Do the Bourne movies make any sense? Enough. The first three films — The Bourne Identity Supremacy and Ultimatum — throw in just enough detail into the covert ops babble and high-speed action that by the end Jason Bourne comes out an emotional character with an evident mission. That's where Bourne Legacy drops the ball. A "sidequel" to the original trilogy Legacy follows super soldier Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) as he runs jumps and shoots his way out of the hands of his government captors. The film is identical to its predecessors; political intrigue chase scenes morally ambiguous CIA agents monitoring their man-on-the-run from a computer-filled HQ — a Bourne movie through and through. But Legacy has to dig deeper to find new ground to cover introducing elements of sci-fi into the equation. The result is surprisingly limp and even more incomprehensible.
Damon's Bourne spent three blockbusters uncovering his past erased by the assassin training program Treadstone. Renner's Alex Cross has a similar do-or-die mission: after Bourne's antics send Washington into a tizzy Cross' own training program Outcome is terminated. Unlike Bourne Cross is enhanced by "chems" (essentially steroid drugs) that keep him alive and kicking ass. When Outcome is ended Cross goes rogue to stay alive and find more pills.
Steeped heavily in the plot lines of the established mythology Bourne Legacy jumps back and forth between Cross and the clean up job of the movie's big bad (Edward Norton) and his elite squad of suits. The movie balances a lot of moving parts but the adventure never feels sprawling or all that exciting. Actress Rachel Weisz vibrant in nearly every role she takes on plays a chemist who is key to Cross' chemical woes. The two are forced into partnership Weisz limited to screaming cowering and sneaking past the occasional airport x-ray machine while her partner aggressively fistfights his way through any hurdle in his path. Renner is equally underserved. Cross is tailored to the actor's strengths — a darker more aggressive character than Damon's Bourne but with one out of every five of the character's lines being "CHEMS!" shouted at the top of his lungs Renner never has the time or the material to develop him.
Writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton Duplicity and the screenwriter of the previous three movies) is a master of dense language but his style choices can't breath life into the 21st century epic speak. In the film's necessary car chase Gilroy mimics the loose camera style of Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass without fully embracing it. The wishy washy approach sucks the life out of large-scale set pieces. The final 30 minutes of Bourne Legacy is a shaky cam naysayer's worst nightmare.
The Bourne Legacy demonstrates potential without ever kicking into high gear. One scene when Gilroy finally slows down and unleashes absolute terror on screen is striking. Unfortunately the moment doesn't involve our hero and its implications never explained. That sums up Legacy; by the film's conclusion it only feels like the first hour has played out. The movie crawls — which would be much more forgivable if the intense banter between its large ensemble carried weight. Instead Legacy packs the thrills of an airport thriller: sporadically entertaining and instantly forgettable.
When is enough too much? That's the question I find myself asking in reference to Jeremy Renner. The forty year old actor, who became one of the most sought after in the industry following his Oscar nomination for The Hurt Locker, picked up another nod for his killer role in The Town this past year along with parts in nearly every big-budget film in production. He'll be seen two weeks from now in Marvel's Thor and follows it up with Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (a franchise he's said to be taking the reigns of in the future) this winter, with two more actioners ready to release next year (The Avengers and Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters).
But the buck doesn't stop there. Hollywood is extremely high on Renner and now he's set to fill in for Matt Damon in the fourth installment of Universal's Bourne franchise, The Bourne Legacy. Deadline says that the studio tested numerous up-and-coming actors including Garrett Hedlund, Luke Evans and Anthony Mackie, but one can't deny that Renner's star is rising more quickly than any of them. My guess is that, even though he's being groomed for a handful of franchises, Universal made him an offer he couldn't refuse.
Renner will play an operative from a covert government program that is even more dangerous than the Treadstone brainwashing program that hatched Bourne in Legacy, which is being directed by series-scribe Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton, Duplicity). The spin-off is scheduled to begin production in September and will release on August 3rd 2012. Going back to my original point, though I am a big fan of Renner's visceral method, it's just too much for one man. I know that he's physically capable of making all these blockbuster films, but in my eyes this kind of over-exposure is going to hurt his career in the long run. We haven't even begun to see the fore mentioned slate of films he's in and I already feel as though he's saturated cinema. He may be the best man for the job, but when Universal has problems scheduling the busy actor for the inevitable Bourne sequel, I'll say I TOLD YOU SO.
