Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Film Review: The Bourne Legacy (2012)

Director: Tony Gilroy
Writer: Tony Gilroy and Dan Gilroy
Stars: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz and Edward Norton

The Bourne Legacy has been under scrutiny from the moment the idea to make a forth in the series of the highly successful Jason Bourne films was mooted. After the complete financial flop that was 2010’s Green Zone, Universal no longer has faith in Paul Greengrass (director of The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum) and wanted to go in another direction but with Matt Damon still in the lead role; Damon said no Greengrass, no Bourne 4 and the result of this ultimatum (no pun intended) is what we are left with; a stubborn attempt by Universal to manufacture a story to release a film made for no other reason than the cash in on the original trilogy.

On the surface, the elements seem to be in the film’s favour if it were ever going to work without Matt Damon. As writer of the original trilogy, Tony Gilroy knows the series as well as anyone and in Greengrass’s absence has taken over the directing duties and is surrounded by an excellent cast including several Oscar nominees or winners. The surface of this forth entry is, however, extremely shallow and it’s not long before all the acting talent and expertise in the world can no longer help the audience in that most vital of areas; caring about what happens on screen.

The story of The Bourne Legacy not so much shoehorns its way into the Bourne ‘world’ than bulldozers its way into it. The is not a moment in the overlong 135 minute running time where a genuine and believable story threatens to break out and the parallels which run between this and The Bourne Ultimatum are so overly manufactured to appear seamless that the film distances itself from the original trilogy at every turn. The biggest mistake Universal made was putting the name ‘Bourne’ in the title; after the first half an hour, Jason Bourne is all but forgotten about and the focus is put on to the new hero, Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner). This should be a positive but Cross turns out to do nothing that Bourne hasn’t done and is just yet another clone; he isn’t an improvement on Bourne or even an improvement on the likes of James Bond or Ethan Hunt, but is just another guy who can kick ass and save the day. The whole film is a wasted opportunity to make a decent thriller with a great cast as it’s clouded by the Matt Damon trilogy from the very start.

Shamefully, for a forth Bourne film and one which should be attempting to out do everything which has gone before it, the film is really quite boring. The screenplay is split into three scenes repeated across various locations:
  • Jeremy Renner and Rachel Weisz speak lines of exposition dialogue.
  • Jeremy Renner beats people up or runs across rooftops.
  • Important people in various American governmental agencies gather together in dark rooms to look at large TV screens, answer phones, tell each other that ‘it’s all coming down’ and look at large TV screens again.
The excellent directorial skills displayed by Tony Gilroy in 2007’s Michael Clayton are nowhere in sight here. Instead Gilroy has tried to copy the style which Greengrass gave to his two Bourne films and it looks exactly that – a copy. There is little originality in anything Gilroy does in this film and the real crime is that he’s copy a style which in itself is overbearing; anyone who has seen Green Zone will know that too much handheld shaky cam with fast zooms and punches will soon outstay its welcome. The action scenes are also just another rehash of Greengrass’s films with rooftop chases and freerunning spilling into a motorbike chase, the inclusion of which is solely to meet the quota of vehicle chases set by the previous three films an no other reason. It is, like everything else, shoehorned into the story and becomes a non-event because of it.

There are few positives in the film. Edward Norton is totally wasted as Generic Agency Man , Jeremy Renner does his best with a story which allows for little else than beating up a few nameless bad guys, and Rachel Weisz deserves a lot more than hanging off the back of a motor bike. The film also ends very abruptly after the all action finale and echoes the end of the first Bourne film in the most unimaginative of ways.

In this sad modern era of remakes, sequels, and reboots, The Bourne Legacy ranks amongst the most unashamed cash cows released to date. It has no function and has no place or relevance in the world it is set. It has no right to be made and delivers even less than expected.

1 comment:

  1. The ensemble was chosen perfectly, and even though there is no Matt Damon, we still get plenty of great spots from Renner and his performance as Aaron Cross. I look forward to seeing what Gilroy does with this character in the future, but for now, I’m just glad he made it work. Good review.