A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Bourne Legacy is the fourth installment in the blockbuster Bourne movie series, although this film splits from its namesake book to chronicle a new character entirely separate from Jason Bourne. (This is the first in the series not to star Matt Damon, though his character is mentioned several times.) This time, Jeremy Renner stars as a genetically modified agent who must flee for his life. Like the earlier Bourne movies, Legacy is a big-budget, fast-paced, smart action thriller with near non-stop action -- including explosions, motorcycle chases, and many, many fight scenes, some of which get quite brutal (necks snapped, faces smashed, etc.). There's also some swearing (including "s--t") and social drinking, but the constant action violence is the main issue here.
What's the story?
Agent Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is in the wilds of Alaska preparing for his next high-stakes mission. Left with hours in isolation, he's questioning the life he has chosen. Meanwhile, Jason Bourne has been spotted in New York, and journalists are beginning to delve into the elaborate netherworld of the government's top-secret intelligence agencies. The higher-ups, led by Eric Byer (Edward Norton), want to pull the plug on the entire operation -- all of it. Cross wants to untether himself from the agency, but first he needs specialized meds. Only one person can help him get off all the pills his superiors have leashed him to: Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), a scientist who's now a target herself.
Is it any good?
This is an often-riveting movie that manages to stand alone -- and tall, too -- referencing what came before just enough to give die-hard fans a sense of homecoming. When news spread that Matt Damon, who bore the mantle of the first three compelling Bourne movies, wasn't going to be in this installment, many swore the franchise was dead. And although Damon's Bourne casts his specter over THE BOURNE LEGACY, it doesn't stifle the film. Renner's Cross is a different breed of super-agent, more brawn than Bourne, more soldier than leader, but not so much of a follower that he can't stand alone. He and Marta have gone rogue, forced into it by circumstance, and we're with him most of the way.
But that's not to say there aren't any quibbles: The Bourne Legacy takes its time to distance itself from the original protagonist, a necessary part of the process that nonetheless could have used some pruning. And though there are some flashbacks, the story unfolds in a sometimes maddeningly linear way. A chase gives way to another and then another, and though it certainly makes for a breakneck, exciting pace, thrill fatigue starts to set in. We want to get to know Cross like we did Bourne, and we don't. We won't spoil the ending, but after all that work and rush, it leaves a little something wanting. But don't worry, we're there for the next serving. If filmmakers can entice Bourne to join Cross next time, and there's certainly room for it, the result could be perfection.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the Bourne series. How does Legacy compare to the others? How does it change things to have a new star?
Does this movie seem more or less violent than what you've seen in other films? What kind of fighting/violence has the most impact? Why?
How do the covert agents justify their violent actions? Do the ends ever justify the means? Do you think real spies act like this?
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