14 August 2012

Review of The Bourne Legacy

(Some spoilers within - bigger spoilers are blacked out)
I absolutely LOVED this film. I am a huge fan of Jeremy Renner and Rachel Weisz separately but together, they are simply wonderful. It makes a big difference when action films cast actors of such a high calibre - as with the excellent Matt Damon as Bourne, double Oscar nominee Renner and Oscar winner Weisz bring so much more to their roles than lesser actors could. Soldier-turned-guinea pig Aaron Cross is a very different character to Jason Bourne but is no less sympathetic as his backstory and his desperation to avoid returning to his previous life as a man with a low IQ is revealed over the course of the film. Meanwhile, Weisz's brilliant scientist is much more than just a sidekick or damsel-in-distress. In one key scene, when a desperately-ill Aaron tells her that she has done everything she could do for him and begs her to leave and save herself, Weisz's face told of her character's guilt for her participation in the Outcome project and how it has affected Aaron's life. No dialogue was needed - everything was there in her face and her actions.

I watched the three Bourne films in the last ten days to get myself in the spirit of things. The Bourne Identity remains very much my favourite of the three, probably because I found it the most emotionally engaging. This film is much closer in spirit to the original Bourne Identity than to the other two - the couple on the run, the spies hunting them down, other agents being despatched to kill them and being summarily dealt with by their intended victim. There is a lot less of the CIA/NSA cross and double-cross of the later two films, although the DNA of the Bourne series is very much evident - an embattled Pamela Landy even makes an appearance. The love story that developed in Identity was a part of the film that really touched me and there is also a love story here. However, rather than being Jason and Marie 2.0, Aaron and Marta ended up reminding me very much more of my favourite on-the-run couple, Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor in The Terminator. There seems to be a deliberate nod to that film in Aaron's early line to Marta: "DO YOU WANT TO LIVE?" :-) The actors have terrific chemistry together (which is amusing, given their characters' connection) and the characters have a history going back several years, which makes their connection believable. Three lines of Aaron's could imply that he had feelings for Marta long before he came back for her: before succumbing to anaesthesia during a check-up he mumbles something about her always looking pretty and later he tells her that they have met 13 times in four years. He also surmised that a fellow Outcome agent had been exiled to the wilderness after he had fallen in love and seemed pleased to think that this was the reason.

On the downside, the film does suffer from a confusing plot (though I was not as confused as some reviewers have been, perhaps because I just watched the earlier films VERY recently) and the direction is nothing special. The super-soldier drugs idea seems a little sci-fi but in some ways more believable than the idea that behavioural modification alone was responsible for making these men (and women) so damn impressive! I also liked the idea of the different strands of the super-soldier programmes having their own problems and issues: there's a reference to Treadstone's inconsistency and Outcome's emotions (perhaps the love issue Aaron raised?), while new project LARX supposedly lacks either of these.

I would highly recommend this film - I enjoyed the hell out of it. And even if you don't take to Aaron and Marta the way I did, there's still plenty to entertain. Aaron Cross wrestling a wolf, for God's sake. And apparently the wonderful Jeremy Renner is not only one of the most interesting actors around at the moment (and possesses some of the finest arms in Hollywood, which get plenty of screentime), but the man CAN REALLY RUN UP WALLS. He did it twenty-five times during filming, according to recent interview with Empire Magazine. So watch out for that. Also watch out for the nerdy-looking guy who suggests involving the LARX project agent - that's the almost unrecognisable Corey Stoll, who was so very brilliant as Ernest Hemingway in Woody Allen's Midnight In Paris.

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