Friday, August 10, 2012

Tony Gilroy's Bourne Legacy - High Adrenaline Spectacle

Tony Gilroy’sBourne Legacy” follows the events that transpired after Operation Blackbriar (“Bourne Ultimatum”) has been unraveled. As a result, the C.I.A. had to scrap “Project Outcome”, a covert operation that produces genetically enhanced agents. Since this shut down is essential to the integrity of the C.I.A., everyone associated with the creation of these agents, including the scientists at Sterisyn Morlanta responsible for these color-coded medications has to be eradicated. Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) escapes the wanton annihilation of her colleagues with the help of Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), the lone surviving agent who unwittingly escaped the scavenger hunt a.k.a. the assassination plot. Before this, Marta's only known Aaron as "Number 5", having seen him only 13x (during his physical examinations) in the last 4 years. Marta flies to Canada (her sister lives there) with Aaron, but operatives are hot on their trail. Trouble further ensues because Aaron is running out of medication, and the only way to outwit their enemies was to remain physically strong and mentally astute – characteristics provided by the drug. While most of the drugs have been decimated, a “raw material” plant is still operational. Where? At the other side of the world – in frenzied Manila!

Aaron and Marta lose themselves in the underbelly of the great metropolis, staying in a decrepit apartment in a squatter’s shack. But while they manage to get hold of the drug and infuse it on Aaron, they’ve been tracked! Soon, they find themselves - once again - running for dear life, navigating the congested thoroughfares of Manila, hopping on creaky roofs of rundown shanties, sliding through colonial stairways of a riverside. Will they succeed to get away?

There’s no denying the entertainment quotient of this breakaway narrative strain. In fact, it’s a cut above other action flicks in terms of cinematic exigency and realism. It takes on former “Bourne” director Paul Greengrass’ kinetic energy; the constant heart-pounding mobility fuels the attention of the audience. There’s hardly a smudge of computer-generated effect, thus we palpably join the protagonists as they are being chased all over the Philippines.

The story isn’t seamless. Why annihilate a perfectly useful group of “almost” super humans? I can think of a hundred uses for them. Send them to Syria to bring down a dictator. Fly them to Patikul, Iligan, Cotabato where bandits eschew ideology as convenient smokescreen for human and property pilferage. Transport them to China so they can stop the usurpers from claiming lands too far from their country. See? They have urgent uses. Besides, isn’t it a waste of tax payer’s money to just eradicate a whole program of super agents? Why does the CIA kill their own like they’re merely swatting flies? The logic behind the assassinations doesn’t quite take.

Jeremy Renner and Rachel Weisz enjoy a chemistry that allows their scenes to rankle with pulsating energy. Forget Jason Bourne and that cute guy named Matt Damon. Heard of him? This story stands alone quite beautifully. In fact, I don’t understand the thousand-and-one references to Jason Bourne, except that Bourne could guarantee a built-in audience. Ka-ching! I can expect a sequel with Aaron and Marta without thinking too much of Jason Bourne. The latter’s had his trilogy after all.  

Jeremy Renner squares off with Edward Norton


My heart leapt every time a familiar Filipino gets his screen time. But I noticed discrepancies in their scenes. This is explained by the fact that the Pinoy cast were instructed to do improvs (a thespian’s extemporaneous reaction and spoken lines to given scenes). A Filipina pharmacist (Ruby Ruiz) would talk to Marta in Tagalog: “O ayan ang mga gamot... libre yan...for free!” Highly improbable. One, no one gives free medicines to foreigners or to anyone for that matter (unless you're a re-electionist politician, that is); not in a country where medicines are hard to come by. Two, an educated Pinoy – like a pharmacist – will obviously talk to a Caucasian in English – not Tagalog! Marta may have visited the Philippines 5 to 6 times in the past; it doesn’t make her fluent in the vernacular. Sure, many of our countrymen will briskly offer that their English isn’t good, but that’s all smokescreen. Pinoys understand and speak English. It’s the country’s medium of commerce and instruction. Period.

Then there’s a security guard (John Arcilla) who speaks the Queen’s Language with a peculiar twang. Was that Middle Earth accent? Or was it Mount Kiagot twang? Before accusing me of being “burgis” again, please note that my reaction to an idiosyncratic accent is very visceral. My hair stands on end and I get shivers running down my spine. This was exactly my reaction when I heard John Arcilla speaking in English at an interview in “Ti-vehhhhhhhhhhh Patrol”. It was a baffling moment. There are accents and there are twangs. Then there’s Pinoy English. We don’t need twangs as employed by Jericho Rosales, Piolo Pascual and Diether Ocampo, do we? No, we don’t, John Arcilla.