To many of us, the prospect of a fourth Bourne film without its star, Matt Damon, would be like trading out Daniel Radcliffe for the second half of Harry Potter 7. It's blasphemous. Bourne was, and always will be, Matt Damon's franchise. But for Universal Studios, the fact that Matt Damon doesn't want to play Jason Bourne anymore is no reason to scrap a perfectly good, billion dollar property. The only problem is, what leading man could possibly pick up where Damon left off?
Well, Tony Gilroy has a few ideas. Variety reports that the writer-director was in Hollywood this week, holding meetings with a number of young actors hoping to play the new lead in The Bourne Legacy, the first Bourne film not to feature Jason Bourne but a new assassin with a similar background. Insiders say Gilroy's list includes Jake Gyllenhaal, Tobey Maguire, Garrett Hedlund, Taylor Kitsch and Kellan Lutz, although lesser-known thesps will be screen-tested as well.
Gilroy and his casting team will have to work quickly if they want to begin production in the spring as planned, since no other casting decisions can be made until the lead is set. So far, say insiders, no front-runner has emerged.
If it were up to me, I'd drop Tobey Maguire, Taylor Kitsch, and Kellan Lutz from this list immediately. Maguire is the only one of the three with the acting chops for the role, but he won't hold up as a Damon-caliber action star. Peter Parker is not Jason Bourne. Jake Gyllenhaal, meanwhile, should be eliminated from this list by any studio exec with half a brain. Gyllenhaal had his chance to prove himself as an action hero in Prince of Persia -- and American audiences weren't convinced. Garrett Hedlund strikes me as the obvious choice of these five. He was solid as the male lead in Tron: Legacy and, most importantly, seems to have the right kind of machismo to fit into the Bourne universe. Not too sensitive, like Maguire, but not troll-like either (Lutz).
Remember, Tony Gilroy could still go with a relative unknown for the part, or another kind of leading man entirely -- although from the looks of these five men, Universal is looking to cast a younger actor, between the ages of 25 and 30. (Damon is 40.) Think you can do better? Let us hear your casting suggestions in the comments below.
Tobey Maguire Garrett Hedlund Taylor Kitsch Kellan Lutz Jake Gyllenhaal Source: Variety
Universal just set a bunch of release dates for some of their bigger upcoming movies. Are you intrigued? Yes, of course you are. Let's take a look.
Larry Crowne - July 1, 2011
Tom Hanks is directing and starring in this comedy-drama about the titular Larry Crowne, a middle-aged man who goes back to college when he is fired from his job. He smokes pot, joins the ultimate frisbee team, and gets into all sorts of hilarious collegiate hijinks. Wouldn't that be funny? No, actually he falls in love with his professor, played by Julia Roberts. Yawn.
Safe House - February 10, 2012
Denzel Washington is a hardened criminal (sure) and Ryan Reynolds is a young CIA agent (why not) in this action-thriller from Swedish director Daniel Espinosa. When a team of baddies destroy the safe house in which Washington is being held, the sardonic young Reynolds has to guide him to safety. It's like 16 Blocks, except Mos Def is Denzel Washington and Bruce Willis is Ryan Reynolds. And Washington won't have a speech impediment, hopefully.
Contraband - March 16, 2012
Mark Wahlberg and Kate Beckinsale are going to star in this remake of the 2008 Icelandic film Reykjavic-Rotterdam, in which the protagonist is a former smuggler trying to go straight, who gets roped in for one last job. Because there aren't already enough movies with this plot line, Universal is going to bring you another, and you're going to sit and watch it goddamnit. Baltasar Kormakur, who directed the original, will also be helming the English-language Marky-Mark version.
Untitled Judd Apatow Movie - June 1, 2012
'Untitled Judd Apatow Movie' is not the title of this untitled Judd Apatow movie, which is being written, directed, and produced by Judd Apatow. Or maybe it is? Has Judd Apatow's cultural relevancy reached such a point of critical mass that his only logical path now is to get all self-reflexive and make meta Judd Apatow movies about the process of making Judd Apatow movies? Maybe this will be a groundbreaking Charlie Kaufman collaboration. I would watch that.
