Does anyone really remember the plots of the three earlier Bourne films?  I mean, really remember them?  I remember Jason Bourne being a product of some special program, but what exactly it was and how it worked and who it involved…I haven’t a clue and I don’t think most other people I know do either (they were like The Big Sleep, but without the double entendres).  No, when it comes down to it, I think one can safely say that when it came to the plots, they were something about something with people doing something about something else.  But it didn’t matter.  That’s not why we enjoyed the films.  Probably because if we did, we probably would have found the basic ideas somewhat ludicrous and hard to take seriously. 

I’m not sure Tony Gilroy, the director and co-writer (with Dan Gilroy) of The Bourne Legacy (as well as the writer of the earlier Bourne films), agrees.  He seems to really take this somewhat over the top, conspiracy theory plot very seriously.  He’s not satisfied for it to be something about something, he wants it to be SOMETHING about SOMETHING.  And I’m not sure that is working to his advantage here.

In the previous two films, there are a few things I remember that made me love them.  The first is Paul Greengrass’ herky jerky approach to the directing, giving it a hand held documentary feel to it.  He kept things moving and the tension revved up to the nth degree.  I also remember that the plot was made up of a series of scenes in which the character of Bourne came up with the wildest Rube Goldberg schemes to achieve his goals, often jaw droppingly brilliant in their execution.  Finally, there was the cast of Matt Damon, Albert Finney, Joan Allen, Julia Stiles, David Strathairn, Paddy Considine, Scott Glenn, among others. 

When it comes to The Bourne Legacy, I feel that the movie falls a bit short in every category mentioned above.  Tony Gilroy’s direction is a bit sluggish at times.  It feels as if he’s often focusing on the least interesting aspect of the story—the dialog and plot.  It’s not that there aren’t some good lines here and there (one about a gun shooting down a drone and Jeremy Renner as the Bourne stand in Aaron Cross upset that Rachel Weisz, as virologist Marta Shearing doesn’t even know his name). 

And it’s not that there aren’t some exciting scenes.  Though I have to say that the person who deserves the kudos here is the locations manager or whoever found that incredible three story house in the middle of nowhere; a huge lab in the Philippines; as well as that neighborhood in Manilla where the final chase scene takes place.  It’s only in these scenes that Gilroy seems to get any sort of rhythm going (the showdown in that house that has as much character development as anyone else in the film is definitely one of the high points of the film).  At other times, like the long drawn out scenes with the government operatives (headed by Ed Norton) talking to each other and explaining everything and a scene of mass murder at a lab that goes on for far, far, far longer than is justified by how much it contributes to the story, the forward momentum tends to stall.

And the story just has problems getting going.  It takes forever for it to start (there are a long series of scenes at the beginning with Renner that are never that clearly explained or justified and don’t seem to go anywhere).  And there is nothing in the individual scenes that come close to the cleverness of the earlier movies.  In fact, the whole thing sort of feels like Mission Impossible the movie as opposed to Mission Impossible the TV series.  It’s just one chase and action scene (which are the most exciting parts of the film) followed by one long, somewhat bland dialog scene, followed by a chase and action scene., followed by…well, you get the idea.  However, I have to give it props for that one thing that Weisz does at the climax which is almost worth the price of admission alone.

When it comes to the acting, no one gives a bad performance and Weisz becomes more and more interesting as the story moves along.  Ed Norton plays a dislikeable character so dislikeably, he’s often difficult to watch (which is a compliment, I think).  However, it’s Stacy Keach, as the head of the CIA, that probably comes across the strongest here; he seems the most relaxed in his role, not straining to get his character across.  But whereas I was heavily impressed by the cast of the earlier films and what they did, for some reason, this time round in watching Norton, Renner and Weisz, all I could think of was, “what are these fine actors doing in this film?”

All in all, if you like exciting action scenes that really get your motor going, you might like this movie more than I did.  I doubt anybody thinks it comes up to the previous entries in the series, but there is that thing that Weisz does at the climax that is almost worth the price of admission alone.

Reviews of I Love You, Man and Duplicity

I Love You, Man is, of course, as anybody knows who has been reading any media outlet lately, a bromance. That is because the two love interests are straight men (if they were gay, it would be called a dick flick). Everybody thinks this a new genre, but the boy meets boy, boy loses boy, boy gets boy stories date back to the early days of film with such movies as What Price Glory? What’s new is that the director, writers, producer, advertisers are finally admitting to what is really going on. The honesty is kind of fun because it’s just so cute watching straight men make fools of themselves trying to admit they have feelings for one another. The downside is that one gets the feeling that the director, et. al. also think they deserve to be rewarded for discovering something everybody else knew all along (like a student wanting extra credit for remembering to put his name at the top of the test). In spite of all that, I Love You, Man is a frolic, a very, very funny divertissement, a wonderful way to spend a few hours, especially if life is getting you down. The middle part tends to slow; that’s because the script (screenplay credited to John Hamburg and Larry Levin) didn’t seem to know exactly what kind of character arc they wanted to give the Paul Rudd character: is he suppose to be someone who needs to learn how to be more open and free like the Jason Segel character, maybe, possibly, it’s as good as any other character arc we can come up with? But since the Segel character is more annoying than charmingly free at times and Rudd’s character doesn’t need a character arc (he’s just fine as he is), this section feels a little like everyone’s biding time until the final act. The Lou Ferrigno parts also don’t satisfy; it feels as if he’s cast because Arnold Schwarzenegger couldn’t take the gig because he’s still governor. The real standouts are Jon Favreau as a boor of a husband who has found the perfect wife for himself; Andy Samberg as the gay brother (included so the audience can be absolutely sure that what is going on between Rudd and Segel is not homosexual in nature); and J.K. Simmons and Jane Curtin playing normal, yet, effective parents who the authors thankfully forgot to pattern after the ones in the Focker films. See it with someone you love—of the same sex—and this time don’t sit with one seat between you so no one suspects you’re out on a date.

Like I Love You, Man, Duplicity is also a frolic, a very, very funny divertissement, a wonderful way to spend a few hours, especially if life is getting you down. The main difference is that while I Love You, Man is like having a beer at a neighborhood bar, Duplicity is like having a fine wine at a non-boring cocktail parties (yes, there are such things). This doesn’t make Duplicity better than I Love You, Man because beer and a bar are not inherently superior to wine and a cocktail party. At the same time, Duplicity is the better picture because the structure (screenplay by Tony Gilroy who also directed) is more intriguing and much cleverer (whatever you do, do not, I repeat, do not go to the bathroom until after the first flashback as my friend did, it will take forever for you to figure out what the hell is going on) and the sexual tension between Clive Owen and Julia Roberts is more dangerous and exciting, if more socially acceptable. At the same time, the supporting cast of I Love You, Man is more interesting, the ones in Duplicity often seem to just be along for the ride. See it with someone you love, but with someone of the opposite sex (unless you’re gay, then… well, you know).