Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Review: The Bourne Legacy

CAUTION: Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.

The Bourne Legacy poster

The Bourne Legacy
125 mins / Dir. Tony Gilroy

So with a new director, a new cinematographer and, perhaps most pertinently, a new leading man, can the Bourne franchise finally hook me in as it's done so many of my contemporaries? I'll be honest, I wasn't a fan of the first three Bournes. My dislike was split equally between the slapdash, overly complicated storytelling, the handheld shaky-cam that made it next to impossible for me to focus on anything, and Matt Damon. I found his Jason Bourne to be unlikeable enough that I didn't mind if he lived to the end of the movie or not, and uninteresting to the point where I couldn't care less about his mysterious past. And when you think about the point of those films… well, I was going to take some convincing…

The Plot: Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), an operative in the CIA's Outcome program, finds himself on the wrong side of his employers when the Bourne-situation forces their hand in damage-limitation and they decide to terminate their other covert operations… literally. Cross finds an ally in Dr Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), a scientist who's been developing the CIA-prescribed medications that Cross finds himself dependent on. After a sinister turn of events in Shearing's lab, she also finds herself the target of the very people she works for, and with no-one to trust, Cross and Shearing can only hope to run, and perhaps hide…

The Good: A structured, coherent narrative and a sympathetic lead left me liking Legacy way, way more than its predecessors. There are characters from the previous Bourne films, mostly reduced to cameo-level, and the first 30 minutes lay on the connection pretty thickly. But the film's at its strongest when it concentrates on Cross, Shearing and their CIA nemesis, Byer (Edward Norton). The story in itself isn't startlingly original (I've mentioned elsewhere the alarming number of films this year featuring CIA backstabbing), but it's reliable. It's this simplicity which makes the story flow in a far more linear fashion than the other entries in the canon, and it's an easier watch as a result.

Jeremy Renner's on good form, and puts Matt Damon to shame. For the first 10-15 minutes of the film, he doesn't say a word, and he's already more likeable and relatable. Similarly, Edward Norton plays his CIA badguy without any of the pantomime theatrics employed by the fat, middle-aged actors in the earlier films. You don't like what he's doing, but you accept why he's got to do it. Rachel Weisz makes the best of what she's given, but her character has to spend a lot of time shrieking/crying/flinching and generally Being The Girl™, which is a shame because she's capable of more.

The Bad: The shaky-cam's back. It's nowhere near as irritating as the other Bournes, but it's not constant like it was in those, and it's not as severe either. Elsewhere, government types and incidental characters from Bourne 1-3 return either in newly-shot scenes, or in lifted-flashbacks, and it often feels like they're making the point that this is a Bourne movie, see? The truth is, it's not a Bourne movie. It's set in the same universe/continuity, obviously, but it'd work equally as well if it wasn't. The film-makers insistence on dragging the plot over from Matt Damon's days is almost its undoing, and it feels like they don't have the confidence to just go-for-broke with a new strand.

The Ugly: At the two-hour mark, the film ends. I'll be honest, I was starting to wonder how much longer they could keep the chase sequences going, but there doesn't seem to be any real payoff to Legacy, it just sort of 'ends'. It feels like a couple of pages have been torn out before the last one.

Worth leaving the house for? If you're already a fan, sure. But it's notably different from the earlier entries, and it won't be to everyone's taste. The Bourne Legacy is good. I don't think it's great, but it's certainly a solid thriller in its own right.


• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.

• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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