The Bourne Legacy - August 3, 2012
Tony Gilroy will be directing the 4th installment of the Bourne franchise, which means Matt Damon won't actually be in it. Matt Damon told Universal he wouldn't star unless they brought back Paul Greengrass to direct. Universal laughed and decided to call his bluff. But no, Matt Damon is serious about not being in the next Bourne movie. And Matt Damon is Jason Bourne. So why are we still talking about this? Is anyone seriously interested in seeing a Bourne flick without Bourne in it? No? Okay then, moving on.
Ouija - November 9, 2012
Michael Bay's company Platinum Dunes is going to produce the hell out of this movie - as Michael Bay is want to do - with a rumored $80 - $100 million budget. Hell yeah! Enough with these pussy-footed $15,000 budget Paranormal Activity-type films. Anyway, this is a movie about a board game that people use to communicate with the dead.
47 Ronin - November 21, 2012
Keanu Reeves will star in this epic period film, based on the true story of a group of samurai in 18th century Japan who avenged the death of their master in a famous revenge-attack in 1702. Carl Rinsch, a promising commercial director we've had our eye on ever since we saw his very cool 2010 video short The Gift, will direct. Plus, Keanu is half Asian, so thankfully we won't have to deal with another brow-raising Tom Cruise-Last Samurai situation.
Snow White And The Huntsman - December 21, 2012
Tom Hardy (Inception) is rumored to be playing The Huntsman and Angelina Jolie the evil queen Ravenna in this reimagining of the classic fairy tale from spec scriptwriter Evan Daugherty. While I'm naturally skeptical of this project, The Playlist got their hands on the script and said it was "actually very strong, one of the better action-adventure scripts we've read in a while." Rupert Sanders will direct.
The Dark Tower - May 17, 2013
Oscar-winning director Ron Howard is set to helm the first of what Universal is setting up as a trilogy of films based on Stephen King's popular Dark Tower series, about the gunslinger Roland Deschain, who - long story short - sets out on a quest to find a tower-nexus at the center of his universe. This one's still a long ways off, but fans of the seven-book epic are already excited. You should be too, assuming Universal doesn't screw this one up. A TV series is also in the works.
Salt the propulsive new thriller from Phillip Noyce (Clear and Present Danger Patriot Games) has been dubbed “Bourne with boobs ” but that label isn’t entirely accurate. In the role of Evelyn Salt a CIA staffer hunted by her own agency after a Russian defector fingers her in a plot to murder Russia’s president Angelina Jolie keeps her two most potent weapons holstered hidden under pantsuits and trenchcoats and the various other components of a super-spy wardrobe that proudly emphasizes function over flash.
But flash is one thing Salt never lacks for. Its breathless cat-and-mouse game hits full-throttle almost from the outset when a former KGB officer named Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski) stumbles into a CIA interrogation room and begins spilling details of a vast conspiracy. Back in the ‘70s hardline elements of the Soviet regime launched an ambitious new front in the Cold War flooding the western world with orphans trained to infiltrate the security complexes of their adopted homelands and wait patiently — decades if necessary — for the order to initiate a series of assassinations intended to trigger a devastating nuclear clash between the superpowers from which the treacherous Reds would emerge triumphant.
The Soviet Union may have long ago collapsed (or did it? Hmmm...) but its army of brainwashed killer orphan spies remains in place and if this crazy Orlov fellow is to be believed they stand poised to reignite the Cold War. It’s a preposterous — even idiotic — scheme but no more so than any of our government’s various harebrained proposals to kill Castro back in the ‘60s. As such the CIA treats it with grave seriousness even the part that that pegs Salt who just happens to be a Russian-born orphan herself as a key player in the conspiracy.
Salt bristles at the accusation but suspecting a set-up she opts to flee rather than face interrogation from her bosses Winter (Liev Schreiber) and Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor). A former field agent she’s been confined to a desk job since a clandestine operation in North Korea went south leaving her with a nasty shiner and a rather unremarkable German boyfriend (now her unremarkable German husband). She’s clearly kept up her training during while cubicle-bound however and in a blaze of resourceful thinking and devastating Parkour Fu she fends off a dozen or so agents of questionable competence and takes to the streets where she sets about to clear her name and unravel the Commie orphan conspiracy before the authorities can catch up with her. That is if she isn’t a part of the conspiracy.
