The Up-to-Date Monthly Update for November 2016

The penultimate monthly update for 2016 has a higher-than-usual compliment of films from 2016. How up-to-date of me.


#172 Bridesmaids (2011)
#173 Love & Friendship (2016)
#174 Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (2016)
#175 The Pianist (2002)
#176 Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016)
#177 Swiss Army Man (2016)
#178 Suicide Squad (2016)
#179 Arrival (2016)
#180 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
#181 The Deer Hunter (1978)
#182 Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)
#183 Star Trek Beyond (2016)
#184 Napoleon (1927), aka Napoléon vu par Abel Gance
#185 Jason Bourne (2016)
Arrival

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

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  • I watched 14 new films again this month (same as last). That makes this my 30th consecutive month with 10 or more new films.
  • As I mentioned, there were quite a few films from 2016. The total is ten, to be precise, or 71.4% of this month’s viewing. I’ll rate them when I review them, but scroll down to the Arbies for more about which I liked and disliked.
  • I spent three nights watching the 5½ hours of Abel Gance’s Napoleon, which made its hotly-anticipated Blu-ray debut this month. Still only counts as one film, though.
  • Making up for last month, I found time for two WDYMYHS films. Both are excoriating depictions of wartime: Roman Polanski’s story of life in the Warsaw ghettoes during World War 2, The Pianist; and Michael Cimino’s controversial take on the Vietnam war and its effect on (American) combatants, The Deer Hunter.



The 18th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
Quite a few enjoyable films this month, particularly among all those 2016 ones, but the one of the highest quality was definitely Denis Villeneuve’s venture into science-fiction drama, Arrival.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
Conversely, the weakest film this month also comes from 2016. I wanted to find the critics were wrong and side with the audiences who boosted it into the top 75 highest grossing films of all time, but no, Suicide Squad is a disappointing mess.

Longest Film of the Year (So Far)
I watched the ’59 Ben-Hur back in September, a film whose notoriously epic running time — 222 minutes, or 3¾ hours — would, most years, stand as unlikely to be surpassed. Thanks to the BFI, however, it has: Abel Gance’s silent epic Napoleon is a full 111 minutes longer at 333 minutes, aka 5½ hours.

Most Consistent Use of a Song
They’re back again: after 14 years and five films, Jason Bourne still ends with Moby’s Extreme Ways, just like every other film in the series. Never may it end.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
I confess to being slightly surprised by this month’s most-seen post. Besting several new releases (Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders was 2nd) and all-time favourites (Star Wars was 3rd), this month’s victor was my review of Denis Villeneuve’s arty psychological thriller Enemy.



Films that broke new ground rub shoulders with ones that settled into comfortable grooves, with everything from children’s movies about toys to adult movies about puppets.


As regular readers may have ascertained from the occasional reference I’ve made, I’m going to be away for a chunk of December. It’s not actually some big secret, it just wasn’t especially pertinent ’til now. We’re off on a family holiday to Hogwarts… in sunny Orlando, Florida. And all the other stuff, like Disney World and the Kennedy Space Center, all that jazz; but it was inspired by, as grown-up adult human beings, wanting to go to the Harry Potter theme parks. Something something for all ages, something something young at heart, etc.

So as this is posted, I’m currently… sat at home in the UK, because we fly tomorrow. Anyway, that means this blog will be quieter than normal for a bit — and as I’m away for 72% of the time it would cover, no advent calendar this year. I know I’m severely damaging your enjoyment of the holiday season, but it can’t be helped. Sorry. I’d love to tell you that I nonetheless have a mass of reviews scheduled to post so it’ll be like I’m not even gone, but I don’t. However, my 100 Favourites will continue as advertised (next up: #95 on Sunday), and there will be a couple of other reviews scattered in between, too. I may check in on comments from time to time as well, what with the connectivity of our modern world — so don’t be a stranger, y’hear?

It’ll undoubtedly have an effect on how many films I watch, though — will December destroy the 30-month run of 10+ films?!