When another Pinay finds Marta hiding at a corner of her shanty, she unhospitably screams "Magnanakaw! Magnanakaw!". Highly unlikely – again! A “squatter” who finds a Caucasian in her home would probably give her shanty to her visitor. I kid you not. That is Pinoy hospitality. She won’t shout like a maniac! Besides, what can a beautiful Caucasian woman like Rachel Weisz steal in her shanty? A mosquito net? A katol? A sandok? A bakya? A kaldero?  


More than the Pinoy actors, it’s really the bowels of Manila that take center stage in “Bourne Legacy”. Director Tony Gilroy succinctly captivates the temperament and the organized chaos of a congested city – from the fume-filled streets of Edsa to the choked overpass of Baclaran. This unapologetic view of the city underlines the frenetic movement of people, a distinct local color, and the effervescent buzz of an urban jungle that’s unmistakably Manila. I was choking with pride as Gilroy lavishly documents my city the way no one has ever done before. We don’t need to show them the towering buildings of Makati and the glittering malls that pervade in our urban universe. Our comforts are our secret. Shhh. In contrast, the limestone karst mountains of El Nido (Palawan) are what dreams are made of.

It is trite and my sentiments are absolutely selfish, but I’m proud to be living in this country called the Philippines. Sniff!  

As for the movie, this is high adrenaline fun! Do not miss it


Armando dela Cruz said...

TRIVIA: Aaron Cross is Marta's "number 5" patient. :)

ANOTHER TRIVIA: This movie is parallel to the events that happened in Ultimatum (I strongly believe that Gilroy is a brilliant screenwriter, whereas these rather bizarre choices he have made)

SOURCE: I'm a Bourne fan, never really liked Bond equally, nor Mission Impossible...But you can count on me when it comes to Treadstone-talk.

P.S.: I really enjoyed how the D.P. played around the misfortuned streets of San Juan...he's good. I can't really spell his last name, so I stand corrected if I'd be...he's Robert Elswit (who also did Mission Impossible 4 and The Town)

FINAL: Gilroy is the epitome of an espionage thriller writer, but will take on a long road to be a director as such description :)

Cathy Pena said...


I was at the mall earlier when I read my notes from my phone and I realized that Cross was indeed Number 5. THEN i went to watch the film again. He was number 5 but you beat me before having it corrected.

The film is actually more action than it should be. In fact, most of the Manila scenes were pure adrenaline. So if one's actually considering its plot, it's quite thin. Regardless, I had fun watching it. It was very entertaining even on 2nd viewing. :)

sineasta said...

nagulat din ako nu'ng mag-tagalog ang pharmacist. ang filipino ay magsusubok mag-ingles kapag may nakaharap na banyaga. pero dapat din natin isipin na "isinulat" ito ng banyaga at kung ano ang sa tingin nila ay magiging reaksyon ng tao na ayon sa kanilang experience. sana nga ay nagkaru'n sila ng pinoy consultant. pero di naman nga ito hollywood-phil cinema collaboration. good thing is walang karumal-dumal na "third world mentality" ng banyaga dito na nilagay nila.

re free giveaways, you'd be surprised how "hospitable" pinoys can be when it comes to foreigners. i saw reel time in gma news tv featuring a foreigner named travis visiting and living a life in one of the slum areas in manila. people living there work as fishermen. ang kikitain nila ay depende sa dami ng isda, hipon, pusit na makukuha nila at mabebenta. one of them just gave a bucket of squid to travis! siguro ay pinaghalong pagiging hospitable na rin 'yun at dahil may camerang nakatutok sa kanila. still, it isn't uncommon. PR na rin 'yun para bumili uli sa kanila 'yung customer.

Cathy Pena said...


That's my point exactly. Pinoys, when facing a Caucasian, will try their best to haul off their hidden English just to accommodate the foreigner.

I was actually told by an insider that the scenes with the Pinoys were "collaborative" - they were given the situation and to render their scenes a hint of reality, the Pinoy cast were told to do improvs, thus the lines they spoke were extemporaneous - except for John Arcilla's lines which were in English (in his "nakakapanindig balahibong" accent - Which security guard speaks like THAT?).

The problem with improvs (a theatrical technique) is that it's totally dependent on the ability and scenographic insight of the actor to perceive his/her situation. Thus the pharmacist's scene came out THAT way. But it did look natural to the eye of the foreigner, Director Gilroy included.

