Filming was primarily in New York City, with some scenes shot in the Philippines, South Korea, Pakistan, and Canada. Released on August 10, 2012, the film received mixed reviews, with critics praising the story, James Newton Howard's score, and Renner's performance, but expressed disappointment in Matt Damon's absence, as well as the lack of shaky camera work (a key element of Greengrass' directorial style) that the second and third films had used. The film was followed in 2016 by Jason Bourne, in which Damon and Greengrass reprised their earlier roles.
Six weeks after Jason Bourne's (Matt Damon) escape from Moscow, Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), an operative belonging to a Defense Department black ops program called Operation Outcome, is assigned to Alaska for a training exercise. He is forced to survive weather extremes and traverse rugged terrain to arrive at a remote cabin as punishment for missing training and going off the grid for four days. The cabin is operated by an exiled Outcome operative, Number Three (Oscar Isaac), who informs Aaron that he has broken the mission record by two days. As an Outcome operative, Aaron uses experimental pills known as "chems" (chemicals) which enhance the physical and mental abilities of their users.
Reporter Simon Ross (Paddy Considine) of The Guardian, who has been investigating the CIA programs Treadstone and Blackbriar, is assassinated at London Waterloo station (a scene from the previous film). When the illegal adaptation of the programs is exposed by Bourne, the FBI and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence investigate CIA Director Ezra Kramer (Scott Glenn), Deputy Director Pamela Landy (Joan Allen), Blackbriar supervisor Noah Vosen (David Strathairn), and Treadstone medical director Dr. Albert Hirsch (Albert Finney).
Eight months after the mayhem in New York City and Bourne's escape, Kramer requests help from Mark Turso (Stacy Keach), a retired United States Navy admiral, who runs the National Research Assay Group (NRAG). Turso informs Eric Byer (Edward Norton), a retired Air Force colonel overseeing NRAG's research and development of various clandestine enhancement programs used by the CIA and Defense. Byer discovers a potentially scandalous video on the Internet showing Hirsch socializing with Dr. Dan Hillcott (Neil Brooks Cunningham), Outcome's medical director. To prevent the Senate investigation from learning about Outcome, Byer orders everyone associated with the program to be killed. He sees the sacrifice as acceptable to protect NRAG's next-generation "beta programs", including the supersoldier program LARX.
Byer deploys a drone to eliminate Outcome agents Number Three and Five (Aaron) in Alaska. Aaron hears the drone's approach and leaves moments before a missile destroys the cabin with Number Three inside. Aaron removes the radio-frequency identification implanted in his thigh and force-feeds it to a wolf which is then blown up by a missile, tricking Byer into believing Aaron is dead. Hirsch dies of an apparent heart attack before he can testify before the Senate. At Sterisyn-Morlanta, a biogenetics company supporting Outcome, researcher Dr. Donald Foite (Željko Ivanek) shoots and kills all but one of his colleagues in the research laboratory. Security guards break into the lab and shoot him, though he seemingly does not feel the pain of the gunshots. Foite turns his gun on himself, leaving biochemist Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) as the sole survivor. Meanwhile, other Outcome agents are eliminated when their handlers give them poisoned yellow pills disguised as new chems.
Four "D-Track" assassins disguised as federal agents visit Marta at her country house. After she states her belief of Foite having been chemically brainwashed into an emotionless killer, the assassins attempt to fake her suicide, but are killed by Aaron. He saves her life as she is his last link to the chems so that he can retain his enhanced capabilities and avoid withdrawal symptoms. Marta reveals that Cross has been genetically modified by a tailored virus to retain the physical benefits without needing the green chems anymore. He still requires regular doses of blue chems to maintain his intelligence, but he is running out. Aaron confides to her that he is Private First Class Kenneth J. Kitsom (reportedly killed by a roadside bomb in the Iraq War) and that his recruiter added twelve points to his IQ, enabling Aaron to meet the United States Army's requirements. Without his enhanced intelligence, Aaron believes they stand no chance of survival. Aaron and Marta travel to Manila, where the chems are manufactured, to try to infect him with another virus so he will not need the blue chems.
Aaron and Marta bluff their way into the Morlanta Pacific pharmaceutical factory where the program's chems are manufactured, and Marta injects Aaron with the live virus stems. Byer alerts factory security, but Aaron and Marta evade capture. Byer orders LARX-03, a chemically brainwashed super soldier, to track down and kill them. As Aaron recovers from the flu-like symptoms induced by the virus, he hallucinates about his Outcome training. When police surround their shelter while Marta is buying medicine, she warns Aaron by screaming. Aaron rescues her and steals a motorbike. They are pursued by both the police and LARX-03. After a lengthy chase through the streets and marketplaces of Manila to Marikina, they lose the police, but not the assassin. Both Aaron and LARX-03 are wounded by bullets, though LARX-03 is not entirely fazed by the wounds due to pain suppression induced by his brainwashing. As Aaron begins losing consciousness, LARX-03 is killed when Marta causes his motorcycle to crash into a pillar. Marta persuades a Filipino boatman to help them escape by sea.
