Monday, 13 August 2012
THE BOURNE LEGACY ***½
If it wasn't for the trailer (which I saw at a screening of TDKR) I may not have bothered venturing out to the cinema for a seemingly surplus fourth 'Bourne' action-thriller minus Greengrass and Damon. However, I was genuinely impressed... with the first half of THE BOURNE LEGACY at least.
Instead of immediately feeling the need to make the audience see this as another high-octane, shaky-cam 'Bourne' film, director Tony Gilroy's script takes its time to establish Jeremy Renner's alternative 'super agent' Aaron Cross. In the opening scenes we meet Cross, adrift and isolated in what looks like the location of THE GREY - human tracking wolves et al. Plus we are afforded the time to be introduced to other new but recognisible key players: Rachel Weisz's scientist Dr. Marta Shearing, fallout fixer Eric Byer (Ed Norton) and Stacey Keach's organisation boss Mark Turso. In doing so, THE BOURNE LEGACY expands on the universe of the previous trilogy as well as allowing for the promise of more character based drama.
The expected action spectacle, shaky-cam an all, does soon ensue (a shoot-out in a delapitated mansion is a particular highlight) but not at the expense of the plot, which jumps around both geographically and chronologically before bringing THE BOURNE LEGACY somewhat into pararllel with the finale of THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM.
Now at this point I need to return to that interest-making trailer. The footage of which suggests a far greater overlap between this and the previous film than ever actually takes place on screen. So whilst my expectations were not in the stratosphere for THE BOURNE LEGACY, I did kind of anticipate this film to eventually dovetail in some overt fashion with THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM. Think of the correlation utilised in the aforementioned ULTIMATUM and Greengrass' previous entry THE BOURNE SUPREMACY and you'll understand the point I'm driving at. Unfortunately, this never happens?!
Thus once the film gets well into its third act - on the other side of the globe to the manhunt for Jason Bourne - you realise the likelihood of a Matt Damon cameo is caput. Morever, the highly intriguing possibility of the pursuit of Jason Bourne in New York somehow providing Aaron Cross and Marta Shearing an opportunity to elude their persuers in the same city is rendered a non-starter. The script isn't even able to facilitate a dramatic showdown between Cross (Renner) and his pursuer Eric (Norton). Leaving me feeling Norton has once again been criminally underused by a Hollywood mainstream film.
Another slight let down is that THE BOURNE LEGACY begins to blunt its potential for genuine characteristation (despite the best efforts of Renner and Weisz who are both excellent) as its main narrative drive - Cross' search for drugs to 'stay enhanced' and the medical wizardry his fellow fugitive Dr. Shearing is trying to perfect for him - becomes tediously one note. Thus when the film does finally reach its conclusion (without ever fulfilling the promise of its trailer or the potential of its own first hour) I was left feeling the structure and balance of the film was glaringly uneven.
Now I fully acknowledge a rewatch without such preconceptions on my part might erase some of this uneasiness I felt with the development of the film. Although, I very much doubt the extended motorcycle chase which brings THE BOURNE LEGACY to its finale or the film's closing scene will amount to any more than what I think now: the former is allowed to go on far too long and lacks the panache of the previous Greengrass/Damon films whilst the latter brings an engaging screen relationship to a lazily underwritten close.
The Count's Verdict: The 'Bourne' brand doesn't sink this Hollywood thriller which packs plot as well as punches albeit if in the end it does ultimately feel like a slightly less satisfying retread of the previous Matt Damon films. Worth seeing for the first hour and a first-rate cast.