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The Bourne Legacy (Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack) Review

December 11, 2012 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
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The Bourne Legacy (Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack) Review  

Directed by: Tony Gilroy
Written by: Tony Gilroy and Dan Gilroy

Jeremy Renner – Aaron Cross
Rachel Weisz – Dr. Marta Shearing
Stacy Keach – Mark Turso
Edward Norton – Eric Byer
Scott Glenn – Ezra Kramer
Oscar Isaac – Outcome 3
Željko Ivanek – Dr. Donald Foite
Joan Allen – Deputy Director Pamela Landy
David Strathairn – Noah Vosen
Albert Finney – Dr. Albert Hirsch

Domestic Gross: $113,203,870
Worldwide Gross: $276,144,750

DVD Release Date: 12/11/2012
Running Time: 135 minutes

Rated PG-13 for crude sexual content, language, brief nudity

The path that The Bourne Legacy took in order to make it to the screen was somewhat longer and more winding than the five years between it and The Bourne Ultimatum would imply. The Bourne franchise helped revamp the spy thriller. Many point to the success of the adventures of Jason Bourne for inspiring EON and Sony/MGM to reinvent the Bond franchise the way they did in Daniel Craig’s rebooted take on the character. It certainly didn’t hurt that between The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, almost a billion dollars was brought in worldwide which made Universal keen on another film from the highly-profitable franchise. There were discussions and rumors about whether Matt Damon would continue in the role of Jason Bourne for a fourth film, which ultimately didn’t happen once Paul Greengrass dropped out of a potential return to direct. That brought Tony Gilroy in, and with him at the helm Universal decided to reinvent the franchise with newly-minted A-lister Jeremy Renner. The result, The Bourne Legacy, proved to be a moderately profitable venture for the studio. With its theatrical release behind it and the holiday shopping season in full swing, Universal has given the film its home video release in order to scare up a few more dollar signs and share their vision for a new spy hero with a greater percentage of the moviegoing public.

The Movie

The film takes up the storyline immediately near the end of The Bourne Ultimatum, allowing for a little bit of overlap between the two. With Jason Bourne wreaking havoc on the CIA’s Treadstone and Blackbriar black ops programs, causing them to be exposed them to the public, a third such program, known as Outcome, finds itself very quietly within the government’s own crosshairs in order to make sure that the world doesn’t find out about it. With CIA director Ezra Kramer (Glenn) and former U.S. Air Force colonel/current CIA black ops overseer Eric Byer (Norton) at presiding, agents of Outcome, who are able to operate at advanced physical and mental limits due to chemical supplements, are quickly and quietly disposed of in the midst their various missions around the world.

Aaron Cross (Renner) is one of those agents. Deployed to Alaska for a training assignment in order to make him regain his focus after a minor infraction, Cross manages to escape the death that Kramer and Byer have planned for him. More or less realizing what is going on and dependant on his meds to stay operating at a peak level, he heads to Outcome’s research lab where he has been worked on before to draft Dr. Marta Shearing (Weisz) into his quest to get a steady supply of chemicals. Shearing, who narrowly escapes her own lab’s cleansing at the hands of a brainwashed co-worker, finds herself in Aaron’s debt and promises to help him get a viable alternative to his chemical regimen, a quest that will take them to Manila and directly into the line of the CIA’s silencing fire.

In order to bring a new chapter in the Bourne films to the screen, Universal decided to stick to what was working for them in the writing department and retained Tony Gilroy, who wrote the first three films in the franchise, along with his brother Dan. The two took the plot landscape that was left at the end of The Bourne Ultimatum and use that to go in another direction, one that makes sense. With Blackbriar being established as a successor to Treadstone in Ultimatum it certainly stands to reason that the CIA would have other divisions in development so as not to have all their eggs in one basket, and the Gilroys do a solid job of establishing a story that stands on its own. Aaron Cross is written to be a capable hero, Marta Shearing makes sense in terms of being the woman who has a reason to tag along with Cross and Byer, Kramer and Stacy Keach’s Mark Turso make good villains trying desperately to cover things up. The plot never loses the required suspension of disbelief; the science behind the drugs used for their superspies is a bit goofy, but this is part and parcel to the spy thriller genre and it’s nothing that can’t be accepted with relative ease.

