Monday, 20 August 2012

THE BOURNE LEGACY - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Men in suits standing around under fluorescent lights and talking plus old-style, classically directed action scenes makes this Bourne reboot crackling good entertainment.

The Bourne Legacy (2010) dir. Tony Gilroy

Starring: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Joan Allen, Stacy Keach, Zejlko Ivanek, David Strathairn, Scott Glenn, Albert Finney


Review By Greg Klymkiw

My idea of a great spy movie is men in suits standing around under fluorescent lights and talking. I don't really need to know what they're talking about - so long as it SOUNDS like THEY know what they're talking about and that whatever it is they're saying SEEMS to pertain to the story at hand. If they're looking at computer monitors, hugging phones to their ears and/or yapping via headsets, I'm super-okay with this. It's definitely a bonus if they're chain smoking, but in this day and age, I'm willing to (grudgingly) forgive a lack of cancer stick ingestion.

If a lot of the dialogue is expositional, this is not as bad as one might think as it assists in our being able to follow what's going on - sort of. It should still be infused with lots of jargon, double-speak and varying degrees of solemnity. It's best we not know too much. The gist is fine. In fact, if the actors are great, I suppose we don't really even need the gist.

The men should mostly be 40-80-something and must look like bureaucrats (which, lest we forget, spies ultimately are). Moustaches are nice, but a supremely clean-cut dome and mug can work just as well.

If they resemble Edward Norton - BONUS! If actually played by Edward Norton, this is, in the parlance of pinball aficionados, double boni.

In this day and age, it is acceptable if women are involved in the endless conversations, but I must admit, I prefer there to be as few of them as possible. If they are babes, this is clearly a bonus - so long as their hair (preferably blonde) is pulled back very tight. Brunettes are fine if they're Rachel Weisz and play scientists in white lab coats. The hair, in this case, does not have to be pulled back tight, but is preferred.

Between these seemingly bottomless pits of conversation, there should be a few good dollops of violence and at least three (my favourite number) nail-biting action set-pieces.

This all pretty much sums up Tony Gilroy's The Bourne Legacy, an extremely satisfying sequel/reboot to the popular Jason Bourne three-picture series based on Robert Ludlum's bestselling books. The first was launched capably by Doug Liman with The Bourne Identity and perfected by the magnificent Paul Greengrass with (the best of the trilogy) The Bourne Supremacy and (second best of the trio) The Bourne Ultimatum.)

Starring Matt Damon as an assassin employed and "programmed" by a secret inner chamber of the CIA, the Bourne pictures had less in the way of claustrophobic spy-speak in the bureaucratic back rooms and a lot more wham-bam action. Compared to those three, The Bourne Legacy feels like an art film, or at least, a second-cousin to Tomas Alfredson's recent version of John le Carré's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. All four pictures were written by Tony Gilroy, the extremely talented son of playwright/director Frank Gilroy.

As a director, Gilroy has left the semi-risible-semi-watchable Duplicity behind him and returned to the promise he displayed in Michael Clayton. The Bourne Legacy might actually be his best picture to date - lacking the fencepost-sitting of his Clive Owen-Julia Roberts comedy thriller and the occasional dark pretension of the George Clooney effort. This new Bourne picture bodes very well, I think, for us to expect future quality endeavours from this assured voice (and hopefully future instalments in the franchise).

Legacy introduces us to a new "Bourne" played with stalwart assuredness by Jeremy Renner. It appears the inner bowels of the CIA under the special project Treadstone (that originally yielded the "One-of-a-kind" Jason Bourne) has, in actuality, generated several superhuman killers and NOW, they want them all dead and to completely erase the whole operation (which includes killing anyone who works for it). Renner plays Aaron Cross, though for much of the film's running time he's nameless - so much so that some people assumed Renner had taken over the Bourne role from Matt Damon. (I was one of them.)

So, between endless scenes of glorious talking, Renner avoids assassination, hooks up with a Treadstone scientist (Rachel Weizs) marked for assassination and the two of them bop all over the world - kicking ass.

The writing is first-rate for the genre, all the performances are top-flight and what I really love about Gilroy's direction is just how old-school his coverage of action scenes is. They're nail-biting, visceral and relatively free of the spatially-challeneged herky-jerky variety. (The Greengrass herky-jerky is in a class by itself. He's a real filmmaker and he has total control of the footage. His compositions, though short, are painterly and we never lose a sense of where we are or where the characters are unless Greengrass WANTS us too.)

Most action-oriented franchises these days are pretty stupid and usually not all that well made. Some of them even fool critics and audiences into thinking the movies are actually good (e.g. Christopher Nolan's overrated, overhyped tripe and the utterly bland-o-rama and barely competent JJ Abrams, to name a couple of directors offering up roller coaster rides masquerading as movies).

The Bourne Legacy is good, solid filmmaking and delivers anything any fan of espionage-action films would ever want. While it feels like a teaming of Damon and Renner is inevitable, I certainly, on paper anyway, have no problem with the prospect of this.

"The Bourne Legacy" is currently in world wide release from Universal Pictures.