve while giving a "status update" to the final member of a hit squad sent after Marta, using the distorted sound and his knowledge of radio protocols to pretend to be the dead guy he took the radio off of, so nobody will realize anything's gone wrong until after he and Marta are gone.
  • Faking the Dead: It was revealed that Aaron's original identity was presumed killed in Iraq; he survived with significant injuries and was presumably placed into the Outcome program soon after.
  • Fighting from the Inside: Implied during the workplace massacre; Dr Foite seems a bit smitten with Marta, and during the massacre he keeps glancing in her direction but not firing until he's killed every other person in the room.
  • "Flowers for Algernon" Syndrome: Cross stated his IQ was 12 points below the Army recruitment minimum; when given the intelligence enhancing pills it made the threat of losing those enhancements significantly more scary for him.
  • For Science!:
    Marta: I was there for the science. We were all there for science!
  • Government Agency of Fiction: National Research Assay Group.
  • Hero of Another Story:
    • Jason Bourne has the big story of taking Treadstone public, while Aaron's story is just about surviving.
    • Also Outcome Three, the contact in Alaska, who apparently is there as punishment for misbehavior in the field (implied to be Iran).
  • Hero Stole My Bike: Cross does this with a plane in Alaska and a motorcycle in Manila. The LARX agent also steals two motorcycles, though his methods involve violently removing the current rider.
  • Holiday in Cambodia: The Philippines rather than Cambodia, but the Manila scenes show much of the metropolis' urban squalor and traffic.
  • IKEA Weaponry: Aaron continuously assembles and disassembles his Nemesis Arms Vanquish rifle throughout his trek across Alaska.
  • Implacable Man: The LARX agent could give a Terminator a run for his money. Car crash? Gets out, hijacks a motorcycle and continues. Getting shot twice then a bad motorcycle wreck? Gets right back up and keeps coming. It takes being forced to crash head on into a concrete pillar at top speed to finally kill him. On top of that, he's neurochemically programmed to be absolutely remorseless and have zero empathy, and he noticeably is far more ruthless than any previous agent.
  • Improvised Weapon: A Bourne staple; Cross rigs what is effectively a nail gun with an air piston and a fire extinguisher.
  • In Name Only: The titular Jason Bourne doesn't appear in the film in person, except as a picture in a news report. His role is instead filled by Aaron Cross.
  • Irony: Cross using Filipino Martial Arts to beat up non-martial artsy Filipino security guards and police officers.
  • It Works Better with Bullets: Marta, still understandably freaked out by the whole attempted murder thing, tries to shoot Cross when he first tries to gain her trust. Cross then points out she emptied her gun during her first escape.
  • Just Plane Wrong: There are four things wrong with the flight that Aaron and Marta take to Manila:
    • American Airlines does not fly to Manila;
    • No airline flies from New York to the Philippines;
    • The aeroplane used is a Boeing 747, which does not form part of American's fleet;
    • The external shots are of a 747, whilst the interior ones are of a 777.
  • Karma Houdini: Byer and all his associates get off scot-free in the end.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: In order to cut off any potential leaks, Byer arranges the deaths of everyone in Outcome through a variety of methods. The enhanced agents are given pills which cause aneurysms, Shearing's lab looks like a workplace shooting by a colleague who just snapped, and Bourne's handler from the previous film died of a suspicious heart attack. Cross and the other agent in Alaska just get a drone strike, because they're in such a remote location that witnesses are a non-issue.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Byer is convinced that all of the Outcome Agents and scientists should be killed just because someone might be able to make a connection between one Outcome official and Blackbriar's shrink. This is in spite of the fact that (as some of Byer's colleagues point out, albeit not steadfastly enough to hold their position) the Outcome agents are doing some incredibly valuable field work, the loss of which will hurt the intelligence community, and that the situation might be containable with just denying everything or making the head scientist a scapegoat.
  • Nebulous Criminal Conspiracy: The superhuman projects in the Bourne universe are controlled by a conspiracy involving rogue spy chiefs, pharmaceutical executives, and defense contractors.
  • Necessarily Evil: Byer describes both himself and Cross as this in a flashback, explaining to the latter that it's their job to do these distasteful things so everyone else can keep their hands clean.
