Friday, August 10, 2012

The Bourne Legacy, a fun and exciting change of pace

The Bourne trilogy is among my favorite in the action adventure genre.  Matt Damon played the character of Jason Bourne; a man with amnesia trying to figure out who he is and who made him a killing machine.  The end of the third film was left wide-open.  It was pretty much setup for a sequel of some kind.  But when Paul Greengrass (director of parts 2 and 3) decided not to return, neither did Damon.  So what now?  How about the writer of all 3 films (Tony Gilroy), writes AND directs a reboot set in the same world as Jason Bourne?  I'm in.  This is The Bourne Legacy... let's go!

What I liked about the film?
The Actors
Jeremy Renner has truly become a star in the last 5 years.  After two Oscar nominated performances (The Hurt Locker, The Town), he's become somewhat of a go-to action star.  He was cast in the fourth Mission Impossible film, and is rumored to carry on that franchise without Tom Cruise.  Due out next year is Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, the re-imagining of the children's tale.  In this movie, Renner is terrific!  His character is much different from Damon's.  He is a bit more human, where Damon played his character much more straight laced.  Renner is a more likeable hero as well.  He knows what he signed up for, he knew the consequences and I believe that makes for an interesting change from the previous trilogy.

Rachel Weisz is excellent in her role as a doctor who is a part of the program that enhances the abilities of soldiers, Renner being one of them.  She could have easily been pushed to the side in this testosterone driven film, but she wasn't.  I really enjoyed her character arc from a weak, scared woman, to confident cohort.  And best of all is the chemistry between Weisz and Renner.  There are some really funny scenes in the film, something the first 3 films desperately lacked.  

Also in the film is Edward Norton.  He plays the creator of the program, code named, "Outcome".  Renner was one of the subjects.  Although I really enjoyed his acting in the film, it felt a bit weird as the character is confied to a room for most of the film.  Still very good.  And what I loved was the return of actors in the original films.  Albert Finney, Joan Allen and others are shown in both new scenes, as well as scenes from the third film.  I thought this was a very clever way to keep the film in the same universe as the previous.

This film is definitely not like the previous 3 films where we are discovering the character's past... with the character.  In this film, it's more about Renner's self-preservation than anything else.  The story is given to us pretty early on.  This is ok with me.  I thought the story was nice and easy to follow.  Again, keeping in the same world as the characters we already know, but adding a new spin.  It weaves together the events of the previous film, with the events happening on screen.  It really is a clever technique that Gilroy used in the writing of the 3rd film, weaving it together with the events of the 2nd film.  And if you read this blog at all, you know I don't discuss much plot; go see the movie for that.

The Action
This could be a dislike in one aspect.  Because there's not enough of it!  The action is limited in this movie compared to previous; but my is it spectacular!  I've said this many times... action should only lend itself to the story, and the film does this perfectly.  I also like leaving these kinds of films with memorable action sequences, and I was not disappointed.  There is a scene involving Renner vs. a number of agents in a house that was done perfectly.  The hand to hand combat, the choreography, the design, the camera angles were all spot on.  A second scene inovling a motorcyle chase (featured in several of the trailers) ends so spectacularly, it had my theater cheering with joy.

What I didn't like about the film:
The Plot Holes
The movie is full of plot holes. Here are a few examples. Weisz' colleague at a lab they work at, has a psycotic episode. It is mentioned he may have been manipulated, but his craziness is never explained. That's as vague as I can be without spoiling things. Another scene involves Renner's self-preservation I mentioned earlier. He and Weisz must break into a facility to steal something of importance for him to survive. There is no clear cut explaination if "it" worked. No exposition to explain, nothing. Again, I'm being vague for the sake of not spoiling the film; but once you've seen the film, leave me a comment whether you agree or not.

The pacing in the film was a big problem for me.  The first act is poorly constructed.  There is a lot of fast paced exposition explaining the program headed up by Edward Norton's character; but at the same time a slow paced montage of sorts, showing Renner's physical capabilities.  This leads me to the ending of the film.  It ended so abruptly, I was truly surprised.  I seriously didn't see it coming.  The film makers left it wide open, of course.  So you can bet on sequels if this movie is commercially successful.

The Verdict:
A Welcomed Change
As I said to start this post, the original Jason Bourne trilogy is among my favorites; but this film was a very welcomed change.  Renner is a more likable spy who portrayed a more human character than Damon.  There were bits of comedy, something desperately needed to lighten up the mood.  Other than a few writing mishaps and editing mistakes by Gilroy, I really enjoyed this film.  Like I said, there may not have been much action, but damn if it wasn't memorable.  Check out the reboot/sequel and let me know what you think!

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