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Monday, 17 September 2012

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Bourne Legacy

Directed by: Tony Gilroy

Produced by: Frank Marshall
Patrick Crowley

Screenplay by: Tony Gilroy
Dan Gilroy

Story by: Tony Gilroy

Based on: The Bourne series by Robert Ludlum

Starring: Jeremy Renner
Rachel Weisz
Edward Norton

Music by: James Newton Howard

Cinematography by: Robert Elswit

Editing by: John Gilroy

Studio(s): Relativity Media
The Kennedy/Marshall Company

Distributed by: Universal Pictures

Release date(s): August 10, 2012 (United States)
August 13, 2012 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 135 minutes

Country(s): United States

Language: English

Production budget: $125 million

Box office revenue (as of publication): $198, 917, 000

Well, as you can see, activity has been slow for the month of August now that it is mid-September. I've got a review for this and This Must Be The Place on the way, and then I'll be posting my Movie Of The Month for August. However, despite this sporadic at best reviewing, I will be getting back to Queens in the next week or two, with a QFT Membership card on the ready and about £30 worth of vouchers for the Strand cinema. So, for reviews on Dredd and Samsara, the latest picture from Ron Fricke, who I am a big fan of, keep your eyes posted.

Rightio, the film up for review today is The Bourne Legacy. An oddball case right off the bat in that this is a 'Bourne' film minus Matt Damon's Jason Bourne, it conjures up an interesting debate as to whether or not a series can continue without the main character, much less a recasting a la The Amazing Spider-Man. Also, lets face facts, it certain wasn't necessary to continue this story that came to a definitive conclusion with 2007's terrific The Bourne Ultimatum. This time round, Jeremy Renner is cast as Aaron Cross, an agent of Operation Outcome, a department that works upon the physical and mental abilities of their operatives via pills referred to as 'chems.' Cross is in Alaska for a training assignment while the activities of Jason Bourne expose Operation Blackbriar and The Treadstone Project, leading CIA director Ezra Kramer (Scott Glenn) to hire Eric Byer (Edward Norton) to oversee the CIA's operations from here on. Byer's tactical line is to tear the whole Treadstone project to the ground, including the agents working for it, and so we enter familiar territory of the lead hero running and running and running and running...

But that slightly sarcastic tone is not to say that it's a bad movie. In fact, I would go so far as to say that The Bourne Legacy is a good film. For starters, there is a strong enough cast at work to lend the film some credibility to the proceedings. Jeremy Renner is always a satisfying screen presence, and depicts Cross with a sense of pathos, and appropriately conveys his character's identity crisis without tipping over into too much melodrama. Also, as far as a physical performance goes, it's pretty solid. Ed Norton is good as Byer, and I think he's just about the best candidate for a go-to guy who can talk very fast about a lot of different topics and make it sound like he knows this stuff like the back of his hand. The standout here though is Rachel Weisz. It requires great skill and charisma to take what is essentially a nothing part and put it over as legitimate, and she does this tremendously. Bringing the same likability to her character that we saw from her in the first two Mummy films (though minus the gags and plus an American accent), she makes the character of Marta Shearing engaging. Other elements of The Bourne Legacy are worthy of mention. Robert Elswit's cinematography is interesting, in that he is speaks disdainfully of shooting in the digital photographic process, so what we find is that takes his aesthetic of shooting on film and applies it to what is essentially a digital franchise. It makes for an artistic contrast, particularly where editing is regarded, and the clarity and quality of the image, doing his earnest to capture the action for us, ensures that The Bourne Legacy might well be the best-shot film of the series. Also, with a big-budget production, comes big-budget production values, with the film's overall design and mise-en-scene looking terrific, keeping the series firmly entrenched in the real world. Finally, as ever, the stunt team do an excellent job. If there's one thing that I think a lot of fans warmed to with the Bourne films, it was that the fight and chase sequences were almost always physically performed, especially in the wake of so much special effects. The choreography in this film's extended action sequences is just stunning, and while this is an occasionally erratic film, never once during its actions scenes was I bored. You can feel the impact, and I have to admire that, at least spiritually, Tony Gilroy and co have attempted to retain the real world aesthetic set out by the previous films.

That said, while I credit Tony Gilroy for retaining much of the spirit of the Bourne series, I cannot wholly credit him for his work here, as there are a lot of inconsistencies in terms how engaging the film is at various points. Now, it is obvious that a lot is going on here, but Tony and brother Dan Gilroy's screenplay made me ask myself the question (that I should have to ask I first place) "Do I really care what is going on?" My answer for that was no. Throughout the film, I was bombarded with a ton of information, what's going on, how this relates to that which was going in the previous films etc. There is just way too much going on, and the only bits I can really remember were the action sequences and the film's quieter, more human moments, usually featuring Renner and Weisz. That sequence with Cross walking in solitude in Alaska is a strong opening, and I will credit the film's dialogue, but structurally it is all over the place. Furthermore, the film just ends without any true sense of finality, both in terms of plot and narrative sense. Unfortunately, this is a fault that can be laid at the feet of writer-director Tony Gilroy: it's not a bad job, but it was not as good as it needed to be. Also, while not an overt problem, John Gilroy's editing is at times a bit too fast on the cutting, more so in the non-action scenes. Finally, and I know followers of my reviews will say I'm nitpicking, but James Newton Howard's score is poor. Sometimes it is nice to have an action sequence without music, as opposed to punctuating every punch, kick and O-soto-gari that Aaron Cross pulls out of his repertoire. Also, the film's quieter scenes aren't really that quiet, with the score always a lingering and generally bothersome presence. I like James Newton Howard, but this was too much Emotional Heartstrings Orchestra.

Despite these obvious glaring issues in direction, screenplay structure, a lack of emotional involvement, choppy editing and an over-indulgent score, I still find myself in retrospect thinking that The Bourne Legacy is a good film. There's some strong acting, particularly from Renner and Weisz, Elswit's cinematography is perhaps the best of the series, the production design is great, and as per usual, a Bourne film is the measuring stick for quality stunts and action choreography.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 6.3/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Busy (between reading Gogol's Dead Souls, a screening and discussion on Ron Fricke's Samsara at QFT, work with EventSec, getting reading to head back to Queens, I'm leading a full existence right now)

P.S. WWE Night Of Champions 2012 had one of the best endings to a PPV in ages. Loved it!

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