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The Bourne Legacy

Film Four Stars
I was hopeful for The Bourne Legacy as I'm not one of these people who shout "Greengrass is gone" whenever people talk about what is to come from the franchise, I always remind people that he wasn't the director who delivered the first Bourne film or developed the style that was to dominate the series, that was Doug Liman. Of course Paul Greengrass took the series forward, but let us not forget that Liman brought the franchise to life with Matt Damon and without him there would be no Bourne, or at least a different one.

So why everyone thought Bourne was dead with the lack of Greengrass was beyond me, Damon yes, but Greengrass no, it has already been shown a new director can just walk in and take over. Without the lead actor who played Bourne it seemed the only option was to pull in a new actor to play the same role or reboot the franchise, both have been done elsewhere before, but would audiences accept it and would the studio try it?

Then we heard that Tony Gilroy, together with Dan Gilroy, were writing the next script, and that was good news because Tony Gilroy has written on every single screenplay in the series, sometimes not alone but on every script. He's also written a number of other great scripts for films from Extreme Measures, Armageddon, Michael Clayton, Duplicity (Filmstalker review) and State of Play. There's no doubt that he can deliver a strong thriller.

Not only that but he'd be directing too, and since he directed Michael Clayton and Duplicity, which I thought was rather good, there was another positive aspect to the new film. Who better than to take Bourne ahead without Paul Greengrass or Matt Damon than the man who brought the characters and stories to life, and even saved a couple of scripts in previous films? The question is could he pull off directing it as well as writing and bringing new life to the series with a new leading man?


Plot.pngTheBourneLegacy.jpgThe beauty of The Bourne Legacy is that it uses the story already created in the previous Bourne films to move away from Bourne and at the same time deliver what the audience want to see. While the world was concentrated on Bourne and the unravelling of the secret organisation that had been creating highly trained killers another organisation was watching, an organisation that had gone further than Treadstone and had active programmes with agents deployed in military operations.

Now, as the events of the Bourne films are unfolding and the world is becoming aware of what was happening, this hidden organisation are closing down their programmes, killing their agents and destroying all evidence of their programmes.

One of their agents is a little more questioning and curious than the others, as well as excelling at what he does, and he uses all these skills to avoid the organisations efforts to track him and kill him and he goes in search of answers.

Meanwhile a doctor working behind the scenes in one of the research teams witnesses her entire team murdered while she manages to escape. The lone agent finds out about her and realises she is the only connection left for him.


TheFilm.png The most noticeable thing about this new Bourne film, apart from the fact that there is no Bourne to lead the film, is that it merges in with the events of the other Bourne films very well. It builds its own story without feeling as though it's just covering the same ground as the Bourne films has and without forgetting where the story came from, and while the style is similar there's a clear feeling of it managing to find its own way.

The Bourne Legacy does a great job of spanning between the old and the new, and that should be remembered for this is a film designed to take the audience into the new story of the new Bourne. This is where I think people have been missing one of the key points of the film and have been turning up expecting another Bourne film with a different actor playing Bourne but it's not, this is an entirely new story even if the connections are there.

The film's story takes place during the timeline of the previous Bourne films, Bourne is on the loose and exposing Treadstone to the world at large while those involved are being brought before the authorities and prosecuted, rightly or wrongly. However the film concentrates on a different organisation, one that has taken the work that Treadstone has done and taken it a step further as well as creating active links with the army to put their operatives into real life situations.

We get a real sense that this is a more mature organisation not just through the fact that they have agents in operations with the government but in the way that the heads of the operation behave. There are much less catchy buzz phrases flying about with frantic running around and much more driven business decisions. This is also a sign of the difference in the film as a whole, it carries a much less frantic pace and is a lot more considered with more character and plot development going on and much more of a thriller slant to it than the later Bourne based films were. These latter Bourne films were becoming more thrilling through the pace and action rather than characters and plot and that's the side that The Bourne Legacy plays to.

We have more intelligent people behind the scenes and we see more of the compartmentalised operation particularly with the research doctors who examine and monitor the agents' progress without really understanding the scope of what they are involved with. It begins to feel a bit more realistic than the action based Bourne films.

The cleanup operation also appears more low key and considered. Rather than dispatching top line agents to take everyone down in spectacular action sequences they are dealt with in a more real world way. It's a more satisfying and realistic way of portraying the events and keeps with the slower but more potent style of the thriller.

That's not to say that the action and the Bourne element is there and for those who want it there are the close cropped, tightly shot and hard to understand until the action is over sequences that have become staple of the Bourne franchise. Watch for this in the vehicle chase sequence especially.

However the film does have action sequences that start to set its own path too, sequences like the house attack which builds the menace slowly, focuses on the confusion of the doctor's character and keeps the action smaller, personal and more focussed. I find these moments far more satisfying than the big frenetic action we were getting with the previous Bourne style.

One plot point that does evolve the new Bourne is the fact that he's been genetically altered and his natural abilities enhanced and this aspect of the film had been handled really well, again in a more adult thriller way. Rather than explaining everything about how and why we gain understanding through several different scenes. We understand that there have been some viruses implanted in their system to offer these slight improvements and their drug regime allows these to stay bonded with their system. It's well written and handled and it never feels like it has gone too science fiction or offered us too much.

Still the whole visit to Singapore to obtain the virus that will allow the new Bourne to continue without the drugs does feel like it needed a little more understanding and depth to it. It does feel rushed and leaves a lot to our imaginations, perhaps leaving some for another film and to develop a storyline that delves further into the way he was created and what impact that will have in his life without the drug.

Another aspect I found a little poor was the reliance on yet another programme that saw another even more altered agent sent out to destroy them. This felt like it was replaying the same trick that we've seen a few times in Bourne already and while it did give us an exciting roof top chase, the rest felt superfluous and pandering too much to the original Bourne story and clichéd ideas.

Jeremy Renner was very good as the new Bourne and he was given plenty to build his new character on. There was more emotion and understanding of why he was different from early on shown through his desire to question orders and decisions. He feels a lot more human than Bourne which is strange considering he is more genetically altered rather than just psychologically.

He gives a little more humanity to the character and a lot less unreasoning and emotionally locked Terminator. He's helped by his connection to the strong and completely believable Rachel Weisz who hooks you into her character so easily, she's such a natural actress. There's also a real feeling of a joint lead with her character being as interesting and engaging as Renner's and it feels much more of a shared story rather than a lead and co-star.

It will be interesting to see where the next Bourne takes us and I'm sure it's going to happen with this new Bourne.


Overall.pngThe Bourne Legacy is a strong step from the old Bourne to something new. It does a great job of acknowledging the existing story and building its own path as well as starting to create its own clear style. The resulting film is enjoyable, exciting and an engaging thriller with a slower and more deliberate pace than the previous films.

Tony Gilroy has done a great job of writing more depth to the characters and their situations pulling back from the action and delving more into the thriller. His directing has worked well too playing to the Liman and Greengrass fans as well as giving the film a direction to head to that is clearly its own.

Renner is an excellent action star who adds plenty to the Bourne role and both Weisz and Edward Norton deliver equally strong performances which help elevate the film.

The Bourne Legacy is a strong addition to the franchise and does well in delivering a new leading character and story to continue without Bourne, Damon and Greengrass.



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Movable Type 3.34

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