Movie Reviews: The Bourne Legacy, The Expendables 2, Take This Waltz

The Bourne Legacy ***

“There was never just one,” declares the strap-line on the posters for The Bourne Legacy (12A) as the makers seek to justify making a Matt Damon-less Bourne movie.

Written by Dan and Tony Gilroy, and directed by the latter, the story ties in the plight of Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) with that of Jason Bourne, whose attempts to uncover the truth about himself have prompted the powers-that-be to pull the plug on ‘the programme’ of super secret agents, and to do so in lethal fashion.

Cross enlists the help of scientist Dr Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) as he races to understand why his employers have suddenly become his implacable enemies.

It’s a very Bourne set-up, as you might expect, which allows Tony Gilroy to deliver a very solid thriller, albeit one that never quite steps out of the shadows of its predecessor.

The irony is that Renner is entirely convincing as a cerebral action hero, and his narrative arc, and relationship with Weisz, is as plausible and poignant as the action thriller genre allows for.

A very strong supporting cast includes Scott Glenn, Stacy Keach, Edward Norton, David Strathairn and Joan Allen, and the action sequences, which are less numerous and frenetically edited than of yore, are entirely adequate.

What lets the film down is a non sequitur of a motorbike-chase finale, in which Cross and Shearing are pursued by a nemesis who only appears in the final act, and the insistence on relating virtually every single detail back to the Bourne trilogy.

It may be the case that The Bourne Legacy, in curtailing Renner’s freedom to establish an action hero unencumbered by the Bourne baggage, have emphasised the paranoia that underpins the tale by creating a film obsessed with continually peering over its shoulder.

Unfortunately, this movie constantly compares itself with what has gone before, with the comparisons favouring the original incarnation.

The Bourne Legacy is an action-thriller masterpiece when set against The Expendables 2 (16s). Here Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) marshals his gang of mercenaries — which includes Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li, Terry Crews, Liam Hemsworth and Chuck Norris — when Ross’s old sparring partner Church (Bruce Willis) blackmails him into retrieving vital information from a plane-crash in China.

The mission finds the Expendables tangling with the evil Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme), and even though it’s all intended to be as tongue-in-cheek as might be expected from an action flick that names its chief bad guy Vilain, this is as offensive a film as you’ll see all year.

Asinine dialogue, woefully stiff acting and laboured in-jokes all contribute to a movie that lumbers along like a fatally wounded dinosaur incapable of understanding its time has long passed.

Something of a welcome respite is Take This Waltz (16s) starring Michelle Williams as Margot, a married woman who flirts with Daniel (Luke Kirby) while on a trip to research her job as a travel writer.

Unfortunately, Margot discovers that Daniel, who is equally smitten by her, has just recently moved into her neighbourhood. Desperate to remain faithful to her husband, Lou (Seth Rogen), Margot resists all of Daniel’s attempts to woo her, even as she is irresistibly drawn to his magnetism and repelled by Lou’s thoughtless presumption that their marriage is impregnable.

Written and directed by Canadian director Sarah Polley, Take This Waltz is a beautifully crafted tale which subtly explores the inextricably linked conflicts of love, lust, fidelity and betrayal that beset the unfortunate Margot.

Crucially, however, Polley does not render Margot’s situation simplistically; our heroine is not a victim of fate, nor a helpless pawn of love.

Williams is superb in conveying the delicate balance between struggling to tame her passion and the fear of allowing a life’s opportunity pass her by, which essentially boils down to the simultaneous terror that goes with having an affair and not having one.

Kirby, Rogen and Sarah Silverman provide strong support, but Williams steals the show with a performance that incorporates quiet desperation and an illuminating journey of self-discovery.

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