The events of The Bourne Legacy take place simultaneously as Jason Bourne’s story comes to its conclusion in The Bourne Ultimatum. Other secret government agencies with highly trained special operatives working all over the world are dealing with the fallout of the exposure of Treadstone and Blackbriar.
One of the primary players in all of this espionage is Colonel Eric Byer (Ed Norton). He is the driving force in the creation and realization of government fringe groups that push the envelope ethically and legally. He decides the only way to protect the future of such programs is to wipe out everything and everyone currently involved in his latest brainchild, Outcome. This includes an agent named Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner).
However, unlike Bourne, Cross has no interest in the secret machinations of the higher ups or in the political ramifications of what he does. Aaron Cross just wants two things: to stay alive and to retain the physical and mental benefits he has acquired as an Outcome agent.
After Byer fails to kill Cross while the agent is on a training mission in Alaska, Cross seeks out the only person he thinks who can help him, Dr. Marta Shearing. Shearing is the lone survivor in a workplace shooting in the lab facility where Outcome agents would receive their medical exams. Shearing is unaware that her small role in the Outcome program has made her a target. Cross shows up in time to rescue Shearing from a team sent by Byer to kill her; a loose end in his cover up.
Neither Cross nor Shearing have access to the full picture, which is evident once they escape, and Cross questions the doctor. She tells him that she is just a scientist and has no idea what happens to him or the other “program participants” once they leave the lab. Shearing is just desperate to escape, but Cross spells out how limited her options are. He tells her she can’t run; she can’t hide and going to the press is possible but by no means a viable way to protect herself, “Could you ever say it loud enough or fast enough that they’d be too afraid to finish what they started?”
She explains to him that the work she does is “tuning chemistry”. The meds are produced from a live virus which is kept on site in a facility in the Philippines. The big question is what specifically these pills do. Generally speaking, the green make him stronger and faster while the blue increase intelligence.
When Shearing questions Cross where he stands on his drugs supplies and dosing, he tells her he hasn’t had a green pill in two days, but he feels fine. He says his blue pills won’t even get him through another day. Shearing is shocked to hear that he is still taking green, because he was injected with a live virus. This procedure allows Cross to sustain his physical enhancements, which makes taking the pills moot. Even though Cross enjoys the benefits of the experimentation, he does recognize that procedurally, it is all very unethical. Shearing tells him that she doesn’t administer meds nor does she make policy, “Look, I was there for the science.”
Cross asks her if it would be possible to viral him off the blue pills as well to which she responds yes. The film goes into great detail explaining what goes into the science of creating a superior physical specimen whose purpose is taking down adversaries of the US government. Technically, it isn’t that hard to follow, but like the other Bourne films, this is an intelligent action movie. You can’t expect to sit in a darkened theater and turn your brain off for two hours.
The longer Cross goes without the blue pills, the worse his mental capacity will become. Apparently, complete withdrawal from the chemicals could turn his brain into Jell-O. Cross confides in Shearing that before he was inducted into outcome, he was just a dumb grunt soldier who was too stupid to even get into the military without a recruiting agent fudging the numbers. Cross’s fear makes him more vulnerable and more likeable than Bourne.
Byer sends another agent from another program to dispose of Cross and Shearing. This is one part of the film that doesn’t make sense, since Byer is supposed to be intent on shutting down these operations. His hope initially seemed to be that they could wipe the slate clean and start fresh in a few years. Obviously, nobody learned anything from the Bourne debacle. This franchise could go on endlessly with the number of secret groups and agents that function with little or no accountability.
The DVD special features include deleted scenes and a short feature that describes the challenges of making another Bourne film without following the Bourne character. The goal was to stay inside Bourne’s world, but explore it from the viewpoint of a completely different character with a very specific problem. They definitely succeed in that respect. The film also explores a deeper level of conspiracy.
Blu-Ray exclusives include a character study of Aaron Cross, and an explanation of the importance of locations and how they were chosen. Everyone involved felt it was important not to revisit places that audiences had already been watching the first three films. The special features also offer viewers the opportunity to take a deeper look into certain sequences and stunts. One of which is included in the DVD. Both the DVD and Blu-Ray have a director’s commentary.
The Blu-Ray offers an analysis of the relationship between Cross and Shearing, and their reliance on each other to get through these series of events. This is explored in interviews with Renner, Weisz and director Tony Gilroy, who also co-wrote the first three Bourne films. There’s an app for the super fan as well as internet-connected features.