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Film Review: Bourne Legacy

Manila has never looked so intense
by Gelo Gonzales | Aug 10, 2012
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It’s apparent that the people behind The Bourne Legacy don’t know how to put an end to things. After three installments of Robert Ludlum’s Bourne franchise, writer/director Tony Gilroy–who wrote all three previous screenplays–takes the helm and swaps Matt Damon for Jeremy Renner. It’s the Bourne Legacy, but Jason Bourne is nowhere to be found! Many would argue that the filmmakers are just milking the franchise for more profit, and they wouldn’t be wrong. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t deliver some fun, customary action-packed entertainment.

Aaron Cross (Renner), wolf-killer, espionage extraordinaire, and chemical junkie is an agent for Project Outcome; one out of nine operatives juiced-up with medical enhancers and used by the government for intel and extermination. His existence is threatened when Jason Bourne’s shenanigans force the powers-that-be to shutdown the project by killing all its participants. He escapes his assassination and teams up with a scientist, Marta Shearing (Weisz), whose help he needs in order to find a solution to his withdrawals.

Yes, as much as people would like to believe that there is a bigger arc to this movie, well, it’s implied and not really shown. Essentially the film is just about Aaron Cross wanting to feed his super-spy fix. Since he has run out of his meds, they fly to Manila to get a viral dose, an injection that will keep him at physical and mental peak, absolving him of his addiction.

There are certain scenes in the film that are really intense. There’s a chilling killing spree sequence at a lab, and an interrogation scene, both involving Weisz that are a testament to the clever writing skills of Gilroy. He sets you up, making you feel it will be a quiet moment when it’s anything but.

Manila was put to good use in the movie's climax. The poor Manila police had to be subjected to the heavy punches and drop kicks of Aaron Cross. But they got what they deserved for spewing such ridiculous lines like “Wag mo pakakawalan yan bro!” Really?

Bad extra acting aside, the cinematography colored the city’s labyrinth-like streets and alleyways as a gritty and grimy metropolis, and filled with character. A motorcycle chase sequence around the mean streets of the Metro is intense and probably some of the film’s greatest moments. Riding a jeepney will never be the same.

The movie felt forced at times, probably due to the fact that most of its characters lacked in development, leaving the audience to put together the pieces for themselves. Aaron Cross as a main character lacks too much of a past, making it hard to connect or feel involved. We know he’s a killing machine, but the witty one-liners don’t help humanize him at all. Renner, however, is captivating onscreen. He has a quiet sense of intensity and an everyday man appeal that saves the Cross character from being robotic.

Weisz, though an outstanding actress, is good at being chased but lacks convincing power when she utters lines such as “I was there for the science!” in defense of the deadly experiments their lab was conducting. Really now, you didn’t know they were using your work to generate a superior army of killers? There’s an unnecessary romance between Aaron and Marta that the movie could’ve left out as well; romantically holding hands on a motorbike could get you killed.

The first half of the film was designed for a build up. There’s a lot of explaining and dwelling on the fact that this is a thinking man’s action film. But not much happens till they hit local shores. Nearing the end of the movie, the Philippines is the backdrop for the high-octane side of this schizophrenic piece of work when a supposed higher-level super spy is sent to off Cross and the doctor. “He’s Treadstone without the inconsistencies” claims one character, yet it only takes Rachel Weisz’s foot to his face to stop him.

The cast and crew must have had fun while shooting here and decided to wrap things up in a jiffy so they could hit the beach. As the ultra-intense motorcycle masturbation action sequence hits its end, you’d think they would offer you up a denouement to explain loose ends and bring you down from the experience. Just because action flicks contain explosions, gunfire, and thrilling close combat scenes does not mean it shouldn’t be tied up neatly with a bow in the end.

Because just when you thought you’d still have 30 minutes worth of movie watching to collect your bearings, a well-rested and sun-kissed Renner and Weisz literally sail off into the seas of Palawan, leaving people with an all-too-familiar feeling of an upcoming sequel.


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