Cling Reviews “the Bourne Legacy” and the Trouble With High-Def Digital Films
Cling Reviews “The Bourne Legacy”
Back when books were made of paper, Robert Ludlum wrote “The Bourne Identity”, “The Bourne Supremacy” and “The Bourne Ultimatum”. They were cool novels about a severely troubled guy with amnesia who thinks his family is killed in Cambodia and volunteers to train as an assassin to flush out Carlos the Jackal. The trilogy was very cool and ended well (I won’t spoil it for you).
In 1988, a TV movie-of-the-week version of "The Bourne Identity" was made with Richard Chamberlain as Jason Bourne and Jacklyn Smith as Marie. Not good. When these stories were turned into cinematic cash-cows for Universal Studios, Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass, the movies got very GOOD. But the story of Jason Bourne that Ludlum created is far different from the movies, and if you read the novel, “The Bourne Legacy” by Eric Van Lustbader, you’ll find the story continues to be completely and utterly different from the movie. But "The Bourne Legacy", like its’ predecessors, is still a very GOOD action-spy flick!
Van Lustbader’s 2004 “Bourne Legacy” novel has Jason Bourne as a linguistics professor at Georgetown, living a quiet life with Marie until his past catches up with him and whisks him off to Budapest to kill people. (We’ve all been there, right?). And this might have loosely translated into another awesome installment of the Bourne franchise except that Paul Greengrass threw a bitch-fit and took Matt Damon with him. Greengrass went on to make “Green Zone” (which no one outside of the Greengrass family has seen) and not much else. Matt Damon has made some decent movies since “Bourne Ultimatum”, but that’s more attributable to the lack of leading men in Hollywood than his acting abilities or screen attractiveness. (He also made “We Bought A Zoo” in 2011, which I doubt even the Greengrass clan took in).
So what is the theatrical version of “The Bourne Legacy”? It’s the story of Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), a guy who is in an experimental government assassin program kind of like Jason Bourne’s Treadstone, except it’s called, “Outcome” and involves popping pills. Blues and greens, to be exact.
Rachel Weisz plays Dr. Marta Shearing, part of the research team perfecting the blue and green pills and evaluating the program participants for mental and physical acuity. It’s a very impersonal project, with the researchers not knowing the names of the Army guinea pigs. After two years of evaluating Cross, she only knows him as “Number 5”, which for us Gen-X’ers conjures up images of the robot in the movie, “Short Circuit” (“More input, more input”!)
The timeline in “Bourne Legacy” begins right after Jason Bourne exposes Treadstone at the end of “Bourne Ultimatum”. With the Treadstone and Blackbriar programs exposed, CIA Director Ezra Kramer, played once again by the great Scott Glenn, and Eric Byer (Edward Norton), the guy in charge of the CIA's clandestine operations, decide to pull the plug on “Outcome” and eliminate everyone involved.
At the beginning of the movie, they try to kill Aaron Cross by Drone-striking a cabin in Alaska where Cross has met up with another Outcome guy. That guy is blown to smithereens, but Cross went out to take a leak and wasn’t killed.
So we find out that Cross is addicted to the blues and greens and the next thirty minutes of the movie has Cross driving across the country and tracking down Dr. Shearing to get more pills (He reminded me of Chris Rock’s crack-addicted “Pookie” character in “New Jack City”. (“That shit be callin’ me, man!").
It’s about that time that one of Dr. Shearing’s fellow researchers goes berserk and starts killing everyone in the lab. Everyone but her. So the black ops guys go to her home (which is clearly an abandoned HUD foreclosed shack just primed for cinematic demolition) to finish her off and she’s almost killed. Cross arrives in the nick of time, beats ass, causes the house to explode and escapes with Dr. Shearing in a cheesy Buick that was stashed in the woods.
And lucky for us movie-goers, getting back to the pills, Dr. Shearing tells Cross that he doesn’t need the “greens” anymore AND there is a special shot he can take to “viral off” the “blues”. The new problem: they only manufacture the “viral-off-the-blues” medicine in the Philippines and they’ve got little time to get there. What super-spy steps do they take to get out of the country? They purchase coach-class seats and fly commercial. (It’s never revealed what movies they watched during the easily 13-hour flight, but I’d guess at least one Tom Hanks debacle and a Swedish lesbian coming-of-age film)
From the Philippines, the action really takes off. There are some great on-foot chase scenes and the motorcycle chase scenes are great. The uber-bad guy they send to kill Cross and Shearing looks like the guy who played Jango Fett in the Star Wars movie and he gets killed really cool.
How does it end? THIS IS NOT A SPOILER IF YOU KNOW THE BOURNE SERIES. Cross gets away, “Extreme Ways” by Moby plays as the credits appear and we exit the theatre.
1. Bourne will be back. They show Jason Bourne’s picture throughout the film and repeatedly refer to Bourne being “still out there”, so expect to see a reappearance of the talented Mr. Ripley in Bourne 5.
2. The down-side of High-Definition. There is a scene in Dr. Shearing’s home where she’s talking to Aaron Cross and the sunlight lights her face. In this profile shot, it is clear that Rachel Weisz has a significant amount of facial hair! We’re talking a full 1/4” of fuzz all around her face. It’s a lingering shot, too, so it’s uncomfortably noticeable.
3. Norton in 1-D. Edward Norton is as one-dimensional as ever, playing the (gasp) heartless CIA program director overseeing the “clean up” of the government assassin program. Honestly, this dude stinks as anything other than a bad guy so actually he was perfectly cast in this role.
Verdict: If you like the Bourne series, GO SEE IT! If you’re a Rachel Weisz fan, wait for the next “The Mummy” movie or bring smudged eyewear for the hairy profile scene.