Madeleine Nicolas' scene, for example, was a great example of "improv" working well with the scene - when the police were cordoning off her boarding house and she goes: "Maganda yung apartment ko!"

I saw Joel Torre picking up the fallen apples at the overpass (I think somewhere in Baclaran, across Sogo Hotel), but his scene only showed his sideview. He was billed as the "good samaritan". Art Acuna was there too but he was unrecognizable and lost in the clutter of its frenetic action.

The "Magnanakaw" scene bothered me the most as it was more "theatrical" than "natural" to the Pinoy eye. It was so wrong! Your anecdote about this Travis guy is a great example about hospitality. Pinoys are overly hospitable to those they perceive as guests, but more so to Caucasians and other foreigners.

We tend to offer both our hands to accommodate their whims. So a "squatter" who shouts "Magnanakaw" to a Caucasian is misplaced and erroneous - in any cognitive level. That was just wrong! Pinoys are hospitable and warm to "mga banyaga". There's no circumventing around that ideation.

Armando dela Cruz said...


I don't know.

Legacy appeared to me lacking that "Bourne" action. I grasp that this appears as an underwritten, but I admire Gilroy for exploring what is unexplored, expanding the "Bourne" universe that I always thought was fenced with Jason Bourne himself and the "Programs".

Nice review btw.

Armando dela Cruz said...

Additionally, to @Jheck and for everyone else.

I think the movie is intended for the international audience. It may occur to us a bit dismal to watch (the scenes involving messy "Tagalog" dialogues, trust me, I've had a fair share of that discomfort), but not to people overseas.

I mean, we know very well our culture but others may not. Script's real tight in my opinion, disregarding the "tagalog" issues.

Cathy Pena said...

With all due respect, Armand. I believe the script is far from being Gilroy's best. With all the loopholes in the narrative, it's far from being tight too. It is patchy and reckless, concentrating on the paranoid movement of the protagonists than logical content.

I can easily enumerate these tenuous strains. One of the most dubious: the assassination of a limited number of people to cut off escalation of information spreading like wildfire, yet they sent over a hundred other agents to decimate the very limited population. How's that for discretion? They want to "contain", yet "multitudes" were sent to cover the tracks. This obviously doesn't make sense. If you want discretion, send as few people as you can. However, the whole organization suddenly tracks Marta and Aaron down from Maryland to Canada to Manila. All they needed to complete this laughable discretion was a TV advertisement and billboards.

If they have shut down the operation, why is the Manila plant still operational? Why oh why? The Manila station is crucial because it's the source of the "blue pill", exigent in itself to "viral out" (i.e. make the cognitive mutation permanent) Aaron's "powers".

If the program has been shutdown, what was the Manila plant for? The other program that involve's Larx (Changchien)? Wasn't Larx weaned on a different, more stable "chem"? They said so.

I do not subscribe to the fact that the film was intended for international audience, predicating that there could be a local version. Of course not. It was meant for a "general" audience, which includes the movie-crazy Pinoys. Why should Pinoys need a different version? We are as cosmopolitan as the rest of the world.

A Hollywood blockbuster is always intended for a "universal" audience. Pointing to the weakness in the scenes involving the Filipinos was done accordingly because they were discrepant. This means, erroneous scenes are as universally erroneous in Brazil, Tuvalu, Canada or Zimbabwe.

And really now, what do you call a script that runs for 2 hours and 15 minutes, yet cannot even offer a foreseeable resolution? The movie's unfinished veneer may promise "sequels" but it doesn't exactly make the whole Bourne series stronger. Rather, it's like spreading its wings too thin. Had the Manila scenes been "less action", I'd have dozed off as far back as the Alaska scenes because action without much "narrative meat' is boring to me. said...

One thing I don't get: why would Jeremy Renner steal the watch of this fat American guy earlier in the film? Is he a klepto? I would have preferred him to steal an iPhone 4s, so the guy can't call his bosses. Stealing a watch is clumsy foreshadowing (it appears later in the film as a bribe).

Cathy Pena said...


Oh yes. I forgot to mention that. Why would he steal a watch? I've thought of that too. Remember he told Marta that he has $40,000 stashed in their suitcase and that she could take it with her because she's done enough for him. Why steal a watch from an innocent man? He has oodles of dollars. Why couldn't he pay Lou Veloso's character with the money they have? It's turning out to be a loophole riddled flick. :)