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by Todd Gilchrist
August 10, 2012 9:11 AM
6 Comments
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Critic's Notebook: Why 'Bourne Legacy' Isn't As Mature As It Thinks -- And What You Should See Instead

"Sleepless Night" Tribeca Film
Although he's initially frustrated by her ostrichlike obliviousness to the ramifications of Outcome, he's essentially always tender with her, which (again) undermines the idea that he and his fellow operatives are cucumber-cool loners, much less that they're loners in dire need of socialization/ the love of a good and patient companion. Regardless, no actress of her caliber should have to recite the kind of expository dialogue she's given in the five-minute driving scene that takes place after Cross rescues her.

Renner, meanwhile, throws himself physically into the role of Aaron Cross, but never taps into anything that makes us truly sympathetic to him, except for the obvious identification with how much it sucks when people are trying to kill you. Seldom has a film made more of a case for prescription medication, but Cross' entire motivation for protecting Shearing and taking the risks that he does is needing pills, or a pill substitute, so that he won't devolve into an action-hero version of Algernon. The drama of whether or not a superhuman killing machine gets his meds is precisely as exciting as it sounds, but Renner isn't to blame for the lackluster impact his character leaves.

The film's set pieces are all well-executed but uninspiring, and only once feel remotely unsafe, when Weisz's character tries to help fend off an attacker only to almost die because of it. But its dearth of visceral thrills feels all the more disappointing because of the stupidity heaped on top of it and presented as the same sort of adult-level complexity its predecessors possessed.
 
Meanwhile, the independent and international film industries seem more than capable of providing thrilling, thoughtful action vehicles. Sony Classics' "The Raid: Redemption" knocked out audiences earlier this year with its dizzyingly elaborate fight choreography. "Sleepless Night," which is set to be remade after enjoying a limited U.S. release in May, plays its audience like a Stradivarius by pitting our questionable sympathies for a crooked cop against the determination of a father who will stop at nothing to rescue his son. Even "Act of Valor," which was largely dismissed as a shameless commercial for military recruitment, featured some great action sequences, and a plot that attempted to highlight the moral and philosophical (not to mention physical) ramifications of working for a government entity.

By comparison, "The Bourne Legacy" is a boring, crass and seemingly pointless franchise reboot."The Bourne Identity" launched the series with the pretext that its main character had to come to terms with not just who but what he was before he lost his memory -- in short, it was a character study. "Supremacy" had the boldness to wrap up its story with a quiet apology by focusing on genuine storytelling. And all three films had not just a cohesiveness of physical and intellectual concepts, but an appealingly reckless energy that tied the two together even when one or the other didn’t make much sense.
 
After the satisfying completion of that trilogy, this film’s tagline makes it feel like an afterthought tacked on for reasons less creative than commercial: "There was never just one," reads the tagline. But if this is what constitutes a legitimate spinoff from the previous "Bourne" installments, then perhaps there should have been.

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6 Comments

  • Nightmare | August 10, 2012 10:16 AMReply

    It was pretty awesome to me!! But I do understand the flaws in the script. The actors were great in the movie, but the blame goes to the director/writer. In the end, it depends on how the person enjoyed the movie.

  • Katalin | August 10, 2012 10:06 AMReply

    Rachel Weisz not only manages make Jeremy Renner look good in this film (And he's bore as the lead) but manages to give the film's only real and effective performance. With out her efforts to be better than the bad material and the thin character she plays, "The Bourne legacy" would have been literally unwatchable.

  • Christopher Campbell | August 10, 2012 9:40 AMReply

    As I said before, I think you totally missed what was going on in this movie while you were "bored," a criticism by the way that I find extremely boring. People are bored with every film on the Sight & Sound 50, so that's just a lazy way of saying you weren't willing to or interested in engaging yourself in the work. That's fine; action movies should be entertainment. Still, I was also entertained.

    I also think it's lazy to look at sequels and Hollywood's desire to stretch franchises and properties out like this as entirely despicable. Many smart and talented filmmakers manage to do great things even if the studio is only concerned with profits, and Tony Gilroy finds very fresh and interesting and intelligent things to do with the spin-off that I do not consider repetitive nor rehash.

    Anyway, I'm sure you'd like me to go on, but I have other things to do than explain or critique films to people for free. Ask IW to bring Spout back and I'll analyze the whole thing.

  • Christopher Campbell | August 10, 2012 2:03 PM

    I don't consider your review lazy, just that one particular criticism. I think you are a very hard working critic. You even manage to stretch out some reviews to multiple outlets, which I don't see as being any different from what Hollywood does with its franchises if you all have enough to say (and of course you do, as does Gilroy). But being bored by something neither makes it bad nor is it proper for film analysis if that's what this is (I don't think it is, since you don't go into details; this is a review). And since you had three pages worth of material, obviously the film didn't bore you. If it had genuinely bored you, you wouldn't have anything to say about it. I respect that you have an opinion of the movie, but I don't think you need to act like your opinion and response will carry over to everyone. Many people will just as easily be bored by The Raid and Sleepless Night. And find their characters hard to sympathize with and find them to be pointless stories. And sorry, but while I can comment on your review I can not offer my own adequate review, critique or analysis of a movie that I don't find boring or to be anything close to an afterthought in a comment section for free. Besides, it would be pointless. I'm not going to get you to reconsider your point of view.

  • Todd Gilchrist | August 10, 2012 12:49 PM

    Three pages of analysis and not only am I lazy, but all you took away from this is "I was bored." And thanks for reminding me you have other things to do -- otherwise I might understand what it is that you responded to in the film, and even possibly reconsider my point of view.

  • kitcon | August 10, 2012 9:38 AMReply

    Agree. I didn't feel any reason to root for a super-agent pill junkie desperate for his next fix. A simple connection with Jason would have sufficed instead of regurgitating so many scenes from Ultimatum. The climactic chase through Manila also dragged on with too many of the same shots of them weaving through traffic. Really poor script.