Back in New York, Vosen lies to the Senate, stating that Blackbriar was created solely to track down Jason Bourne, and that Landy committed treason by assisting Bourne and trying to sell Treadstone secrets to the press.
Universal Pictures originally intended The Bourne Ultimatum to be the final film in the series, but development of another film was under way by October 2008. George Nolfi, who co-wrote The Bourne Ultimatum, was to write the script of a fourth film, not to be based on any of the novels by Robert Ludlum. Joshua Zetumer had been hired to write a parallel script—a draft which could be combined with another (Nolfi's, in this instance)—by August 2009 since Nolfi would be directing The Adjustment Bureau that September. Matt Damon stated in November 2009 that no script had been approved and that he hoped that a film would begin shooting in mid-2011. The next month, he said that he would not do another Bourne film without Paul Greengrass, who announced in late November that he had decided not to return as director. In January 2010, Damon said that there would "probably be a prequel of some kind with another actor and another director before we do another one just because I think we're probably another five years away from doing it."
However, it was reported in June 2010 that Tony Gilroy, who co-wrote each of the three previous Bourne films, would be writing a script with his brother, screenwriter Dan Gilroy, for a fourth Bourne film to be released sometime in 2012. That October, Universal set the release date for The Bourne Legacy for August 10, 2012, Tony Gilroy was confirmed as the director of the film, and it was also announced that Jason Bourne will not be appearing in the film.
Gilroy said he did not get involved with the project "until the rules were that Matt [Damon] was gone, Matt and Paul [Greenglass] were gone, there was no Jason Bourne. That was the given when I had the first conversation about this. So it was very important to me, extremely important to me, that everything that had happened before be well preserved and be enhanced if possible by what we're doing now." He also said, "you could never replace Matt [Damon] as Jason Bourne. This isn't James Bond. You can't do a prequel. You can't do any of those kinds of things, because there was never any cynicism attached to the franchise, and that was the one thing they had to hang on to."
Gilroy "never had any intention of ever coming back to this realm at all—much less write it, much less direct it. Then I started a really casual conversation about what we could do in a post-Jason Bourne setting. I was only supposed to come in for two weeks, but the character we came up with, Aaron Cross, was so compelling." After watching The Bourne Ultimatum again, Gilroy called his brother, screenwriter Dan Gilroy, and said, "'The only thing you could do is sort of pull back the curtain and say there's a much bigger conspiracy.' So we had to deal with what happened in Ultimatum as the starting point of this film. Ultimatum plays in the shadows of Legacy for the first 15 minutes—they overlap."
In speaking about the film's storyline, Gilroy drew a distinction between the fictional programs in the Bourne film series:
On a practical level, the Treadstone program was about assassination. They're basically assassins. They live in the world—you can see Clive Owen [in The Bourne Identity] as a piano teacher, they have covers—but they're essentially assassins. There was nothing that would be described as espionage, [they're] basically a kill squad. The Outcome program that Aaron [played by Jeremy Renner] is part of, [Oscar Isaac's character] is one of them too... The conceit is that [Edward Norton's character] is the mastermind of this entire franchise. We're stepping back a little bit in time here, he's been a developer, he's been at the nexus of the corporate military and intelligence communities. There's a very large corporate element, pharmaceutical corporate element...
Although a large part of the film was set in and around Washington, DC, the real DC appears only in aerial establishing shots. Most of the film was shot over 12 weeks at the Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens, New York, including all interior DC scenes. The old house in Hudson, New York, used as Shearing's house was unable to accommodate the weight of equipment and crew, so it was used only for exterior shots, and all interior scenes were filmed on a Kaufman Astoria soundstage. The scenes set in the "SteriPacific" factory in Manila were actually filmed in the New York Times printing plant in Queens.
Several scenes were shot overseas, mostly in Manila and in the Paradise bay of El Nido, Palawan, in the Philippines. Several train scenes at Garak Market Station on Seoul Subway Line 3 and nearby areas in Seocho-daero 77-Gil (1308 Seocho 4-dong), Seocho-gu, and Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea, were used in some scenes. The Kananaskis Country region of Alberta, Canada, was used for the scenes set in Alaska.
Gilroy said, "there are three deleted scenes—we just mixed them and color corrected them [...] but what I like about it is all three scenes happen in the movie. One of them's referred to and they're completely legitimate parts of our story, they absolutely happen in our film, we just didn't have time to show them to you so there's nothing off to the side. I think they'll be on the straight-up DVD."
The film portrays Cross and Shearing as traveling nonstop from New York JFK Airport to Manila on board an American Airlines Boeing 747-400. That particular 747 model was introduced in 1989; American Airlines has never flown one; American Airlines has never served Manila as a destination; no commercial airline has ever flown from JFK to Manila nonstop with passenger service; the distance between the two cities exceeds the maximum range of any model 747. In spite of these continuity lapses, American Airlines was actively involved in the production of the film in cooperation with NBCUniversal, and contributed its own airline employees and a Boeing 777-200 for the interior terminal and cabin shots at Terminal 8 of JFK International Airport. The airline also heavily co-marketed the film throughout post-production.
