Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Bourne Legacy

I've mentioned before that I was excited to see this film, so last night a group of us caught the late show at our local megaplex. 

I entered the theater prepared to love this movie.  Over the previous week, we'd watched the three earlier Bourne films in order, and they held up well.  The first was the strongest, of course, with the second nearly as good and the third a bit worse, but all were strong films.  Damon's consistent performance, a blend of mostly deadpan, machine-like expressions and movements interrupted by moments of passion and action, never let you forget that Jason Bourne was a different, messed-up superagent. 

In this reboot of the franchise, Jeremy Renner's Aaron Cross is, fairly enough, a very different person.  He's supposed to be an improved version of Bourne, but one with more self-awareness and concerns--neither of which his creators realize he has.  In a telling opening sequence, writer/director Tony Gilroy, the man who controlled the previous three films, shows us Renner shirtless and muscular in icy waters in Alaska, so we know he's a tough dude. I don't recall a single shirtless Matt Damon shot in the earlier installments, but that was fine, because the weird, machine-like character Damon portrayed was enough to convince us that he was as badass as the fight scenes made him appear.  The opening shot made Renner start out a weaker, more conventional character.

I've read complaints about the plot, but I thought it held up well enough as long as you suspended your disbelief enough to accept the silly science behind this (and the other) films.  I had no problem with that.  The continuing revelations of layers upon layers of secret government programs was also silly, but it's in the tradition of the earlier films and, hey, who doesn't love a good conspiracy?

I didn't see real any chemistry between Renner and Rachel Weisz, so most of her actions seemed to be largely the product of the plot's needs.  Fortunately, the action scenes kept us moving well enough and the actors did good enough jobs that their interactions didn't hurt the film either.

My favorite performance was Edward Norton's, who's always at his best when he's playing a bad guy.  Here, he was a very bad guy indeed, but one who thought he was a good guy, and his character brimmed with the intensity of the true believer, the man who will do anything and feel good about it because it's all in the service of a good cause.  Even when Norton actually has to use say, "We're the soul eaters," a line that's tough to earn, he delivers it well enough that it offends the ears only a little. 

I can't recommend this movie without the reservations I've expressed, but on balance I do recommend it. I'd also definitely go to another Jeremy Renner film in this franchise, but I hope that if Gilroy makes one, he finds some new plot device to drive it. 

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