The Gilroy Legacy
by Mr. Nobel
But if you can’t predict a plot point like the good guys win…get out. I don’t ever want to see you again. Leave. Fuck off.
The Bourne Legacy is a fine movie; it’s well crafted, well shot, slick in the right places and agreeably grounded. For the most part, it’s imbued with its own distinct personality, separate from the original trilogy. The notable bit of fan service that does exist is handled quite thrillingly: the story ends with the characters roughly where their counterparts were at the end of Identity and, at just the right moment, Tony Gilroy blasts an orchestral remix of Extreme Ways. In lieu of screensaver-esqe title cards, we get a lovely, elegantly composed shot of a boat floating away into the Philippine Sea.
That is how you wink to fans. What you don’t do is to go back and wink to the conspiracy bullshit no one liked from the previous two films, and try to shovel even more conspiracy bullshit down our throats to “expand” the “mythos.” No one liked that crap. If you enjoyed the Bourne series solely for the intrigue, you’ve screwed up. You’ve done it wrong. You need to take a step back, re-evaluate your life and figure out what led you down this dark, fucked-up road to ruin.
All those stories about Tony Gilroy’s atrociously lazy script for The Bourne Ultimatum? I believe that a whole lot more now – this film unreels much like a shitty first draft. Whereas previous director Paul Greengrass wisely sought to reduce the role of the conspiracy bullshit and use it more as a bit of flavoring or backdrop, Tony Gilroy appears to be too attached to his written work to do any pruning as a director.
The result is a film that endlessly references The Bourne Ultimatum through innumerable verbal power spats between Edward Norton and his merry gang of shadowy, fat, old, ugly, probably cancerous government cronies. Yet, this perverse dedication to a putrid plot sets the film apart from the previous’ installments focus on propulsive action. I suppose I’m grateful for that, to a degree. Tony Gilroy realized that he couldn’t compete with Greengrass in terms of sheer excitement, so he went for a different mood, a different experience.
And, despite my previous written appraisal of Tony Gilroy’s script, I have to admit that this man knows how to write and finesse this kind of dialogue. I mean look at Transformers 2 – equally preposterous conceit yet with much, much worse scripted dialogue and without any sense as to how to stage these beats with the right amount of gravity and drama. Suffice to say that while the intrigue of The Bourne Legacy is its biggest weakness, these scenes and the arc are never so horrible to drag me down.
I do wish that Tony Gilroy and editor (slash brother) Joe Gilroy cut out 30 to 60 minutes from the first half of the movie, and shoved it in during the Flowers for Algernon phase of the story, but that might have ruined the deliberate pace the filmmakers were going for.
As per my earlier assertion, Tony Gilroy and crew execute almost everything else in the film well. The characters are, across the board, far more interesting than anyone in any of the earlier Bourne films. Everyone (except the Asian ninja dude at the end) has a fairly well thought out backstory and enough motivation and depth to be quite compelling. The action is well directed and well staged, never quite reaching the virtuosic heights of Greengrass’s almost ballet-like set pieces, but still far, far better than, say, that Total Recall remake.
The film does climax on a rather limp note, though. Previous Bourne films developed the main government baddie for the payoff where Bourne royally fucks him/her over. Norton and gang don’t really reach a similar moment with protagonist Aaron Cross in this movie. Cross fucks up a henchman, and basically just leaves everyone with their dicks hanging out in the locker room. It’s dissatisfying, but I don’t really know where else they could have taken this story. Maybe if more time had been spent with the ninja dude, the climax would’ve been more fitting.
As it stands, Legacy ends on a whimper, followed by a Moby-driven bang. I’m glad that Tony Gilroy found way to revitalize the franchise, and hope that he finds a new writing partner for the next one.
P.S. There is a serious case of nepotism going on through the end credits. I’m pretty sure that Tony Gilroy co-wrote and co-produced the film with one of his brothers and used another as the editor. I guess the Gilroys really want to be the next Coppolas.