Gilroy also steps behind the camera to take on directorial duties in Paul Greengrass’ wake. This may have proved worrying to some who doubted Gilroy due to his lack of experience directing action. That caveat aside though, Gilroy has experience with espionage and thrillers with the uneven-yet-tolerable Duplicity and the excellent Michael Clayton under his belt, and he has a highly-capable team in the likes of cinematographer Robert Elswit (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol), editor John Gilroy (Salt), stunt coordinator Dan Bradley (The Bourne Ultimatum, Spider-Man 3) and fight coordinator Jonathan Eusebio (The Avengers). Gilroy proves to be a solid action director, guiding the fight scenes well and blending them in with the storyline in a smooth, cohesive way.

So why doesn’t it work as well as it should? The Bourne Legacy should, by all rights, be a thorough success, but instead it remains a modest one. The reason is simple; the film’s Bourne ties unfairly limit it. The story behind Legacy would have worked exceedingly well as a film standing on its own without any kind of sequel ties, but it can never quite escape the shadow of Jason Bourne looming tall over it. Aaron Cross is an interesting hero with motivations that we can understand and sympathize with, but compared to Bourne he’s just a guy on high-tech steroids. Every time we see Joan Allen, David Strathairn or Albert Finney appear on screen and every time we hear words like Treadstone and Blackbriar, we are forced to compare the film to the previous entries. The pairing of Cross with the in-over-her-head Shearing is even reminiscent of Bourne and Marie Kreutz in the first film. As much as Legacy wants to head in its own direction, it finds itself unable to escape the net of the trilogy that came before, it, which is a shame.

This isn’t to say it is a total loss though, by any stretch. Even if it is only a modest success, that is still success and that rests not only on Gilroy’s direction but on Renner and Weisz’ performances. Cross and Shearing are an interesting pair and the two Oscar-caliber actors are more than up to the task of portraying them. The two have solid chemistry with each other and do a fantastic job of portraying these two characters as real people, despite the fact that they have relatively little character history to go on. Edward Norton continues the franchise’s history of great CIA villains, working well with Glenn and Keach in their parts of the storyline. Supporting actors like Oscar Isaac (Drive, Robin Hood) and Željko Ivanek (Heroes) aren’t around for long but do good work for the amount of screen time that they have.

The technical aspects of the film are all done well. Elswit is an Oscar-winning cinematographer (for There Will Be Blood) and frames the film quite well, capturing the handheld style of the previous films while still adding a few stylistic flares of his own. The action is all well-shot and depicted; there is an extended chase scene that moves from rooftops to motorcycles that can easily be considered one of the top chase scenes in any film this year. The score by James Newton Howard–himself an eight-time Academy Award nominee–builds on the thrill of the action scenes and keeps things tense when it needs to be. It all adds up to an enjoyable experience that could have been even more enjoyable if it had been able to stand on its own.

Film Rating: 7.0

The Video

Universal Pictures presents The Bourne Legacy on Blu-Ray via the standard 1080p/AVC-encoded video, and it looks pretty fantastic. Elswit’s color scheme is very stark and the video transfer presents it as close to the original intention as one can fairly ask for. The color scheme is a bit muted but that is an artistic decision in the original image and not a video transfer problem; the image is sharp and clear with all detail well-defined and few if any digital artifacts noticeable. Grain, which is often the most problematic part of a Blu-Ray transfer, is at the perfect level here. Colors are exactly what Gilroy and company meant them to be, including the black levels. There are a few very minor issues that most people won’t even notice and even less will complain about.