The premise which aims to resurrect Cold War tensions and graft them onto a modern-day spy thriller is absurdly clever — and cleverly absurd. But Kurt Wimmer’s screenplay isn’t satisfied with the merely clever and absurd — it must be mind-blowing. Salt is one of those thrillers that ladles out its backstory slowly and in tiny portions every once in a while dropping a revelatory bombshell that effectively blows the lid off everything that happened beforehand. No one is who they seem and every action every gesture no matter how seemingly trivial is imbued with some kind of grand significance. The effect of piling on one insane twist after another has the effect of gradually diluting the narrative. When anything is possible nothing really matters.
But spy thrillers by definition trade in the preposterous and the principal function of the summer blockbuster is to entertain. In that regard Salt more than fulfills its charge. Noyce wisely keeps the story moving at pace that allows little time for asking uncomfortable questions or poking holes in the film’s frail plot. And he has an able partner in the infinitely versatile Jolie who having already exhibited formidable action-hero chops in Wanted and the Tomb Raider films proves remarkably adept at the spy game as well.
It’s well-known that Jolie wasn’t the first choice to star in Salt joining the project only after Tom Cruise dropped out citing the story’s growing similarities to the Mission: Impossible films. But she’s more than just a capable replacement; she’s a welcome upgrade over Cruise not least because she’s over a decade younger (and a few inches taller) than her predecessor. Should Brad Bird require a pinch-hitter for Ethan Hunt he knows where to look.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Claire is an attractive CIA operative and Ray is an M16 agent who simultaneously leave their Governmental spy activities in the dust to try and profit from a battle between two rival multi-national corporations both trying to launch a new product that will transform the world and make billions. Their goal is to secure the top-secret formula and get a patent before they are outsmarted. While their respective egomaniacal CEOs engage in an unending battle of wills and one-upmanship Claire and Ray start out conning and playing one another in a clever game of industrial espionage that is even more complicated due to their own long-term romantic relationship.
WHO’S IN IT?
Reuniting Closer co-stars Julia Roberts (as Claire) and Clive Owen (as Ray) turns out to be an inspired idea. They turn out to be the perfect pair oozing movie-star charm and electricity in this elaborate con-game that might have been the kind of thing Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant might have made in the '60s (in fact they did in Charade). Roberts with that infamous hairstyle back the way we like it and Owen looking great in sunglasses prove they have what it takes to navigate us through this ultra-complex plot in which no one is sure who they can trust at any given moment. They play it all in high style and the wit just flows as the story skirts back and forth during the period of five years. The supporting cast is well-chosen with juicy roles for Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti (out of their John Adams duds) as the two CEOs going for each other’s throats. Giamatti who sometimes has a tendency to overdo it is especially slimy here and great fun to watch.
Big-star studio movies today rarely take risks and often talk down to the audience but in Duplicity writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton) has crafted a complicated con-comedy that requires complete attention at all times just to keep up with the dense plot’s twists and turns. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a New York Times crossword puzzle and Gilroy and his top-drawer production team deliver a glossy beautiful-looking film that’s easy on the eyes hitting locations from Dubai to Rome to New York City.
Like any good puzzle it sometimes can be frustrating putting it all together and Gilroy’s habit of taking us back in time and then inching forward gets a little confusing even with the on-screen chyron pointing out where we are at any given moment. Stick with it though and you will be well-rewarded.
A scene near the end where the formula must be found scanned and faxed in a matter of minutes is sweat-inducing edge-of-your-seat moviemaking and it provides the ultimate opportunity for Roberts and Owen to take the “con” to the next level. Another where Roberts uses a thong to try and trick Owen into admitting an affair he never had is also priceless and gets right to the heart of the game-playing.
GO OUT AND GET POPCORN WHEN ...
Never. Stock up during the coming attractions. If you miss a moment of this entertaining romp you might never figure it all out.