Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Just got back from a screening of The Bourne Legacy, and feel compelled to post a review.
This hasn't happened since X-Men: First Class last June. I guess it also helps that I'm not working today. :)
As I've already indicated on Twitter and Facebook, the verdict comes in multiple parts:
Movie - 9.5/10
Cast ( overall ) - 10/10
Leading man Jeremy Renner - 100!
Reviews are mixed, and Legacy's domestic opening weekend box office haul of US$40 million is far behind The Bourne Ultimatum's $70 million, but here's hoping the fans will be pleased enough to spread good word-of-mouth and keep theatres packed.
First, a few things to point out:
1) I have not read Robert Ludlum's novels.
2) I have seen all 3 Bourne films. Multiple times.
3) I am a huge fan of Matt Damon and Jeremy Renner.
4) I'm also very fond of Edward Norton and Rachel Weisz.
5) Legacy has been at the top of my personal Most Anticipated Movies Of 2012 list for at least the past 9 months.
Did I expect a lot from first-time director Tony Gilroy? You bet.
Did I want Gilroy and his team to succeed or perhaps surpass those who made the Bourne trilogy such a classic? Of course.
As you know, it isn't my habit to go into the details of the storyline. The Bourne franchise combined cerebral spy thriller with visceral action sequences to deliver 3 of the genre's best products. Naturally, Gilroy - writer for the entire series thus far - and the producers fully intended to capitalize on a formula that's been proven to work magic.
So did they deliver?
If you believe the critics, then the answer is apparently no. My response - I prefer to form my own opinions, thank you very much. :)
Obvious Fact #1: This is NOT about Jason Bourne.
Obvious Fact #2: Legacy finally explains what actually goes on in these top-secret medical experimentation programmes.
Obvious Fact #3: Matt Damon is not in this movie!
If you can get past these obstacles, I guarantee you'll enjoy the film as much as I did.
What's the deal with the reviewers grouching about too many medical / scientific terms? Are they bothered because such scenes slow things down? Because they can't understand what's being said? Or because they just don't care?
Yes, the first half moves at a rather leisurely pace, but I thoroughly appreciated every single minute, from Aaron Cross' ( Renner ) lonely trek through Alaska, to the CIA and the military's restrained meltdown in the control room. Things start picking up when Cross rescues Dr. Shearing ( Weisz ) at her home, then really hit top gear after they land in Manila.
The Bourne trilogy is famous for assembling casts of extremely high calibre, which is a huge advantage given the dramatic heft of the material.
Legacy does not disappoint in this area. Weisz, an Oscar winner for her role in The Constant Gardener, has been on my radar for 13 years now, since her appearance in 1999's blockbuster, The Mummy. Since then, she has starred in many wonderful productions, from Enemy At The Gates and Runaway Jury, to Constantine and The Lovely Bones.
Although her character, Shearing, doesn't have as much to do, Weisz shines in a few key sequences, such as the one in the car with Renner after her house goes up in flames, and a nail-biting massacre in the U.S. lab.
An actress with less ability could've messed up badly, but she manages to be hysterical without going over the edge.
Take that, Franka Potente! ( Don't know who that is? Shame on you. :))
Another actor whose work I'm very familiar with is Oscar nominee Norton.
I first saw him in 1996's Primal Fear ( 16 years ago, wow! ), then Rounders, American History X, Fight Club, Keeping The Faith, Death To Smoochy, Red Dragon, 25th Hour, The Italian Job, The Illusionist, The Painted Veil, and The Incredible Hulk.
Yes indeed, I am a devotee. :)
As Retd. Col. Ric Byer, his scenes are limited and he shares only a few minutes with Renner himself. He's excellent, of course, but I wish his role had been a little more well-developed. You get a sense of Byer's cold-hearted ruthlessness when he calmly stares at a monitor as a drone blasts what he thinks is a human being into smithereens, but I've seen him portray cruel / evil in American History X, Fight Club and The Italian Job. This does not come close.
Oh well, maybe in Bourne #5?
Next, the action scenes.
Damon was astounding as Bourne, be it close one-on-one combat ( remember the pen-as-a-weapon bit in Paris, in The Bourne Identity? ), wielding lethal weapons ( handguns, shotguns, knives, rolled up magazines ), or handling an assortment of vehicles through rush-hour traffic while evading entire armies of law enforcement officers.
Legacy starts small and builds up as the movie progresses. The pre-appetizers: an exploding mountain cabin, a pack of hungry wolves, the lab shooting.
Appetizers: a SUPERB whack-and-shoot fest at Shearing's country home. Do not miss the continuous shot of Cross scaling 20 feet of wall before running through a room and killing a rogue agent from the top of the stairs.
Stunt double, you sniff? I watched a Bourne Legacy movie special a few days ago, which shows Renner climbing the wall while attached to a harness. Okay, he had help. But it's him!
The main course is served when the protagonists arrive in Manila. The last 30-40 minutes of the film are pure adrenaline, beginning with a tense trip to the lab facility, followed by an UNBELIEVABLE rooftop sprint ( very reminiscent of the Tangiers sequence in Bourne Ultimatum ) and an AWESOME motorcycle chase.
Again, that's Renner jumping and running on the roofs ( tumble included ), and there're many clear shots of him and Weisz as they zoom through traffic.
Most impressive indeed!
Audience-pleasing tactics aside, Renner still has to carry the movie, and he does it with great style. Already a double Oscar nominee ( The Hurt Locker and The Town ), he blossomed further upon hitting 40, and boasts an amazing degree of athleticism.
He demonstrated skills in Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol, but has A LOT more to do in Legacy, which pleases me immensely. :)
There're Damon / Bourne fans who feel that Renner / Cross can't measure up. Are they insane?! Are they disappointed because the latter has much more dialogue? Bourne was always aloof and inscrutable. Cross is, by comparison, practically dripping with warmth.
By the way, I greatly appreciate the humour during the car scene with Weisz, where Cross expresses shock that Shearing doesn't even know his name.
Renner has quite an affinity for comedy. This became apparent in MI4, but is present in abundance in The Unusuals, a hilarious detective TV series I'm currently watching on DVD. Thank you, Amazon. :)
With Legacy's success at the box office, the Bourne franchise is alive and kicking, and Renner has joined the exclusive ranks of Hollywood leading men capable of carrying big-budget releases.
No word on when Bourne #5 will materialize, but rumours are circulating that Damon is game to team up with Renner. Music to my ears. :D
I highly recommend this terrific movie! But if you don't enjoy it, don't blame me. :)
Before I sign off, a special mention about Peter Cincotti's latest album, Metropolis.
I've been listening to this non-stop in the car for the past fortnight, and consider it Peter's best work yet.
Previously known for his adventurous interpretations of jazz classics and fabulous piano-playing skills ( he trained at the illustrious Manhattan School Of Music ), he decided to branch out into the pop / rock genre a few years ago, recording East Of Angel Town.
It was a laudable effort, but an awkward transition which wasn't very well-received.
With Metropolis, however, Peter has definitely found his mojo. Congratulations! :)
Blending pop, rock, funk, jazz and techno, this is a heady mixture that showcases his writing talent, and also features much stronger vocals.
Every track is fantastic, but standouts include Do Or Die, Take A Good Look, Graffiti Wall, World Gone Crazy and Before I Go.
I've seen him in concert 3 times, the last being 2008's Singapore Sun Festival.
All were extremely different gigs - lucky me! - and I was fortunate enough to meet him twice as well.
Both encounters were wonderful to say the least, and I hope to watch him perform again in the near future. Would be great to hear him sing these songs live.
Time for dinner. Thanks for reading!