  • Neck Snap: Cross does a few.
  • Never Trust a Trailer:
    • For The Bourne Legacy trailer, their editing indicated that Aaron Cross was superior to Jason Bourne, calling him "Treadstone without the inconsistency". The Film shows that it was actually referring to a new Treadstone offshoot that was active without most people knowing about it. They called it "Outcome without the emotions".
    • Some of the trailer dialogue also didn't appear in the cinematic release: "Well, I'm not just a science project, Doc."
    • The TV spot has Aaron Cross muttering "You should have left me alone," to a handphone on the plane, hinting that he made contact with Eric Byer. In the film Byer wasn't even aware that Aaron Cross was alive and helping Dr. Shearing until the pair reached Manila.
      • Also, Aaron's comment was in the film - but in the context of being a Pre-Mortem One-Liner to a wolf he tricked into becoming the target for the drone strike that makes Byer think that he's dead.
    • Don't trust the poster, either. Joan Allen and Albert Finney get their name on the poster in big letters. Pamela Landy is in only one scene and Albert Finney is only briefly shown in a Youtube video for less than a minute.
    • The scene in the trailers of Marta screaming for Aaron when she's cornered in a narrow alley and being promptly rescued is misleadingly cut from two different scenes: one where she screams for him to run, endangering herself to give him a chance to get away, and another several minutes later when she is cornered and about to surrender, only for Aaron to jump down to rescue her.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Landy, who spent all of Supremacy and Ultimatum trying to expose the corruption within the CIA and simply trying to do the right thing, is rewarded with becoming the scapegoat for said corruption within the CIA.
  • Not That Kind of Doctor: Shearing's doctorate is in biochemistry. However, biochemistry is a major component of medicine, so she isn't completely ignorant about what medications and whatnot Aaron might need.
  • Oh, Crap!: Byer has a big one when his team finally manages to identify the mystery person helping Shearing escape their view, the Outcome agent (Aaron) they thought they had just killed.
  • The Oner: Cross crawls out from a basement window, smoothly climbs three stories on the side of a house and enters an upstairs window to shoot a person climbing the stairs. All in one take. There's a Lens Flare as he climbs onto the roof, presumably covering for a cut.
  • P.O.V. Sequel: It takes place at the same time as the events of The Bourne Ultimatum, even showing some of the same news broadcasts.
  • Properly Paranoid:
    • Practically enforced, a Deleted Scene showed that all Outcome Agents showed signs of paranoia, including stockpiling their chems in case they need to go off the grid. Aaron's behavior wasn't unusual and ultimately vital to his survival.
    • Byer, too. His methods may be brutal to the point of monstrous, but he accurately predicted that the CIA would lose control of the situation and planned accordingly.
  • The Purge: When Bourne's story really starts heating up, all Treadstone/Blackbriar operatives are killed systematically. Operation Outcome was completely unrelated but a single video online created a connection that could be traced, so all operatives and civilian personnel were terminated. Aaron and Shearing are the only survivors.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: The other Outcome agent in Alaska is implied to have screwed up somehow, thus why he's doing the job as opposed to a normal employee.
  • Roof Hopping: Aaron Cross engages in an entire chase scene over the roofs in Manila.
  • Savage Wolves: A pack of wolves constantly harass Aaron during his training in the snowy mountain region. The pack leader even tries to take him head on when he's on the run from the flying drone trying to kill him. It's hinted by the other agent that the wolves attack him because he's no longer human.
  • The Scapegoat: Pamela Landy is shown to be taking the heat for Jason Bourne still being at large, deemed as guilty of treason for aiding and abetting a wanted felon, although she doesn't seem to have given up all hope.
  • Sequel Hook:
    • The senate hearing Bourne got going in Ultimatum isn't going well for Landy, and there is a new program already in play that very few are aware of.
    • The fact that Marta said there were six Outcome Agents left and only five show up in the film also invoked a bit of this speculation.
  • Sequel Reset: The senate hearing from the end of Ultimatum isn't going well, Pamela Landy is the scapegoat and more projects spawning even more extreme agents and methods to use on the agents are going on with barely anyone the wiser.
  • Shell-Shock Silence: When the UAV missile explodes the cabin.
  • Shirtless Scene: Quite a number for Jeremy Renner.