Video Rating: 8.5

The Audio

Even those very minor flaws contained within the video are left behind when it comes to the audio transfer. The film has a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track that is entirely immersive, dropping the viewer directly within the action from an aural standpoint. The film’s use of the various channels is top-notch, with rear speakers consistently providing plenty to hear and the sides and front chiming in whenever appropriate as well. Dialogue is clear and easy to understand, never drowned out by either the ambient effects or Howard’s score; when talking about a film with as much exposition as this one, that is an exceedingly important task to accomplish and the audio track does it fine here. Low-frequency effects–the deep and low-pitched content–have a lot of weight to them as well. This is a top-notch audio track and for those without a multiple-speaker system the stereo track delivers as well. There are additionally DTS 5.1 tracks in French and Spanish, with subtitles in English SDH, French and Spanish.

Audio Rating: 9.5

The Packaging

The Bourne Legacy is housed within the standard Blu-Ray keep case with a cardboard sleeve depicting the poster as cover art. The image is clear and aesthetically-pleasing, but doesn’t really offer much to make it enticing as an action thriller as if Universal knows plastering the word “Bourne” at the top is enough. The disc itself is a simple and generic silver with blue lettering. The menu options on the disc are easy to navigate and clear to follow. It is far from the best packaging out there but it does the job required.

Packaging Rating: 6.5

Special Features

Audio Commentary: The audio commentary boasts several members of the crew including the three Gilroy brothers, Elswit, production designer Kevin Thompson and second unit director Dan Bradley. The group provides an informative and interesting listen as they discuss the various aspects of the development and production process, including the challenges they had in making sure this film tied into the other Bourne films. Tony Gilroy is an enjoyable listen and the rest provide him with a lot of backup; there is a lot of really great information here presented in an enjoyable listen.

Deleted Scenes: (6:48) These three scenes, which include optional commentary by the Gilroys and Elswit, are well-done but it is clear why they were cut out as they don’t add anything that isn’t covered elsewhere.

Re-Bourne: (6:11) This six-minute featurette has the cast and crew discussing the Bourne franchise as a whole and how to continue the franchise without Damon’s title character.

Enter Aaron Cross: (7:11) Focusing on the new lead character, this EPK short mostly focuses on Renner talking about how aware he was of the challenges in making a hero to replace Jason Bourne, as well the challenges of making a viable such hero while staying true to the feel of the franchise.

Crossing Continents: Legacy on Location: (8:22) This short has the cast and crew heading to various locales as they film the series, focusing on the exotic locations. It is very much the standard sort of “on location” featurette you can see on other home video releases of globe-spanning action thrillers, but worth watching nonetheless to enjoy more looks at the impressive locales and to hear the capable cast and crew talk.

Moving Targets: (6:11) This short takes the avenue of looking at both Cross and Marta, focusing on them as the heroes of the adventure and examining the parallel path they take that eventually leads to their teaming up. Obviously you have discussion from the Gilroys, Renner and Weisz on the characters, along with other members of the cast and crew.

Man vs. Wolf: (4:36) This takes a look at the opening sequences of the film where Renner and his stunt double face off with wolves in the Arctic. It’s interesting to look at and see where the real wolves, the hybrid dogs and the animatronics were used and gives you a bit more appreciation of the stunt and effects teams’ work on the scenes.

Wolf Sequence Test: (1:39) This is pre-visualization footage of Cross taking on the wolves, and is pretty self-explanatory.

Capturing Chaos: The Motorbike Chase: (7:49) This eight-minute featurette covers the epic motorcycle chase in the third act and all the work that went into it. If you weren’t already impressed by the entire sequence, you will be by the time this is done.

Special Features Rating: 7.5

The 411: The biggest crime Universal has committed with The Bourne Legacy tying the film to the Bourne franchise. On its own, the film is an exciting and enjoyable spy thriller with a capable lead in Jeremy Renner and a great supporting cast in Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Stacy Keach and Scott Glenn. Tony Gilroy proves himself an very good action director and the characters are interesting and worth following; every time it brings up Jason Bourne however, it starts to stumble and that hurts the project. The end result is a film that is still definitely worth watching, albeit with somewhat lowered expectations. Universal's home video release gives the film an excellent set of technical specs and decent special features, making it a spy thriller worth owning as long as you aren't expecting the next Bourne Ultimatum. It's too bad that "the next Bourne Ultimatum" is exactly what Universal set us up to expect.
Final Score:  7.5   [ Good ]  legend

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