movies · reviews

A different Bourne

So I figured I’d write this one first over The Hunger Games because this is more recent, and because I had just watched this a few hours ago. If you have not seen The Bourne Legacy yet, and would like to save judgments on the film, then I’d skip this part because there will be spoilers here.

Before anything, I’d like to say that I am a Bourne fan. I’ve loved it from the first time I saw Identity all the way to Ultimatum. I loved how seamless the action scenes were. I loved the meticulous details that tied all the loose ends and gaps. I loved how intelligent the storyline was. I loved the build up of stories, the characters, the overall flow. And I loved Jason Bourne and how different he is from all those spy characters in Hollywood. It’s a smart film, the kind that makes you leave the cinema house with a wide smile on your face and your insides telling you, “This is everything I want in an action/suspense movie.”

And I admit, when I heard that another Bourne film was coming out, I thought it was going to be a tall order. To have to follow the trilogy and come out successful. To me, Ultimatum should have been the last. It may be good to explore what happens with the hearings after Pamela Landy’s disclosure, but really, what else is there to say?

The story line therefore of The Bourne Legacy takes off from the fall of both Operation Blackbriar and Treadstone, when the hearings apparently threaten to reveal more than what has already been publicly disclosed. It wasn’t just these two operations, and Jason Bourne was just the tip of the iceberg.

Jeremy Renner is another agent of the calibre of Bourne; but in this movie, you can see just how different they are. Jason Bourne’s always ahead of the game. Calculating, hardly surprised, and incredibly smart. More than being physically capable, he’s mentally alert and has all bases covered. In this film, Aaron Cross seems to fall behind the prototype. It may be to show that he is different from Bourne, and it’s very, very realistic as well to take it from that angle since he’s a different agent all together. Unlike Bourne who’s out to find his identity, Cross is sure of who he is, and in that respect, a departure from Bourne. But I expected their ‘training’ to be the same. Their minds should operate in the same system. Somehow, I find him lacking on all counts. But don’t get me wrong. Jeremy Renner was good in this film; he just paled in comparison with Matt Damon.

I won’t summarize the film anymore; you can google for that. But I’d like to point out the elements that were lacking in this movie, which I think were what made Bourne the great trilogy that it was.

First, the action scenes. Comparing them with the previous three, Legacy’s action scenes were not as flawless and as exciting. They were not heart-stopping, although I will admit that I was glued at the motorcycle chase down Manila. The characters were talking too much and explaining too much, and the beauty of the previous films was that they let you understand what was going on without having to fill in a paragraph of explanations. The actions did all the talking. There was too much unnecessary jibber jabber in this film.

Second, the weak characterization. Apart from Rachel Weisz, I thought the other characters were forgettable and didn’t really stand out in the storyline. Even Edward Norton who played the retired Col. Eric Bayer, wasn’t engaging or commanding enough, unlike the previous ones. He didn’t seem to be “in control” as opposed to the characters of Pamela Landy and Noah Vosen. The assassins in previous films were more “there”. They seemed to be good counterparts to Bourne, really ruthless and menacing, and they scare the hell out of you. The fight scenes make you want to take combat lessons right away! The assassin agent from Bangkok was plucked from nowhere. He literally just showed up, didn’t really do much fighting, and just chased Bourne all over Manila until Rachel’s character “dislodged” him from the motorcycle. It wasn’t that exciting and overall, I thought the characters in this film were less commanding, less in control.

Third, the transitions. Everything seemed to pick up at a slow pace. At the beginning of the movie, you’re really trying to understand what’s happening, and it takes a while before you do, which by that time you’re already halfway through the movie. A working knowledge of the previous Bourne films will definitely keep you in track. Here, I found the flow of the story very confusing at times. In the previous Bourne films, they don’t leave room for you to want to ask details. They just let you go through the story because everything seems to have a smart connection, and you don’t get lost in between.

Okay, so let’s get down to the Manila part. I admit. One of my motivations to watching the film is that it was shot in Manila, and there was so much hype and build up to it that you just couldn’t wait for the movie to come out. And it’s big to us! For the first time, they are showing Manila as it is. Crowded. Densely populated. Stench. Traffic. Cables and wires that will never make sense to urban planning. The iconic jeepney. Staring crowds. I loved it. I loved how real Manila was presented, save for the accent and fluency of the guards, because come on. I love how English is widely spoken here, but that ‘twang made me really laugh. As soon as Manila was mentioned in the film, you could the audience react, sit up straight to make sure they don’t miss a scene, and yes, proud. We put one of the most memorable scenes yet. Car chases seem so passe that they’ve got to include jeepneys and motorcycles now. Manila pride.

But in all honesty, I found it very long, dragging, and at times repetitive. The camera work was dizzying. I was also lost in some scenes because they were too long and unrealistic. Too much motorcycle chase! I’m sure the general American audience wouldn’t know the geography of Manila, but I’d only like to note that it’s funny how they ended up in many different parts of Manila in one go because those are really, long stretches! Libertad. Roxas. Navotas. And then end up in Palawan, El Nido?! But if El Nido will be their starting point for the sequel, then they got me hooked.

Basically, what I’m saying is, there were too many gaps, too many questions in this film that made me feel like this was a totally separate movie from the trilogy. The trilogy could do no wrong in my eyes. Until now I still look back at these movies and go, “wow! That was amazing.” But tonight, I came out of this cinema unsatisfied and feeling like the movie did not live up at all to the Bourne standard. Yes, that must be it. It fell short. Which is a good way of saying, they shouldn’t even have gone there in the first place. And that ending was so anticlimactic. It just stops, like there was nothing else to say or to point to.

I don’t hate the movie. I just found it lacking. The trilogy set the bar so high that to fail at them isn’t even an option.

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3 thoughts on “A different Bourne

  1. I remember the fuss about them filming in a filthy area of the Philippines – and when I saw the movie, I thought it wasn’t THAT filthy at all, just crowded. It was fairly well-represented, except for the pharmacist who spoke to Rachel Weisz in Tagalog (I mean, we’d normally switch to English, right?). And I was thinking the Police department seemed very responsive :p At least it ended on a nice tourism note for the Philippines.

    But yeah, the chase scene was too long! I’d have to watch the trilogy again – my memory fails me X)

  2. I heard kasi (was it from Meryll and Keren ba?) that they wanted a super dirty area, like Pasay? So na-pressure mag-linis since they’ll be filming, and then the producers clarified daw na the city should be kept as is with the junk, and then the locals offered daw to dirty up the place some more. So at least, in the movie, it wasn’t too junky or too clean (that I noticed? Baka sobrang excite lang ako, haha). Just crowded.

    Then again, who am I to speak? Di ko man lang na-recognize yung mga lugar sa Maynila, haha! I just somewhat recognized what seemed like Taft Avenue, but I wasn’t so sure.

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