Jason Bourne (2016)

2016 #185
Paul Greengrass | 123 mins | Blu-ray | 2.40:1 | UK, USA & China / English & German | 12 / PG-13

Jason BourneMuch like the Bond films to which they’re so often compared, the Bourne movies have their devotees while only fitfully pleasing the critical establishment. This fifth movie — which is notable for marking the return of star Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass after the semi-reboot of The Bourne Legacy — certainly met with mixed reviews when it came out at the end of this summer. Mixed erring towards negative, anyhow, though it does have its supporters. I’d love to say I’m among them, but my take was more… well, mixed.

The story picks up a decade-ish since the last Damon movie, Ultimatum (I don’t recall if the time gap is specified on screen, but we’re led to believe it’s been roughly real-time). Bourne is still living off the grid, participating in underground bare-knuckle fights in Greece for money and/or something to do. When his former associate Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) hacks into the CIA to retrieve documents on the black ops missions she and Bourne used to be a part of, she discovers something about Bourne’s past that leads her to meet up with him. In Langley, hotshot young tech-head Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) and her boss Director Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) are on to Nicky and presume Bourne is involved in her plot, dispatching The Asset (Vincent Cassel) to rub them out — but he has his own history with Bourne.

Bourne againAction sequences ensue, shot with all the ShakyCam you’d expect from Greengrass. By now I imagine you have your own view on whether his style works or not. Personally, I think it’s considerably less bamboozling than when it made its debut in Supremacy 12 years ago — it’s been so copied that we’re more used to seeing it. I think Greengrass has a better handle on the purpose of the style than many of his imitators, however. I’d also argue that the cinematography in Jason Bourne is a smidgen more stable, with shots held a few frames longer, so that it’s even less seasickness-inducing than before. In fact, some shots — even in the quick-cut action montages — are downright pretty. The film was shot by Barry Ackroyd, who hasn’t lensed a Bourne before but has done most of Greengrass’ other movies, so maybe that has something to do with it.

It’s in the big set pieces that Jason Bourne functions best. One in London in the middle of the film is just people walking around a lot looking over their shoulders, but Greengrass still invests it with some tension. Better is the climax, a kind of drag race down the Las Vegas strip… in the middle of traffic, of course. It’s largely implausible (I’ve been to Vegas — I remember the strip as being permanently gridlocked), but it’s certainly adrenaline-pumping. However, the highlight is probably the first: a chase through a smoky nighttime riot in Athens, with Bourne and Nicky on foot and then a motorbike as they’re pursued by the local police, an undercover CIA team, and the Asset, the latter two directed by Lee, Dewey, and their Langley lot via satellite imagery, CCTV, and… social media.

Government surveillanceFrankly, Jason Bourne is at pains to mix in hyper-current iconography; the reasoning for Damon and Greengrass’ return now being that the world has changed and how does Bourne fit into that? So as well as social media and Greek riots we’ve got references to and riffs on hacking, Edward Snowden, government surveillance of its own citizens, the prevalence of Facebook/Twitter-esque tech companies, and so on. Sadly, I’m not sure the film’s actually got anything to say about any of these things. Greengrass and his co-writer, editor Christopher Rouse, have appropriated all these zeitgeisty concepts to make the film feel very Now, but that surface sheen is more or less where it ends. I mean, there’s a whole subplot starring Riz Ahmed as the Zuckerberg-like CEO of a social media company that I didn’t even mention in my plot summary because it’s kind of an aside. It’s kind of ironic, really, that it always seemed as if Greengrass’ more natural stomping ground was his documentary-ish real-world-exposé type movies, with his contributions to the Bourne series an unusual sideline; yet when he finally marries the two halves of his filmmaking career, it’s the action rather than current-affairs commentary that takes precedence.

Even leaving that aside, the plot is no great shakes. It’s too slight, serving primarily to string together the three or four big set pieces; and it’s too simplistic — Greengrass’ Bourne movies used to be entertainingly baffling, a web of crosses and double-crosses and historical connections and hidden plans. Jason Bourne re-appropriates many of the series’ familiar beats — all of them, in fact — but it feels like Greengrass and Rouse just analysed the previous movies for repeated elements and copied them, rather than having anything fresh to do with the constituent parts. So while few of these building blocks are poorly handled, there’s little remarkable about them either. Some are at least elevated by quality performances: Vikander tries to inject complexity into her character, with some success thanks to final-act kinda-twists, while Tommy Lee Jones brings natural class.

