Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Bourne Legacy (Tony Gilroy)

When initial news came out that a fourth 'Bourne' film is in the works, my reaction was that of apathy and surprise. Why squeeze out something from a franchise that's already been concluded. Oh, and then there's also another infuriating fact: It will be called "The Bourne Legacy" but without Matt Damon's Jason Bourne. What the hell was that all about? It's like producing a seventh Rocky film (which I wouldn't completely say as completely far-fetched) without Rocky Balboa or making a James Bond film without 007 himself. But then something came up: it was revealed that part of the film will be shot here in the Philippines. 
From surprised apathy, my feeling towards the film first became one of curiosity and then of grave anticipation. Add up the fact that rising star Jeremy Renner will replace the shoes worn by Damon and he will be supported by acting stalwarts Edward Norton and Rachel Weisz; now we have here a film of genuine potential. 
Forget the fact that either Damon or Paul Greengrass won't be returning, "The Bourne Legacy", with "Michael Clayton" director Tony Gilroy taking on the directorial helm (he has also written the screenplays for the three previous ‘Bourne’ films), is armed with all the right pieces for commercial and critical success. Hell, I even thought that it will be the sleeper hit of the year. Well, I guess my hunch missed the mark this time. 
Not only is "The Bourne Legacy" an unnecessary little sequel, it's also a film of questionable significance to the whole 'Bourne' mythology. In slight boxing terminologies, the film felt like an overlong 'undercard' bout taking place at the same instance as that of the big main event. It's quite interesting, yes, but you just can't help but wonder why they would bother for a sequel that wouldn't even further the ideas presented by the three previous installments. 
The film's timeline, for the sake of everyone's enlightenment, occurs while the whole 'Bourne' situation is nearing its shattering climax (see "The Bourne Ultimatum"). "The Bourne Legacy", as it turns out, is the unseen sideshow feebly playing in the shadows of Jason Bourne's action-packed, larger-than-life search for his identity. Indeed it is truly intriguing to know that, as per the tagline, 'there was never just one'. That Jason Bourne was never alone, that there was also one Aaron Cross (Renner), and that there's also a whole lot of other fistfights and revelations this side of the whole story. But instead of taking advantage of the fact that it can render the Bourne series' universe fresh once again, "The Bourne Legacy" has sadly settled for less. Instead of conjuring up bigger ideas, the film has lethargically decided to merely ride the series' recurring gimmicks of dizzying cinematography and globe-trotting tendencies. 
With the shaky-cam style very much withstanding, the film swerved to the wrong direction of just following the previous installments' blueprint when, in actuality, it could have easily headed to the right one. The characters, although performed well by the principal players, are merely functioning within the limitations of the plot. Norton's character, being the heartless bureaucrat that he is, shouts orders and that's that. Rachel Weisz, the reluctant heroine, evades continuous assassination attempts and certain death and that's it. Renner's Aaron Cross jumps shanties and constantly saves the often distressed Weisz and it's a dead end after that. The way they were written is just so frustratingly suppressed that the performances given by the three do not deserve the characters to which they were designated. Even the narrative itself is very much a rehash of the previous three, only this time it was more simplified and with a more science fiction feel with all those talks about performance-enhancing super drugs. 
Oh, and then there's the chase scene in the outskirts of Manila. Another famed running gimmick all throughout the whole franchise, it has always been imperative for each 'Bourne' film to include vehicular chase scenes to serve as nerve-wracking exclamation points to the whole shebang. "The Bourne Legacy" is, of course, not exempted from it. 
Granted, the chase scene in this film was, in a miraculous harmony of technical execution and scheduling, pulled off rather excellently, what with all the constant traffic jams in Manila and the perennial 'rush hour' mentality prevalent among Filipino drivers. The flaw of the film's climactic chase scene, however, is not technical but very much contextual. The whole set piece felt very much forced to the point that the entire chase scene played out merely as a showcase of stunt choreography and nothing more.   
Now despite of all its flaws, "The Bourne Legacy" is still adequately enjoyable. But based on the three previous films' great reputation, this fourth installment felt short on every level both as a 'Bourne' film and as a potent action movie. It lacks narrative urgency and also of inspiration. It seems like the people who have said that this film won't work were quite right. They could have easily forewarned the creators, Jack Nicholson-style.


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