Monthly Archives: September 2012

How to Ruin a Good (Bourne) Legacy

Directed by:  Tony Gilroy

Written by: Tony Gilroy

Cinematography by: Robert Elswit

Starring: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton
When I heard there was going to be a sequel to the brilliantly entertaining Ultimatum I was thrilled. Then I discovered that Matt Damon (the heart and soul behind the franchise) and Bourne himself would not be the focal point of the story. From that moment on there was an uncomfortable inkling that this would be a hopeless disaster. And what a hopeless disaster it was.Humanity has a few distinguishing features that seem to stand out. One of which is not knowing when to stop a good thing. The latest example of this characteristic flaw is the fourth installment of the once great Bourne franchise – The Bourne Legacy. Why could they not simply leave Bourne to be remembered as one of the great trilogies of our time, a milestone in filmmaking and in particular the action genre? They (the producers/studio executives/ Tony Gilroy) had to milk the cash cow one more time – only to produce a tall glass of sour milk that will unfortunately  bring in millions and leave them feeling justified.

For starters Jeremy Renner doesn’t carry the same charm as Matt Damon. How can you not admire the innocent and sincere looking Damon? He is in a class of his own when it comes to performances (I’m thinking of Oceans 11 and 13 in particular). Renner definitely is tougher and more rugged but who cares? Bourne could charm you with his smile and break your neck with his hands all before you could blink twice.

However the biggest flaw in Legacy was the painfully simple yet deceptively cryptic plot-line. For the first 45 minutes (of 2 hours) I couldn’t work out what was going on – which had me intrigued. However as we waded through more and more code words and CIA departments the plot-line began to clear up. Aaron Cross (Renner) is a super soldier that needs an incomprehensible combination of childish pills in order to….who knows, keep from imploding? The whole film can be summed up in this line: Aaron Cross is a junkie in search of his fix whilst running from the government who wants him dead. Once I had worked this out my heart dropped at it’s lack of ambition. Where were the government programs of Identity and Ultimatum? Where was the intrigue, the mystery? There was none – it was that simple. They had strung me along with code names but once that murky cloud had cleared up, there was nothing more to see.

Finally for an action film there was very little action. I can think of two scenes in particular which hinted at the classic action that Jason Bourne found himself in but a part from that there was a lot of car driving, running around and conversation that went nowhere.

Overall the Bourne Legacy was a complete disappointment. Yes it had the same ‘Bourne-esque’ look as the previous three which is one thing that I did enjoy but there wasn’t the class or finesse that we’d come to appreciate. Oh for that classic train station scene in Ultimatum where Bourne guides the reporter step by step, or the Moscow car at the end of Supremacy or the embassy scene in Identity that really established Bourne as a trained killer. The magic was completely missing in Legacy. Tony Gilroy who wrote the screenplays for the first three films took the role of director and writer for Legacy. It would have been perhaps better if he had called it a day after Ultimatum and left the legacy of Jason Bourne live on unscathed.

Plot/Development: 5/10

Performances 6/10

Cinematography 7/10

Entertainment Rating 5/10

Quality Rating 6/10

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Sarah’s Key (2010) Review

Directed By: Gilles Paquet-Brenner

Written By: Gilles Paquet-Brenner

Starring:  Kristin Scott Thomas, Mélusine Mayance

Cinematography By: Pascal Ridao

 

Sarah’s Key, the adaption of Tatiana de Rosnay’s best-selling novel, is a film of both gripping emotion and stagnant boredom. Gilles Paquet-Brenner’s film tells the story of the round up of 13,000 Parisian Jews by French police in 1942. When police come to the Starzinki family apartment in the Marais district, the bold 10 year old Sarah seeks to protect the life of her younger brother by locking him in the cupboard and telling him to remain there until she returns. Sarah is then deported along with her mother and father to camps in the countryside before she is separated from her parents who are presumably sent to Nazi death camps. Sarah manages to to escape from her prison camp in a desperate attempt to return to her apartment and be reunited with her brother.

However this is only half of the film’s narrative. As the moments of tension heighten as the film follows Sarah’s heart breaking story, the scene cuts to modern day Paris 60 years on where an American journalist, Julia (Kristen Scott Thomas) begins to uncover the disturbing history behind the Marais district apartment her husband’s family acquired six decades ago. Julia begins to investigate the history of her families apartment and slowly uncovers Sarah’s story. As Sarah’s dramatic attempt to return to her brother unravels in a tempest of emotion and intensity, Julia’s quest to uncover the truth of the past drags on in what feels like a completely separate film.

I initially liked the idea of a dual narrative film. This unique approach distinguished Sarah’s Key from the countless other Nazi era films that have emerged over the years. It raises the questions of one’s past and whether we are indeed products of our past. However, whilst the French spoken sequences of Sarah’s life are vivid and intensely emotive, the modern day sequences performed in English fail to convey the same emotion or excitement. One finds them-self enduring the dull of modern day Paris narrative in anticipation to return to the excitement. The story doesn’t end as quickly as I was expecting, but rather unravels allowing for all the loose ends to be tied up. Too often in the blockbusters does the film end with various loose ends left about. Whilst this made Sarah’s Key feel slightly long at times, it also created a sense of satisfaction and resolution for the viewer.

The performances are varied which is expected in light of the overall film. 10 year old Sarah is played by a terrific Mélusine Mayance who characterizes the brave and defiant young hero with such charm and delight. As the heroin she carries the role of the incredibly mature and responsible young child, whilst not losing the distinct notion of childhood innocence and naivety, which gives her character a sense of believability. Kristen Scott Thomas does the best job in the contemporary sequences, although she is let down by those around her – especially her work colleagues who appear stifled and obviously scripted.

The cinematography is also split along the lines of the film. Cinematography is one of those things that one doesn’t necessarily take note of unless it’s amazing. Rarely is it ever terrible, unless it’s been stylized in a certain manner for effect, which may be unpopular with viewers. The handheld feel of the 1942 sequences created an authentic and lively feel full of emotion and action. My favourite scene is of Sarah and her fellow camp inmate running through the fields moments after their escape. However the 21st century scenes felt static and added nothing to the emotion, leaving half the film dull and dry.

Despite half the film feeling painstakingly slow and uninteresting, the emotive story and compelling performances of the historic period carry the audience right to the end. Sarah’s Key is an intense film that captures the audience’s emotions and leaves one feeling shaken and moved.

Plot/Development 7/10

Performance & Characters 7/10

Cinematography 7/10

 

Quality Rating: 7/10

Entertainment Rating 7/10