The Bourne Legacy received mixed reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 56% based on 219 reviews with an average rating of 5.9/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "It isn't quite as compelling as the earlier trilogy, but The Bourne Legacy proves the franchise has stories left to tell—and benefits from Jeremy Renner's magnetic work in the starring role." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 61 out of 100 based on 42 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.
Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly gave the film an A-, commenting that "Gilroy, who as a screenwriter has shaped the movie saga from the beginning, trades the wired rhythms established in the past two episodes by Paul Greengrass for something more realistic and closer to the ground. The change is refreshing. Jason Bourne's legacy is in good hands." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 2½ stars out of 4, writing: "The Bourne Legacy is always gripping in the moment. The problem is in getting the moments to add up. I freely confess that for at least the first 30 minutes I had no clear idea of why anything was happening. The dialogue is concise, the cinematography is arresting and the plot is a murky muddle."
Peter Debruge of Variety wrote that "the combination of Robert Elswit's elegant widescreen lensing and the measured editing by Tony Gilroy's brother John may be easier to absorb than Greengrass' hyperkinetic docu-based style, but the pic's convoluted script ensures that auds will emerge no less overwhelmed." Michael Atkinson of The Village Voice also wrote a scathing review of the film, saying: "The Bourne films have more than just overstayed their welcome and outlasted the Ludlum books—they've been Van Halenized, with an abrupt change of frontman and a resulting dip in personality."
Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times gave the film a positive review, called the film "an exemplary espionage thriller that has a strong sense of what it wants to accomplish and how best to get there." He especially commended Gilroy's work on the film: "Gilroy knows the underpinnings of this world inside out and appreciates how essential it is to maintain and extend the house style of cool and credible intelligence that marked the previous films." Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter commented on his review that "the series' legacy is lessened by this capable but uninspired fourth episode."
In its opening weekend, The Bourne Legacy grossed about $38.7 million in the United States and Canada and debuted at #1 of the box office charts, surpassing Universal's expectation of $35 million. It grossed $46.6 million worldwide in its first weekend. The film sold roughly 400,000 more tickets on its opening weekend than the first film in the series, The Bourne Identity. Studio research reported that audiences were evenly mixed among the sexes. The film grossed $113,203,870 in North America and $162,940,880 in foreign countries, bringing the film's worldwide total to $276,144,750.
The Bourne Legacy had its Asian premiere at Resorts World Manila in Pasay City, Metro Manila, on August 5, five days ahead of its opening date in North American theaters.
The soundtrack to The Bourne Legacy as composed by James Newton Howard, unlike the previous films, which were composed by John Powell, was released digitally on August 7, 2012, by Varèse Sarabande Records. A new version of Moby's "Extreme Ways", entitled "Extreme Ways (Bourne's Legacy)", was recorded for the film's end credits.
The Bourne Legacy was released on DVD and Blu-ray on December 11, 2012, in the United States and Canada.
Universal Pictures stated at a media conference in Los Angeles, California, that they are likely to release more Bourne films, despite The Bourne Legacy being given mixed reviews by critics. In a December 2012 interview, Matt Damon revealed that he and Paul Greengrass were interested in returning for the next film as Jason Bourne and the director, respectively.
Damon is reported saying that although he had not seen Legacy, he intends to do so because not only is he curious to see it, but also because he has enjoyed Jeremy Renner in everything he has seen him in. However, as of June 2014, executive producer Frank Marshall said that Matt Damon will not be returning to the big screen for the next Bourne film, contrary to earlier statements made by Damon and rumors surrounding his return to the franchise. On February 21, 2013, it was confirmed that a Bourne 5 was being planned.
On August 2, 2013, Universal hired Tony Gilroy and Anthony Peckham to write the film's script with Renner returning as Cross. On November 8, 2013, The Fast and the Furious film series director Justin Lin was announced to direct the film.
On December 2, 2013, it was announced that Renner will return as Cross, Lin will both direct and produce from his production company Perfect Storm Entertainment, and the studio announced an August 14, 2015 release date. On May 9, 2014, Andrew Baldwin was brought in to re-write the film.
On June 18, 2014, the studio pushed back the film from August 14, 2015, to July 15, 2016. In November 2014, The Bourne Legacy sequel was put on hold in favour of Jason Bourne, which Damon confirmed that he and Greengrass will return to.
On January 6, 2015, the studio pushed back the release date to July 29, 2016. The first trailer for the film was aired on February 7, 2016 during Super Bowl 50, which also revealed its title as Jason Bourne.
Producer Frank Marshall said Universal Pictures is hoping to plan a sequel to Jason Bourne, making it the sixth Bourne film. However, in March 2017, Matt Damon cast doubt upon a sequel, hinting that people "might be done" with the character. He also stated that a sequel to The Bourne Legacy featuring Renner's Cross is unlikely although he didn't explicitly rule it out.