Review by Vives Anunciacion
Published Inquirer Libre, Aug 10, 2012
The Bourne Legacy
Written and Directed by Tony Gilroy
(For my cousin Melvin, who would have enjoyed seeing this.)
Let’s Filipinize Jeremy Renner’s agent character and call him Aaron dela Cross. The Bourne Legacy is a good start for a new action franchise, but it’s far different from the series it is named after. Last half of the film, shot in Manila, is quite good; the first half is an incredible talking bore. Let’s try to understand this enigma.
Everything in Legacy is a result of the fallout from Jason Bourne’s disembowelment of Operation Blackbriar. It’s a gutsy move from writer-director Tony Gilroy, who damns the audience whether or not it remembers the details of Identity, Supremacy and Ultimatum.
Through lots of dialogue, Legacy explains how Jason Bourne is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, that Treadstone was just the beginning of a series of operations involving scientifically-enhanced super spy-soldiers. For about an hour, it felt like Gilroy was defending the necessity of making a fourth Bourne movie.
Legacy picks up from the final moments of Ultimatum around the time of Pamela Landy’s (Joan Allen) exposé at the US Senate. CIA Director Ezra Kramer (Scott Glenn) activates the team of ex-colonel Eric Byer (Edward Norton) to terminate assets involved in all secret agent programs.
Those assets include Outcome agent Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) and many other unnamed secret agents across the globe, as well as the pharmaceutical facility that develops the drugs that put agents on a chemical leash. With drug supplies gone as a result of the shutdown, Cross must get vaccinated with the virus that counters the leash, but also activates the superhuman abilities of the soldiers. That virus is secretly manufactured in Manila. Outcome scientist Dr. Shearing (Rachel Weisz) helps Cross along the way, as Byer’s agents chase them.
The finale of Legacy is set in Manila, nearly 40 minutes of it. As producer Patrick Crowley explained at the premiere at the Performing Arts Theater in Newport, Resorts World, Manila joins the elite cities featured in the Bourne series.
Manila actually looks incredible here, exuding the complex texture of a true modern metropolis, at once unique and generically Asian, at the same time generically cosmopolitan but uniquely Filipino. It’s an alternate Manila, with organized police and traffic that stays on its lanes. Watching it is surreal. Your eyes & ears say it’s Manila, but your mind says it’s manufactured by Hollywood. If another Aaron Cross film is made after this, it would necessarily have to start back hare in the Philippines. Or more precisely, Palawan.
Incredibly, Legacy can stand on its own by disregarding series – not a superb film, but a viable new story about secret military experiments and operatives. Renner and Weisz humanize their thinly-profiled characters, while Norton makes do with just talking ominously to overemphasize the relevance of capturing Aaron Cross.
However, Legacy’s biggest burden is its association with Bourne. Everything is about Bourne. It’s impossible not to compare Aaron with Jason, just as it’s impossible not to compare the action, which became signatures of the series. Where the docu-style of Bourne transports audiences into the thick of things, Legacy’s fluid camera sanitizes the views. Where the Bourne edit keeps the audiences guessing, Legacy exposes everything. And because the director is the writer, this film loves to talk too much, quite unlike Jason who works silently with a few words.
Legacy is a Bourne movie that’s not a Bourne movie. In Tagalog: anak sa labas.