  • Skip the Anesthetic: When Aaron removes his Tracking Device. It's later established that the "chems" help operatives on them ignore pain.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Outcome-4 is not only the only female Outcome Agent shown, but also the only female film Asset in any of the movies.
  • Super-Soldier: Put on full display for this film, as the Treadstone-style agents, which include Blackbriar, Outcome and LARX, were actually chemically enhanced to be faster, stronger and smarter than average humans. Byer has a discussion with a military general over the positive effects of fielding these precise agents into places that normal people would not survive in. Behind the scenes they even refer to the individuals as super soldiers.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: When one of his underlings mentions LARX as a solution to the Cross problem, when until now the LARX program was believed to be in the concept stages, Byer gives him a look that just screams "are you kidding me?" Even worse, the guy doesn't take the hint and just keeps talking, forcing Byer to admit that the program's already running.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Downplayed. By the time Byer contacts the factory in Manila, security have already caught on to Cross' Bavarian Fire Drill, and the manager is simply deciding who to call about it. Unfortunately, the manager also sent guards down to detain Cross and Shearing, because he only knows who Shearing is, and he had no way of knowing that the man with her is a Super-Soldier. Things quickly get out of control from there.
  • Token Romance: It's actually left rather subtle. There is a growing appreciation between Cross and Shearing and they sometimes engage in affectionate mannerisms with each other (Cross grasps her hand when she injects him with the retrovirus, Shearing holds him when he is suffering from the symptoms of that virus) but by the end it is left vague if they are going to actually pursue a relationship.
  • Tracking Device: All Outcome agents have one planted into their body, which is regulated by body temperature. The Big Bad uses it to kill one agent with a drone strike. Aaron manages to escape by first blocking his tracker's signal using a reflective blanket and a metal plate and then extracting the device and planting it on a wolf.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: For The Bourne Legacy, those who watched the trailer would already know that Marta's friendly lab colleague would be shooting at her ten minutes later. Also, as soon as the various Outcome operatives showed up, trailers already showed them to be dead agents walking.
  • The Unfought: Unlike the previous films, where Bourne ended up confronting at least some of his pursuers, there is only one scene featuring both Cross and Byer, and it's in a flashback where Byer lectures him on being Necessarily Evil. In the present, it's debatable if Cross is even aware Byer is the one running the show.
  • Wham Line: The revelation of LARX, the newest Treadstone-style incarnation, hidden from the current media hooplah and so secretive even those who know all about Treadstone and Blackbriar didn't know they had active agents already.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Marta tells Cross that there are six active Outcome agents but only five (including Aaron) are shown during The Purge. It is unknown whether Outcome-2 was considered valuable enough to be absorbed by another CIA project, survived and went on the run like Cross (although Cross seems to be the only one who Byer shows concern about after his assassinations), or was simply Killed Offscreen.
    • In the efforts to kill the Blackbriar and Outcome Agents it's unclear if Paz from the third movie was another offscreen victim, was spared or (based on his final scene with Bourne) might have gone on the run during the Time Skip himself.
  • Worf Had the Flu: Done almost literally. Aaron is injected with a virus designed to permanently keep his mental acuity without the need for blue pills, but he is suffering the effects of the virus for the rest of the film. The worst of it passes by overnight, but he's clearly suffering from more than a gunshot wound near the end of the chase.
  • Worst Aid: The agency therapist visiting Marta after the shootout was horrible at her job, first implying that she might have survivors guilt because Marta had been spared (she very nearly wasn't), then eventually resorting to screaming at Dr Shearing to make her sit down. Justified, because she's just trying to distract Marta long enough for her partner to find Marta's gun so they can kill her and make it look like a suicide.
  • Wounded Hero, Weaker Helper: Aaron Cross. While sick from the retrovirus, he can't hide himself (let alone Dr. Marta Shearing) from Treadstone/Blackbriar/Outcome so she has to be the brains for a while.
  • You Are Number 6: The scientists in charge see the outcome agents as only numbers. Dr Shearing had known Aaron Cross for four years as only "five". He doesn't take this well.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Once the supersoldier projects leak out to the media, the project supervisors decide to wipe out all scientists and soldiers involved to prevent them from being witnesses.