Tuesday, 4 September 2012

The Bourne Legacy Review

The Bourne Trilogy stands as a staple of modern action/thriller cinema, combining smart writing, strong performances and impressive set-pieces with a constant sense of intrigue and intensity. Matt Damon’s slick portrayal of an agent suffering from amnesia unravelling the lies and corruption within his CIA superiors, brought a sophistication within the genre that many have since tried to copy; Haywire and Quantum of Solace. Personally, I was apprehensive towards the thought of a sequel. While Tony Gilroy, screenwriter of the original three and the director of the fantastic Michael Clayton, was at the helm, the lack of Matt Damon and the fact that The Bourne Ultimatum had tied up most of its narrative threads made this venture seem pointless. So does The Bourne Legacy disappoint? 

The Bourne Legacy follows the termination of “Operation Outcome”, a Department of Defence Black Ops program, after the CIA starts to “minimise” the damages from the Bourne fiasco becoming public. Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) survives as the last one of ‘Outcome’ agents, yet his quarrels don’t rest on a plot to uncover the enigmatic nature of the CIA or a path of vengeance. Instead Cross’ background uncovers his need for the medication involved in the program that improve his mental and physical capacity. His search for the super drugs brings him to Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), who has also survived the eradication of her co-workers. The two set on a trail that sees them head to Manilla whilst being chased by Eric Byer (Edward Norton).

Legacy’s story maintains the smartly written and engrossing nature of the previous three. Gilroy takes a different approach to Aaron Cross’ storyline that has enough to set it apart from the Jason Bourne affair. Cross is a character that feels vulnerable and desperate as he has one primary goal in the film. Yet the major problem with Legacy is the implementation of the Bourne narrative thread within the Aaron Cross story. With footage from The Bourne Ultimatum, the appearances of characters such as Pamela Landy, and Jason Bourne’s name being slapped on news headlines and etched into beds, the film never integrates the repercussions of those elements within the film’s story. When it does start to form some semblance of cohesion it merely hints at the bigger picture, undoubtably waiting for the sequel. Consequently the ending falls flat, lacking the tempo, enigma and sense of conclusion that the Bourne series has standardised. 
Meanwhile with the high-bar set by Matt Damon’s excellent performance, Renner manages to hit similar heights with a strong performance that recognises the traits and makeup of his character. Rachel Weisz does well in her return to action cinema and offers a believable act that capably adapts to the changing pace of the film. Yet when together, the two never form an engaging relationship. The suddenness of their initial introductions and the shallowness of their shared interactions makes the third act romance seem too implausible and forced. Edward Norton is disappointingly underused mainly due to the lack of substance to his character. The hidden agendas and personal risks that made Joan Allen’s and Brian Cox’s characters perfect are none existent in the one-note Eric Byer. 

However The Bourne Legacy’s action set-pieces continue to provide the intense nature that the Bourne franchise has previously offered. From the parkour, car chases and shoot-outs, The Bourne Legacy flourishes with its hyperkinetic and hard-hitting moments. In particular, the confrontation in Dr. Shearing’s house is a perfect example of the close-quarters approach and fast-paced nature that the series is remembered for. Yet gone is the dynamic and unique cinematography and editing that Oliver Wood and Christopher Rouse masterfully implemented in the original trilogy; the smooth transitions, the multi-panel framing that added a certain style and made the confrontations and panic within the CIA relevant and directly involved in Bourne’s current actions. Legacy looks and sounds great, but Robert Elswit takes the simplistic approach to the genre’s cinematic criteria. The use of handheld cameras is limited, substituted for a more fluid and steady setup that slightly alters the temperament of the film. This isn't a flaw, but rather dampens the visual charm and "uniqueness" that we're quintessential in the previous three. 

Overall The Bourne Legacy is an entertaining piece of action-thriller cinema that manages to continue the franchise’s fast-paced and clever espionage narrative. Yet it’s ties with Jason Bourne’s actions feel frail and superficial, even pointless. Like my thoughts on Prometheus, I wonder if the film would have thrived without the Bourne name and the stipulations attached to it. 


1 comment:

  1. Hey!

    Nick from www.cinekatz.com here. Doing some scout work for the LAMB. We're wanting to make an email newsletter for community features as well as a list we're making similar to Sight & Sound's best movies of all time list. Just need an email! Email me at npowe131 at gmail.com