Bourne bikerThe end result is that Jason Bourne does thrill as an action movie, which seems to have been the primary goal of its makers, at the end of the day. As an action-thriller, however, the rinsed-and-repeated plot is a slightly faded imitation of former successes; a through-the-motions way to provide those impressively staged chases and punch-ups. It’s not the definitive Bourne movie one might’ve expected from the returning star/director combo (why else come back if not to perfect, or at least add to, the formula?), but instead means the film ends on an odd note: even though it wasn’t a wholly satisfying experience, and even though it doesn’t end with questions still blatantly hanging (as every Bourne movie bar Ultimatum has done), I want Damon and Greengrass to come back and do it all again, please. Only do it properly next time, yeah guys?

3 out of 5

Jason Bourne is released on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK today and the US next week.

American Ultra (2015)

2016 #119
Nima Nourizadeh | 92 mins | streaming (HD) | 1.85:1 | USA & Switzerland / English & Mandarin | 15 / R

American UltraStoner comedies aren’t really my thing, but something about American Ultra — which is often pithily described as “Pineapple Express meets The Bourne Identity” — piqued my interest nonetheless. Partly it’s that Bourne comparison, obviously; partly it’s Jesse Eisenberg choosing to lead an action movie at this point in his career; mostly it’s the reception the film received: critics largely slagged it off, and audiences too, but there’s a noteworthy strand of people who enjoyed it. Sometimes the films with the niche fan base are the best films, and sometimes they’re the worst films. American Ultra is neither, merely settling somewhere between the two.

Max Landis’ wish-fulfilment screenplay (by which I mean Max Landis’ screenplay is about fulfilling Max Landis’ wishes) sees Jesse Eisenberg as a laggard stoner who turns out to be a CIA sleeper agent with Bourne-esque abilities, which are revealed when the director of a rival CIA programme (Topher Grace) sets out to kill him and anyone who stands in their way, including girlfriend Kristen Stewart.

Those aforementioned fans praise it for being original and different, but I don’t see where they got that from — it’s a Bourne clone with added comedy. And by comedy I don’t even Duuudereally mean it’s funny (there are two or three laughs, tops), just that it has a less serious tone. Even if you want to claim the Bourne similarities are just one facet, the film as a whole feels generally reminiscent of any number of low/medium-budget action flicks. It’s not bad, it passes the time, but original or exceptional? No.

3 out of 5

The Bourne Supremacy (2004)

100 Films’ 100 Favourites #16

They should have left him alone.

Country: USA & Germany
Language: English, Russian, German & Italian
Runtime: 108 minutes
BBFC: 12A
MPAA: PG-13

Original Release: 23rd July 2004 (USA)
UK Release: 13th August 2004
First Seen: cinema, August 2004

Stars
Matt Damon (The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Departed)
Franka Potente (Blow, Romulus, My Father)
Brian Cox (Manhunter, X2)
Joan Allen (The Ice Storm, Death Race)
Karl Urban (The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Dredd)

Director
Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Ultimatum, Green Zone)

Screenwriter
Tony Gilroy (Proof of Life, The Bourne Legacy)

Based on
The character of Jason Bourne, created by Robert Ludlum. Not so much based on The Bourne Supremacy, the novel by Robert Ludlum.

The Story
Bourne and Marie are living a quiet life in India, until he’s framed for the murder of two CIA agents and the theft of files they were acquiring. After the actual culprit tries to kill Bourne, he believes the CIA have tracked him down, and makes good on his promise to bring the fight to them…

Our Hero
Living a life of seclusion with Marie, but still struggling with resurfacing memories from his time as a CIA operative, Jason Bourne has no intention of going anywhere near his former life… until they come for him, and the gloves are off. Bryan Mills ain’t got nothing on Bourne’s particular set of skills.

