Movie Review: Bourne Legacy: Movie good, Manila great

By Ed Uy

Let’s face it, regardless of what you’ve read on the internet, and in spite of what the harsh critics have to say, Filipinos will be lining up to watch “The Bourne Legacy” for one reason—and that is to see a still floodless Manila (and Palawan!) featured in a big Hollywood movie—and even for that reason alone, the price of admission is well worth every rain-drenched peso.

When the movie made its Asian red carpet premiere Sunday, August 5, at the Newport Performing Arts Theater at Resorts World Manila, there was an unmistakable sense of pride as celebrities, government officials, and invited guests braved the rains eager to see the outcome of the production’s month-long filming in the country—and I’m sure those who’ll watch it will also cheer the moment Rachel Weisz’ character says the world “Manila” for the first time.

Aaron (Renner) and Marta (Weisz) find themselves being 
pursued in the busy streets of Manila

It is after all the country’s big screen debut after so many years and the first time Manila was filmed as Manila and not as some other Asian city.
A big feat considering that the city now joins Moscow, Paris, Prague, London, Madrid, Tangiers and Berlin as one of the locations in the billion-dollar franchise. Series producer Patrick Crowley even describes the Manila chase as “one of the best chases ever.”

Less Bourne, more legacy
Creating a film that will live up to the critical and box office success of the action-thriller spy franchise is hard enough, especially if the lead actor and titular character won’t be on the movie.

With no Matt Damon to play Jason Bourne or Paul Greengrass to direct the film, the challenge falls on Jeremy Renner and Tony Gilroy (who does double duty as both writer and director) to sell a  Bourne-less Legacy.

The role of Aaron Cross, a chemically enhanced super spy, had been one of the most hotly-contested roles with names such as James Franco, Shia Labeouf, Jake Gyllenhaal initially being considered.

Renner, however, proved he was more than capable of taking on the role, and holds his own both in the acting and action scenes–even Damon thought the actor was the perfect one to continue the franchise.

In an interview with a few weeks before the movie was shown, Damon said Renner was “awesome” and is one of his favorites; “I believe him in that world. You know, when Paul and I talked about maybe doing one, years ago, where we pass it off to somebody so the franchise can continue with someone else, Renner was the first guy that we talked about.”

The rest of the cast also gives a solid performance, Rachel Weisz as Dr. Marta Shearing—the initially unwilling female accomplice, and Edward Norton as the cold CIA boss, who decides to tie up all the loose ends by killing all his remaining field agents. There are also fleeting cameos by former cast members such as David Strathairn, Scott Glenn, Albert Finney, and Joan Allen to link the movies together.

Aaron slides between “The Chasm”  
a narrow wall to rescue Marta

And though Bourne never appears in the movie (except in photos), his entire “legacy” fiasco is what makes up the majority of the first part of the movie as the events occurs in the same time line as the aftermath of the third film, “The Bourne Ultimatum.”

With Gilroy’s familiarity with the Bourne universe, it felt as if he wanted to lay down a foundation for a new franchise but wasn’t actually willing to let go of Jason Bourne just yet. This results in a heady, complex and dialogue-heavy plot and could be quite a drag for those waiting for the action to begin. It works, but the boardroom politics tend to overshadow the spurts of action.

Terms such as Treadstone, Blackbriar may sound familiar to fans, but as soon as  they talk about project Outcome and all the genetic-techno-gibberish backstory, you’d feel quite lost. Unfortunately, even watching all the three previous movies or reading the book from which it was very, very loosely based won’t actually make things clearer.

The only thing clear is that while Jason was trying to search for his identity, Cross is much more pressed for time, as he tries to find some pills or “chems” to keep his brain and brawn juices flowing before the police and the Terminator-like LARC agent catch up to them.

Which eventually brings them to the most anticipated and exciting parts of the movie—Manila.

Thrilla in Manila
Seeing San Andres, the Pasay Rotunda and the MRT station, Magsaysay Boulevard, bits of Intramuros and other familiar places in a Hollywood action flick is quite a surreal experience that will both make Pinoys feel proud and hopeful at the same time.

The motorcycle chase is the most
 action-packed scene in the movie

Pride because the action sequences—such as the roof, street, car and motorcycle chases are indeed as Producer Crowley claimed “one of the best chases ever.”

The action scenes in the previous movies might be a lot grander in terms of car crashes, but seeing Renner and Weisz riding in tandem as they traverse the Manila traffic, with the unbelievably competent (and fit) local cops on their trail will arguably be the most talked about sequences in the movie.

And hopeful, because even the crowded alley ways of San Andres and the Navotas fishport looked spiffy clean–you’d even find yourself looking for those random improvised garbage dumps. If we could only make that a reality then the floods wouldn’t probably be this worse.

Our Filipino actors also got the chance to shine despite their small roles, especially John Arcilla who delivered lines with both Renner and Weisz. Lou Veloso also played a “crucial” role in the movie.

Bourne free?
During one of his flashbacks Cross repeatedly asks; “Is this a test? If I pass, can I stay?” Was it Gilroy’s way of asking the audience to assess his efforts?

Gilroy manages to create a respectable transition film. “Legacy,” may not be the best in the series, but it does succeed in opening up an entirely new storyline and introduces an interesting new character in Aaron Cross.

They say the third time’s a charm and this fourth one is one heck of a cliffhanger, and many won’t be satisfied with the film’s very abrupt ending. Jason Bourne was indeed just the “tip of the iceberg” and as the movie’s tagline suggests “There was never just one;” so regardless of how it does in the box office, I guess it’s safe to assume that there will be another “Bourne” movie in a few years or so.

Here’s hoping that Damon returns and joins Renner in beating up more capable bad guys (instead of security guards), besides we still have at least 6,998 islands left for them to shoot.