THE BOURNE LEGACY (2012)
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I'm going to be straight up with you guys. I am not actually the biggest fan of the Bourne series. I know, I know. It's a quintessential action film with all the right twists and turns. I get it. And really, it does have all the elements I like and I should (and will) give it a second go around. Still, there was just something about the Bourne movies that never got my blood pumping the way it should. So I cautiously tiptoed into The Bourne Legacy.
Could I tell you what it's about? Not really. The plot is kind of all over the place. Aaron Cross, a CIA lab rat with superhuman strength and shit, is on the hunt for his little blue pills with all the desperation of a college girl after a bad one-night stand. Meanwhile, back in the CIA headquarters, some video about some people no one really cares about goes on youtube and it's like...a big deal. For some reason. Seems a little petty to me, but hey, I'm not Edward Norton, what do I know? Anyway, because the CIA clearly has no control over youtube, they decide to cut their losses and destroy one of their largest and most profitable secret projects out there! Wow. Okay. So that...seems like a massive overreaction. But, again, Edward Norton has a lot of conviction in those crazy eyes of his, and I don't really feel like getting in a fight with Tyler Durden.
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Anyway. The CIA goes about not only annialating its undercover "Outcome" agents, but also its scientists. One of who happens to be Dr. Marta Shearing, AKA: the lovely Rachel Weisz. And so, of course, Aaron Cross runs to Marta's rescue because...you know. Morning after pills. Anyway, after saving her ass, it turns out, he doesn't actually need the pills. Never did. Well...okay. That kind of...took the tension out of that shit. Note to self: this movie does not know how to hold tension. Either way, they get to go to the Philippines to make sure Aaron Cross kicks his drug habit and becomes even more badass then he was before.
If you haven't gotten it already, I'll jump skip to the end. It's basically a rehash of the Terminator: Salvation ending, in which the film gives a big "fuck you" to the audience right before they leave with the lines, "thank you for sitting through this whole, epic movie in which a lot of shit happened and we saved the world...oh, and by the way, this was just a small, inconsequential battle in the scheme of things, we actually didn't do shit. Be sure to throw out your popcorn bags on the way out." There wasn't a real, satisfying ending because there wasn't a real, satisfying plot. It was just Aaron Cross cutting his ties with the CIA via his pill habit and moving on. That's it. No real combat was made against the CIA themselves. No real punches were thrown their way. And no real punches were necessary since the CIA were always ten steps behind (more on that later). In short, this movie was really just an introduction to Aaron Cross. That's it. We've got a new Bourne face, fine by me. Thank you for the prologue, now give me something I can sink my teeth into.
|Being a BAMF.|
All that said, you'd think I'd come out of the movie muttering bitterly to myself. But I didn't. Why? One simple explanation: Jeremy Renner. The guy is just so fucking likable. I have yet to see him in a movie that I don't like him in. Which, at the end of the day, makes him an interesting action hero. Nine times out of ten, action heroes fall under two categories: they're either stoically badass or they're snarky little antiheroes. Rarely is there any wiggle room. Aaron Cross, however, is neither. He's just...a regular Joe. A good guy. A mountain man with generally good intentions and no real red in his ledger. He's got an interesting backstory, sure, and they hint at it multiple times but never really give you a lot to go on. Yet at the end of the day, he's just one of those guys who apologizes for killing animals, tries to get to know people, and will probably hold the door open for you. His easy, happy-go-lucky attitude even confuses his fellow Agents, who don't seem to really know how to respond to the guy who steps through the door unarmed, with his defenses down, and has a casual conversation over dinner. He's just not your typical action hero, which somehow makes him all the more endearing and generally fun to watch. At the end of the day, I will probably see more Aaron Cross movies solely for Jeremy Renner.
Which is a shame, really, because the rest of the cast has a lot of potential. Namely, the main antagonist of the film, Eric Byer (Edward Norton). Eric Byer is a great character. Really. He's a stone cold bastard who doesn't budge for anyone. However, he spends the entire movie in boardroom meetings and watching Aaron Cross' progress on computer screen. The most active thing he does the entire film is clear out a office space by aggressively telling everyone to leave. Number one rule of screenwriting: give your antagonist and protagonist some face-to-face time. Naturally, rules are made to be broken, and for some movies, they can get away with that. This is not one of them. Not only do Eric Byer and Aaron Cross never meet, they also never have a threatening phone conversation. They never have any interaction, period.
|Edward Norton doing...nothing.|
To top it all off, Eric Byer can never catch up with Aaron Cross. I get it, Aaron Cross is super strong and super smart. But you've got a whole team of CIA Agents who created him. Surely, they can at least ride Aaron's ass. Instead, they stay ten steps behind him at all times, picking up his trash. Aaron Cross doesn't ever have to worry about outrunning or outsmarting them because they're lost chasing their own tails.
For that reason alone, the movie doesn't actually start for me until about halfway through, when they introduce Larx (Louis Ozawa Changchien). Larx is a super soldier, like Aaron Cross, but (for some reason) one the CIA isn't interested in killing. Rather, Larx has a leg up on Aaron--he lacks the capacity for emotion and he never, ever stops. It's the oldest trick in the book: what do you do when your main character is Iron Man? You have him fight a bigger, stronger Iron Man. So we finally have someone in this movie who can match Aaron Cross blow for blow. Finally, Aaron has a challenge. At that point, things pick up a hell of a lot of speed. Thank God and Chuck Norris for Louis Ozawa Changchien, you scary fucking bastard.
Overall, the action sequences are pretty good. We've got a couple good chase scenes in there. And, of course, it's always fun to watch a super soldier beast mankind. They really don't stand a chance in hell. Another thing this film does really well, however, is splicing in flashbacks. It's a strange thing to compliment a movie for, but heck. Maybe it was because the present was so often moving a little too slow for me, but the flashbacks were always nicely timed and caught my attention. A little too vague at times, but hey. That's what the second movie's for, right?
|Image from indiewire.com.|
Oddly enough, my favorite scene in the film didn't actually feature Aaron Cross. Maybe I'm just overly tired of all the censorship crap, but I highly enjoyed the scene in which a previously lovable scientist, Dr. Donald Foite (Zeljko Ivanek...one of those faces you know, even if you can't place the name), locks himself in one of the labs and systematically kills all of his colleagues. It's the acting, the way it's shot, the way Rachel Weisz scurries through the lab all too aware of his history with the shooter. Most importantly: tension. Yes. Human on human violence. Terrifying, because they're all the same speed and they've got no "superman" to save them. It's a very visceral and well-done scene. In short, hat's off to Zeljko Ivanek.
All in all, I can't completely bash or praise this movie. It is what it is: a very obvious introduction to the Aaron Cross franchise. Did we need this movie? Probably not. It had a lot of plot holes (or, rather, a plotless hole). It introduces really epic Outcome Agents that I would have loved to got to know better, only to kill them two seconds later. But so long as you take it for what it is, it's fun. And Jeremy Renner. End of story. That said, was I the only one waiting the entire movie for a Matt Damon cameo? I mean, his name's in the fucking title. It's kind of like having a Terminator movie without ever bringing the Terminator into it. Why do I have so many Terminator references in this review? Answers to all life's questions with epic twists and turns...next time!