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Non-Review Review: The Bourne Legacy

The Bourne Legacy is the kind of trick you only get to pull once. It’s an interesting narrative experiment, but it doesn’t really work as its own movie. It almost feels, at times, like a deleted subplot from the second two films in the trilogy, removed and expanded to fill two-hours-and-a-half. It’s certainly an interesting idea, and it’s a clever way of skirting the issues created by Matt Damon’s refusal to return, but the problem is that The Bourne Legacy never feels like it is entirely its own film. While it features two characters who have their own arc, the overall plot plays out according to storybeats that are happening off screen – in another story with another agent. It’s a fascinating take on the summer blockbuster, but I’m not convinced it’s an entirely successful one.

Bourne again?

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New Bourne Legacy Trailer

Hey, here’s the new trailer for The Bourne Legacy. It’s the latest film in the Bourne series (the original trilogy consisting of The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremecy and The Bourne Ultimatum). Matt Damon isn’t returning, but the new film will focus on Jeremy Renner, who seems to be having quite a year. The supporting cast is suitably impressive, with David Strathairn, Joan Allen, Albert Finney and Scott Glenn all returning – while adding Edward Norton, Rachel Weisz and Oscar Isaac. (Personally, I’m also actually quite geeked to see Stacey Keach, Željko Ivanek and Corey Stoll playing supporting roles as well.)

Hope you enjoy.

I have to say, I’m intrigued at the approach they’re taking – it looks like this film is being structured as a sort of a “side-quel” to the Bourne series, exploring events from another angle. While it’s very clearly an attempt to get the “Bourne” brand out there, I think it’s a pretty cool way of playing with narrative – it seems structured more intricately than a simple reboot, sequel, prequel or remake.

One of the things I’ve found really fascinating about 2012 as a year in mainstream cinema is the way that the studios have been playing with narrative links. Prometheus wasn’t a direct prequel to Alien, more like a spiritual predecessor. The Avengers isn’t a direct sequel to any of the Marvel films, but rather a composite of story threads flowing from each one. I know people decry the rise of franchise cinema (as if that’s something new), but I thing there’s some interesting stuff going on here. I don’t know quite how it’ll work out, but I am intrigued by the approach.

Follow Me: The Lost Art of the Sequel Hook…

I had the pleasure of seeing David Fincher’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo on Friday, and it was a very good film. It smoothed out some of the issues I had with the original adaptation, was beautifully acted and directed, and was just a very nice piece of film. However, I was a bit disappointed with the ending of the film, which served as a twenty-minute trailer for the sequel. This is a sequel that hasn’t been greenlit yet, and hasn’t even been written. I appreciate the enthusiasm, but I do think there is a point where setting up a later instalment undermines the original film.

Leaving the series with snow where to go?

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Non-Review Review: The Bourne Supremacy

I have to admit that The Bourne Supremacy is the strongest of the Bourne films for me, even though fans of the series tend to forget it, snuggled as it is between The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Ultimatum. The middle part of the trilogy is undoubtedly the most straight-forward, but that isn’t a weakness – it contains a well-motivated character arc for the character of Bourne while handling the themes of the series remarkably well, and still paying homage to all the plot devices that one associates with the espionage thriller. It isn’t preoccupied with setting anything in motion, nor in wrapping anything up, but that gives the movie much more freedom than the two that surround it.

Nobody said it would be a walk in the car park...

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Non-Review Review: The Bourne Ultimatum

Sitting down for the bi-weekly movie, we flicked through the channels and couldn’t find anything really good on that we hadn’t seen. We decided to watch The Bourne Ultimatum in High Def. It counts as a new viewing experience if it’s in HD, right?

Watching it, I was stunned at how much of the movie I’d forgotten since the first time I saw it. That’s not to say the movie is crap, it’s just the cinematic equivalent of junk food: quick, easy, tasty if you don’t think too hard about it, not particularly filling. Watching it as though for the first time, I was blown away by the set pieces: a tense siege at Waterloo station, a chase through Morocco and the finale car chase through New York. The film does these astonishingly well, tying together fancy stuntwork, a pulsating soundtrack and just the perfect amount of cutting (not too much, not too little). As action movies go, it is a very, very good example and comes highly recommended.

The only complaint lies in the overly complicated attempt at plot. As ever, our erstwhile secret-agent-cum-fugitive Jason Bourne is trying to piece together his past. The film is well-constructed as part of a trilogy (tying up loose ends and picking up in the midst of the action), but new viewers may be a bit lost. As a conclusion to the saga, it’s a little mediocre and simplistic, but that is arguably a claim that could be made of the series as a whole.

Even the final revelation about Bourne’s recruitment in Blackbriar doesn’t add a necessary shade of grey to the proceedings. The bumbling CIA-types, though played by Oscar-nominated actors, are never embued with any sense of depth or character – the film instead seems intent to portray its antagonists as power-mad bureaucrats, without an etching of genuine conviction or belief. Of course, this was present in the other two films, but maybe Chris Cooper and Brian Cox were better at shading than this film’s ensemble. Of course, this is a film where the good guy reads The Guardian.

In short, it doesn’t feel like Bourne has travelled particularly far in the span of three films, nor has he answered his own existentialist questions. He now knows his name before he entered the scheme, but he knows little of who he really was. All he’s really done is seemingly gut the middle management of America’s chief intelligence bureau.

The cast make the most of the roles. Any humanity in Bourne is brought to the fore by Matt Damon, who manages to do that despite a relatively small amount of dialogue (he’s a man of actions, not words, dammit). Joan Allen is, as ever, fantastic with a relatively light role. Albert Finney glowers impressively, Scott Glenn seems constantly disappointed and David Staithairn is a little self-righteous while out of his depth. No member of the cast plays outside their comfort zones. Not that any performer is weak, just that no one (with the possible exception of Damon) stands out.

It’s entertaining, fantastically staged and pounding. The story is too crude and simplistic to reach the depths it seems to seek. Taken as it is – a rip-roaring action adventure with amazing setpieces – it works wonderfully. Those looking for a subtle examination of the American intelligence-gathering community in anything but black-and-white terms will be disappointed.

All in all, better overall than The Bourne Identity, but weaker than The Bourne Supremecy.

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The Bourne Ultimatum is the third part of a trilogy following the adventures of amnesiac spy Jason Bourne. It is directed by Paul Greengrass (Bloody Sunday) and features an ensemble of Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting, Dogma, The Good Sheppard), Joan Allen (Face/Off, Nixon), David Staithairn (Good Night and Good Luck), Albert Finney (Erin Brokovich, Miller’s Crossing) and Scott Glenn (Silence of the Lambs, W.). It was released in the United States on 3rd August 2007 and in the UK and Ireland on 17th August 2007.