Our Villains
A whole host of interests are aligned against Bourne this time. From within the CIA, corrupt director Ward Abbott is still trying to cover his ass. A more physical threat comes in the form of Russian operative Kirill, referred to in early drafts of the screenplay as “Mock-Bourne” because he, a) frames our hero, and b) is his equal — well, almost.

Best Supporting Character
Pamela Landy brings some complication to the CIA side of the story: she’s out to get Bourne, same as the fellas from the first film, but that’s because she’s been conned too. Will she see the light and side with our hero?

Memorable Quote
Nicky: “It’s not a mistake. They don’t make mistakes. They don’t do random. There’s always an objective. Always a target.”
Landy: “The objectives and targets always came from us. Who’s giving them to him now?”
Nicky: “Scary version? He is.”

Memorable Scene
In Munich, Bourne visits the one remaining Treadstone operative. They fight, using household items as weapons (see “making of”, below). Then a team of soldiers arrive. Bourne turns on the gas, shoves a magazine in the toaster, and… well, the result was disproved by MythBusters, but it’s still cool.

Technical Wizardry
The cinematography and editing, according to some.

Letting the Side Down
The cinematography and editing, according to some.

Making of
The film famously features Bourne using a rolled-up magazine as a weapon in a fight with another Treadstone operative. Fight coordinator Jeff Imada looked over the set after it had been dressed to get an idea of what would be lying around that could be used as a weapon, and had the idea of a rolled up magazine. He had to demonstrate to sceptical crew members that it would indeed be a functional weapon, but was helped by actors Matt Damon and Marton Csokas giving each other bruises from practising with it.

Previously on…
The Bourne Identity left enough hanging to help fuel this movie.

Next time…
Although Supremacy was designed to wrap up the mysteries left dangling from Identity, they found plenty to drive a third film, which completes the trilogy by answering those remaining questions. A fourth film was essentially a spin-off. This summer’s fifth film will be about… something…

Awards
2 Saturn nominations (Action/Adventure/Thriller Film, Actor (Matt Damon))
2 World Stunt Awards (Best Work with a Vehicle, Best Stunt Coordinator and/or 2nd Unit Director)
1 World Stunt Award nomination (Best Fight)
2 MTV Movie Awards nominations (including Best Action Sequence (the Moscow car chase))

What the Critics Said
“Greengrass keeps you off-balance throughout. When the fight scenes and car chases arrive, there’s no telling, from shot to shot, what we will see next or how we’ll see it. […] Working with cinematographer Oliver Wood, Greengrass shoots the fight scenes and chases so close in that we see some moments almost as a blur. The editors, Richard Pearson and Christopher Rouse, break those sequences up into quick jagged shots that key us up and keep us hyper-alert. The world is being broken into bits of information, and we look hard at the screen to take it in. The approach could have resulted in the usual visual gibberish that defines contemporary action moviemaking [but] you can always tell what’s going on” — Charles Taylor, Salon

Score: 81%

What the Public Say
“I thought the movie was shot well, though at times I felt that the shaky cam effect was overused, as instead of pulling you into the action, it just gives you a headache and a dizzy spell” — Zoë, The Sporadic Chronicles of a Beginner Blogger

Verdict

Debate used to rage about whether Identity or Supremacy was the better film, centred on their very differing directorial styles. Fans of Greengrass’ sequel seem to have settled on Ultimatum as their preferred Bourne instalment now, though, leaving Supremacy to be generally regarded as the least-best of the first three Bournes. That does it something of a disservice: it’s an exciting, twisty, complicated thriller, and its groundbreaking visuals can’t be ignored for their contribution to the action genre — for good or ill.

#17 will… always have Paris.

