Monday, August 20, 2012

The Bourne Legacy

Two films in five hours wasn't just too much for us, it was too much for the man sat next to me too. After an hour of hardcore Bourne, he started checking the clock on his iPhone, the glow from its screen pulsing in my peripheral vision. What a lightweight. I'd already had two houes of leather-clad crotch action. Jeremy Renner doing his best Mr Potatohead action hero impression was nothing to veterans of the cinema like me and my wife.

It was strange; we watched Casino Royale a couple of days ago, and in both films the protagonist has a lump for a head. Both Daniel Craig and Jeremy Renner are conventionally good looking guys, so I'm confused as to whether the aspect ratio, or some nifty CGI, makes them look like Neanderthal #1 and Neanderthal #2. Whether you put one in a tuxedo, or the other in a beard and a bright red coat, they both look more like orcs than leading men.

"Fred" Bourne (we don't discover his real name until far too late in the film for it to leave any trace) clomps around Alaska for a while, in a dubious training exercise where he jumps across mountainous crags and takes pills. Either that means a bunch of scallies from Manchester could be top notch international spies, trained on the Pennines and a big bag of Ecstasy tablets, or the US is rubbish at training people.

There's only 9 people in the program, apparently, but I began to suspect that was because there's several hundred poor sods with twisted ankles and hypothermia, lying at the bottom of a crevasse that it was totally unnecessary for them to leap over.

"Fred" eventually hooks up with a suspicious type who lives in a woodshed full of guns, with a cupboard outside full of more pills, and then the US Government (which is being Evil today) blows them up. They use remote control drones to do this, whereas in the good old days a fighter jet would strafe you. But if you shoot down a fighter plane, the pilot tends to die. Remember this for what comes later...

Things drag on for a while. Edward Norton tries to be evil but I was transfixed by the mole on his chin. Because the filmmakers were feeling a bit lazy (or really proud of their previous work) they spend a bit of time cutting in footage from The Bourne Ultimatum. Or was it The Bourne Equilibirum? The Bourne Expediency? The Bourne One With Waterloo Station? I guess this recycling assures us of their environmental credentials. To cover up their cunning plan to have lots of secret assassins killing people they plan ... to secretly kill all the assassins. This involves concocting more assassins, which is daft considering they could have just run another of their surprisingly lethal training courses and all the assassins would be dead anyway. Oh well. I guess fleas have fleas upon their backs to bite them, ad infinitum, worlds without end, etc, etc. Once you start building organisations of lethal killers hopped up on drugs, it must seem the only way to fix them is more organisations of lethal killers hopped up on drugs.

For a laugh, they make Racel Wiesz look like hell (I think they kept her awake for a week so she looks properly frazzled), give her a few minutes of exposition that either suggests moral ambiguity about her part in the whole drugged/virally infected killer plan, or that she can't be trusted, because she's making things up as she goes along.

Honestly, I'd be frazzled too, especially if I had to put up with three waves of stonecold killers in my life. (That's one on drugs, a bunch of killers wearing suits, and Fred Bourne as the rescue team.) I'd also be quite frazzled if my life was editted like a Bourne film, all savage jump cuts so you can hardly figure out what's going on, and every time the plot starts to drag they wheel in *another* secret government program that uses medical research to creat merciless killers. (We've done drugs and viruses; maybe next it will be an army of supersoldiers created through morbid obesity. Or an allergy to peanuts.)

All this would be far too depressing if we spent the film in Washington, with its grim architecture, so the final part of the film is in Manila, and it doesn't feel like there was much of a reason for this apart from it sounded a bit exotic and somebody really dislikes Filipinos.

No, really. When they show films in Singapore they have Chinese subtitles and if somebody had told me the translation of The Bourne Legacy had been Filipinos Don't Have Feelings, I wouldn't have been surprised. I had qualms last year with the xenophobia of The Expendables, and I began to worry as I watched 'Legacy, I felt familiar worries. Ok, in a factory you might make everyone dress the same, but the impression is that all Filipinas are drones, only capable of filling pill containers or being ordered about by a fat Australian.

Which is bad for two reasons: you don't need a huge factory in the Philippines to supply less than ten pillhead/psychopaths, and if you have to be told what to do by an Australian, you have real problems. Fred kills a bunch of people (they don't matter, they're only Filipinos), Rachel gives him a flu jab, and then goes to his hotel for a lie-down.

Manila looks exciting and modern by night; unfortunately we wake up to find it's a complete dump. So I guess this wasn't a triumph for the Philippines Board of Tourism. And I've never been to Manila, so what would I know?

The police go after Fred and Rachel, but in a city of millions of Filipinos, two white people don't stand out. Uh... Never mind. Filipino police don't do much apart from run, and break easily when they meet Fred, so the pursuit seems unequal. (Unlike USAF pilots, who are much too expensive to get killed. Remember that drone from earlier?)

Meanwhile the US government dispatches another soulless assassin to get rid of him.

This time it's a Japanese man in Bangkok. I'm not sure if they thought that was perfect cover because all Asians look the same, or they hadn't looked in an atlas recently, or what, but he turns up, and before you can say "inscrutable" kills as many Filipinos as he can as well, perhaps to show Fred who's boss, before accidentally dying. So much for highly trained assassins.

Somehow, I don't remember Jason Bourne killing that many French people when rushing through Paris in the Bourne Identity, but I guess lives are cheaper out east. Fred and Rachel take a boat to an island paradise, which shows they never saw the previous films, because that didn't exactly work out for Franka Potente, and now we just wait for the next experimental government project with a diminishingly intimidating name. Honestly: "Treadstone", "Blackbriar", "Outcome". What's next, "Halibut"? "Prologomena"? "Horseradish"?

I guess consecutive films may be a bad idea after all.


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