Sunday, August 19, 2012

Review: "The Bourne Legacy"

Director: Tony Gilroy
Runtime: 135 minutes

Rather than function as a full-blown sequel or prequel, The Bourne Legacy exists as a standalone adventure that exists alongside some of the events of 2007's The Bourne Ultimatum. Though Jason Bourne (Matt Damon, sorely missed) never appears on screen, the events of his story do tie in to the somewhat convoluted narrative involving the CIA and an experimental program gone awry. Yet even though series scribe Tony Gilroy is still involved (he also takes over directing duties), it's difficult to jump back into the Bourne universe this time around.

The most immediate, and glaring problem, is the characterization (or lacktherof). Though Jeremy Renner performs convincingly in the role of ex-agent Aaron Cross, he has no depth outside of his desire for answers. Were his quest understandable, this wouldn't be a problem. Unfortunately, Gilroy's screenplay is so dense, vague, and at times fractured, that it's difficult to get a grasp on the film's protagonist. Gilroy introduces a supposedly important plot point - a series of pills that Cross is required to take on a rigorous schedule - but never gives a decent explanation as to what they really do or why they matter.

With so little to latch on to, The Bourne Legacy trudges on through its first two acts or so. Throughout the narrative, we're given some painfully vague glimpses into Aaron Cross' past, but it adds up to precious little that carries any weight. Not helping things is a surprisingly uneven turn from Rachel Weisz, cast as a scientist who Cross coerces into aiding him in his quest for...whatever the hell he's supposed to be after. Things improve for the actress in the final act, but in one key scene (an interrogation), she's all lightweight surface, awkwardly shifting gears from anxiety/confusion to anger. 

Only in the finale does Legacy start to feel like a proper entry in the Bourne series. As dull and stagnant as much of the film feels, Gilroy and DP Robert Elswitt do an excellent job when it comes to capturing the film's action sequences, which have the series' trademark gritty energy and verve. Editor John Gilroy smartly strings them together, creating an electric sense of pace while still holding on shots long enough to give the viewer a clear sense of what's going on. 

Yet the finale isn't nearly enough to redeem the film as a whole. By and large, it feels dense , but also completely uninteresting. The vague sense that something important is happening pervades the run of dimly lit office scenes with Norton and company, but all it ever amounts to is one big shrug. Worse still is that Gilroy ends on a note meant to suggest some romantic possibility between Renner and Weisz, despite their absolute lack of chemistry.There is so little to latch on to here, that The Bourne Legacy ultimately becomes everything its predecessors weren't: just another action movie that lacks any pulse whenever people aren't running, jumping, punching, or shooting.

Grade: C/C-

No comments: