Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Bourne Legacy, a review


Honestly, I had no real interest in seeing a re-imagining/remake/redo/recall of a previous trilogy. My concerns were multiple, but can be summed up in one word:

Why?

Why see this film when I could watch the first one? Why not watch Ghost Protocol? Why not stuff myself in a dryer and achieve the same sensation as watching the second and third Bourne films?

Well, because I like explosions. Anyway. Onto the review.

Jason Bourne was the tip of the ice berg, and the CIA/NSA/Shady Government Agency wants to create more controllable killing machines. I do think it would simply be easier to go the route of SkyNet and just get John Connor on and over with.

Aaron Cross the next Jason Bourne, and soon he has to go on the run with his beautiful handler/doctor. The government chases him. It's as simple as that. And we're off!

TECHNICAL

Do not assume that my cavalier attitude belays any sinister motives. I loved the technical prowess Tony Gilroy brought again. The shaky cam is kept to a minimum and the action scenes smoke, particularly the hand to hand combat. Though there is nothing quite as intense as the knife fight in The Bourne Ultimatum, there is plenty of inventive and brutal choreography. The typical car chase finale is swapped out for a motorcycle dual between an uninteresting assassin and Aaron Cross that echoes the invulnerability of The Terminator, especially when Cross dons sunglasses and takes numerous bullets.

It's quite simple. Aaron Cross simply isn't human. He has taken pills long enough and undergone enough military experimentation to be virally self-sufficient. He IS The Terminator with a prettier female sidekick. At times during the end, this feels more like a gritter XXX than it does a Bourne film.

But make no mistake, the film is technically well crafted. The sound design whizzes, the editing (save for some pacing issues) is crisp and the film clips along at a decent pace.

NARRATIVE

The Bourne series is known for intricate and ambiguous storylines, with espionage and danger at every corner. The Bourne Legacy instead feels like the aforementioned XXX. The story becomes about Aaron scoring a major and final fix as to maintain his pill popped fighting skills. Because of this, the second half becomes increasingly simplistic and reliant and fight scenes instead of plotting.

There are several convenient plot holes, such as an escape from a factor that has no reason to be locked down. The entrance is additionally weak, reliant on the recognition of characters that isn't established. 

Jeremy Renner surprised me. Not because he is a bad actor at all (Hurt Locker is still outstanding) but because I wasn't impressed with Ghost Protocol. Here, he adopts the physicality and flexibility of Aaron Cross, giving us a fighting machine who has a lot more soul than Jason Bourne, even if he lacks an intriguing aspect. Rachel Weisz is outstanding as a paranoid doctor who has to assist our intrepid hero. She is empathetic and adds additional stakes and character motives.

THEMES

As the previous Bourne films dealt with memory, the existential fear of recovering past sins is largely absent. Instead, we see political corruption and a blatant distrust of government. Works for me. However, this is a very interesting comment made by a villain in reference to Aaron being a "sin eater." Conceptually, this almost feels out of place, but it adds a hidden dimension to the film. In a delusional government, what is "sin"?

We take on the sin within ourselves as to avoid it affecting other people. Sounds familiar. However it is not explored. But it is still interesting.

CONCLUSION

The actions scenes are well-done for the most part, the acting is solid and the story is very simple. As with most of films, my criticism rests mostly on the pacing and lapses in character feats, as exemplified by Aaron's super-man ability to flip on sunglasses and take several bullets.

But, this all works if we get to see someone thwacked with nails, thrown through windows and see cars crash down a crowded freeway. All's well in a super-spy's day. And it's a better action film than Total Recall.

 3 stars out of 5.

--Nick

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