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THE BOURNE LEGACY movie review

I really, really liked this movie. I’ll tell you why, but first I’ll list a few factors that may have influenced my reaction:

(1) I went into the theater with low expectations because the reviews were lukewarm and because I wasn’t yet sold on Jeremy Renner (I am now completely sold on him),

(2) I am not a Matt Damon fan. Just the opposite in fact. I've seen most/all of his movies because he gets great roles, but he comes across as insincere to me – obviously I’m out of step, but I think the tepid reaction of other reviewers to LEGACY is “bourne” in part from the fact that they missed Matt. Anyway, I was concerned that Renner would try to play this part in a Damonesque fashion. Not to worry – he’s no Matt Damon, and I mean that as high praise.

(3) I forgot Edward Norton was in it. If I had remembered that going in, I would have had higher expectations because he brings a lot to everything he does, plus he has good taste in roles. Needless to say, I was delighted to see him.

(4) I’ve always loved the Bourne concept. I read all the books and enjoyed them at the time, but that was a while back, so I don’t really remember specifics. I’m sure those books had heart though, and while I enjoyed the first three movies as well, they did not have heart. I was quite sure this new film would continue in the no-heart vein. I was wrong.

Okay, so here we go. This movie opens in the wildest wilds of Alaska, so the scenery is gorgeous and also stark and unforgiving. I don’t usually get into the scenery too much, but it really works here.  Aaron Cross is alone – man versus nature. Then he moves into a man versus man setting, but rather than filling it with machismo and physical conflict, it’s subtle and intriguing. Very effective in my opinion.  And it sets the stage for one of the movie’s greatest strengths – rather than relying on plot twists per se, we get casual bits of info here and there that transform a moment from pure action/adventure to something deeper.

If you’ve read this blog for a while you know I’m a fan of subtlety. And this movie makes interesting use of that technique – just a few times, but given the genre, more would have been counterproductive.

As I said, I’ve always liked the Bourne concept, and they made great use of it here without being just another Bourne movie. In fact, I think this one has the strongest and most interesting storyline of the series.  The BOURNE IDENTITY capitalized wonderfully on the concept – the idea of a man as a finely-tuned government weapon and what might happen if he goes rogue – but that’s not a story, it’s just a great situation from which to build a story.

And here’s where my prejudice against Matt Damon comes fully into play. He can act, that’s for sure, but his characters always have a tinge of insincerity or superficiality to them, even when he’s playing a man in love or a man driven by principle. I always felt there was something missing, and then I saw his film THE INCREDIBLE MR. RIPLEY and voila! Since then, I’ve understood it –that for me at least, he’s always been Ripley and probably always will. On the other hand, he gets the great roles, and I’m sure he’s the nicest guy in the world. His acting style, however, is a bit slick.

Oops, let’s get back to THE BOURNE LEGACY. It has some problems that keep it from being great. For example, they throw far too many men-in-suits at us in rapid succession. Seriously, when you have Edward Norton, do you really want to crowd the room with a dozen guys? Plus, for a top-top secret project, we’ve got lots of folks in the know. Maybe it’s realistic, but it would take a longer movie to get that point across, and the men-in-suits would need to be introduced one by one.

And the ending – while great in retrospect – was quite abrupt, to the point where my husband and I looked at each other with “is it over?” in our eyes, and I saw that same question on the faces of nearby viewers. I think it’s because it followed very quickly on the heels of a huge, overly-long chase scene and we’re conditioned to think that there will be a lot more after such a scene (maybe even another huge, overly long chase scene! – and trust me, I’m glad there wasn’t another one of those…)

But I thought the story was excellent. The script was great. Edward Norton and Rachel Weisz were terrific, as usual. And Jeremy Renner was perfect – perfect – for the role. He brought something to it that elevated the man-as-weapon concept. He’s tough, almost a machine, but there’s a human quality there, something that flashes through for a nano-second even in the middle of a hard-ass moment.

I wasn’t sold on him after The Avengers, and certainly not after that Mission Impossible mess. Now I am. It’s worth seeing just for his tough but nuanced portrayal of Aaron Cross.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 23rd, 2012 07:43 pm (UTC)
I liked it better than the first 3, too, but for totally different reasons: basically, I prefer my heroes to be unapologetic. Jason Bourne didn't know what he was but knew he didn't want to be it, whereas Aaron Cross knew *exactly* what he was and would do anything to remain that way. Much more compelling story, to me. I will always be a Spike and Eric girl, rather than an Angel and Bill the Vampire girl. :)
Aug. 24th, 2012 05:29 pm (UTC)
Interesting! I agree, it makes the hero's story more compelling. Plus, I now have a classier reason to be an Eric girl (my other reason is so shallow...)
Aug. 24th, 2012 06:11 pm (UTC)
Please don't imagine I'm anything less than RIGHT THERE WITH YOU on those shallower reasons... :)
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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