I'm surprised that I actually have things to say about The Bourne Legacy. I thought this post would be me saying, "Jeremy Renner is a beautiful, beautiful man," and that would be pretty much it, but I kinda have a review, wow.
First off, yes, I've seen the Bourne trilogy, for certain values of "seen." I am in that lonely, bewildered small portion of Americans who feels essentially nothing for Matt Damon*, so, I watched the first Bourne film ages ago because it was the thing to do. I felt no connection with the film at all, and did not plan to bother with any more of them. The past couple of weeks I decided to rent the other two just to have any bit of background that might enhance viewing of Legacy, so I put them on and basically did other stuff while they played. Still no emotional connection.
But I got the pattern: action sequence-talky suits-action sequence-talky suits etc. It's fine, whatever. I like my spy movies James Bondish, where the story follows Bond 100% and when there isn't action he is one of the talky suits (usually giving them the side-eye to tell them what he thinks of all the time-wasting talking). But in Bourne the suits are all The Conspiracy Brigade and the hero himself is their target. Different, I get that. Didn't really suck me in. May have been the Matt Damon factor.
The pattern of action sequence-talky suits-action sequence goes off a little in Legacy, it turns out. What we get for the first half is character establishment and an abundance of talky suits; apparently the creators felt that the talky suit stuff is what makes the Bourne series recognizably Bourneish. It may be true, but I'd hazard that viewers are watching more for the action sequence portions. I dunno, someone who likes these films tell me if that's true?
Granted, in Legacy, the tension in the character establishment stuff is high. There is a little action at times to justify all that tension. And granted those characters are interesting and they are played by Jeremy Renner and Rachel Weisz, who do a hell of a job with what they're given.
Dr. Marta I'll-Never-Remember-Her-Last-Name looks harried and everywoman, though when the crisis does come at last she becomes someone whose skin I slipped into like a well-worn glove, fwoop. (Scientist forced to recognize the applied outcomes of her work? Yeah, all too easy for me to identify with that.) Aaron Cross starts out intriguing from the film's opening shot, and also likeable, with flashes of "I am already a deeply suspicious guy and well I should be," and he's right, what with people trying to kill him just because they created him, so that does a lot towards building sympathy, though my viewer sympathy for him didn't really solidify until midway through the film. Where, not coincidentally, everything solidifies in the film: the action ramp-up, the excitement, the character connections to the audience. And that's because it's the moment (and the way) our two leads meet. The danger they're in, the way Cross treats Marta and carries her through the crisis, the way he learns she treats him when she's not under fire, and the way he makes her wake up to her ethical responsibilities...suddenly I had two heroes to root for.
Which made the second half edge-of-my-seat riveting. And it couldn't have been so riveting if they hadn't taken such care in the first half showing the quietness of Marta's life, setting up the situation that blows her quiet life apart, turns her into someone on the run. It works, but I fear it works at the expense of some viewers losing patience with the first half of the film. So I get the mixed reviews for this. Me, the non-Bourne fan who just went in to watch Renner's performance--I'm a special case and not the general audience. So my perspective may be interesting but not a reliable indicator for whether this film works. The take among respected critics is about fifty-fifty for liking this film, which feels about right to me. I really, really liked the second half of this film, and by extension it made me like the first half in retrospect.
There are specific character moments that melted me--moments that you didn't know were vital for making you like the characters, and then they hit and I went, holy cripes, if we hadn't had that moment I would never have even known what I missed in not having it and that would have been tragic. I literally did choke up and get teary-eyed in a sweetly scripted hurt-comfort moment, and it was because of the dialogue, not because anyone happened to be shirtless at the time, thank you very much. One observation of mine hit me hard enough that it makes me want to wrangle it out into metafic. Just the one, but I might have to do it.
I would like the film to do well at the box office. I want studios to offer Renner all the roles. Because he's a beautiful, beautiful man.
(First image in my dream film, Jeremy Renner Putting On Jackets.)
(*I love The Departed and Dogma, and I'm glad Damon's the villain in both of them. It makes it easier.)