The Bourne Identity (2002)

100 Films’ 100 Favourites #15

Danger is Bourne

Country: USA, Germany & Czech Republic
Language: English, French, German, Dutch & Italian
Runtime: 119 minutes
BBFC: 12A
MPAA: PG-13

Original Release: 14th June 2002
UK Release: 6th September 2002
First Seen: DVD, 2003

Stars
Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting, The Martian)
Franka Potente (Run Lola Run, Creep)
Chris Cooper (Lone Star, Adaptation.)
Clive Owen (Croupier, Children of Men)
Julia Stiles (10 Things I Hate About You, The Omen)

Director
Doug Liman (Swingers, Mr. & Mrs. Smith)

Screenwriters
Tony Gilroy (The Devil’s Advocate, Michael Clayton)
William Blake Herron (A Texas Funeral, Ripley Under Ground)

Based on
The Bourne Identity, a novel by Robert Ludlum.

The Story
Pulled wounded from the sea, Jason Bourne can’t remember anything about his life, but is a highly-trained combatant. That comes in handy when assassins begin to hunt him down, as he races across Europe with the aid of Marie, a German woman he bumped into, trying to establish the facts about his identity.

Our Hero
A man found floating in the ocean with two gunshot wounds in his back, who can’t remember his own name but can speak several languages and has knowledge of advanced combat skills. A laser projector implanted under his skin leads him to a safety deposit box in Zurich that contains thousands of dollars in cash, a gun, and an array of passports, from which he chooses a name: Jason Bourne.

Our Villains
The CIA’s Operation Treadstone, led by Alexander Conklin, who have an interest in Bourne — an interest that may primarily involve killing him.

Best Supporting Character
Marie, a German woman in the right place at the right time when a chap offers her $20,000 to drive him from Zurich to Paris… and in the wrong place at the wrong time when it turns out a bunch of people want to kill him, and she’s acceptable collateral damage.

Memorable Quote
Bourne: “Who has a safety deposit box full of money and six passports and a gun? Who has a bank account number in their hip? I come in here, and the first thing I’m doing is I’m catching the sightlines and looking for an exit.”
Marie: “I see the exit sign, too. I’m not worried. I mean, you were shot. People do all kinds of weird and amazing stuff when they are scared.”
Bourne: “I can tell you the license plate numbers of all six cars outside. I can tell you that our waitress is left-handed and the guy sitting up at the counter weighs 215lbs and knows how to handle himself. I know the best place to look for a gun is the cab of the grey truck outside, and at this altitude, I can run flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking. Now why would I know that? How can I know that and not know who I am?”

Memorable Scene
Bourne arrives at the US consulate in Zurich, unaware his presence has been flagged after visiting that safety deposit box. As security guards surround him, Bourne demonstrates just what he’s capable of…

Making of
One of the most fraught productions of recent times, the behind-the-scenes woes of The Bourne Identity are too numerous to recount here, but too interesting (if you’re interested in that kind of thing) to overlook. Check out #4 here for more, like this: “It’s very rare that a movie comes out a year late, has four rounds of reshoots, and it’s good.”

Previously on…
Adapted as a TV miniseries in 1988 starring Richard Chamberlain, which is reportedly much more faithful to the novel.

Next time…
Three sequels to date, with a fourth out this summer. 2008 video game The Bourne Conspiracy takes place in and around the first film, though doesn’t use Matt Damon’s likeness. The film series also revived interest in Ludlum’s books, and consequently nine continuation novels have been penned by Eric Van Lustbader since 2004, with a tenth planned.

Awards
1 Saturn nomination (Action/Adventure/Thriller Film)
1 World Stunt Award (Best Work with a Vehicle)

What the Critics Said
“With a two-year shooting schedule, a script that was redrafted more times than the cast care to remember, and Matt Damon making at least two movies (Ocean’s 11 and Spirit) in the middle of all that mess, this thriller comes to the cinemas as much a marked man as its central character. Some of the joins do show, especially towards the end of the film, when a couple of minor characters disappear completely, but by then it has been too much fun to start picking holes.” — Emma Cochrane, Empire

Score: 83%

What the Public Say
“a point of departure from the action/spy genre, further making The Bourne Identity an anti-genre-genre film, is the cat like reflexes of Jason Bourne. Our first vision of him in action (remember, we’ve never seen Matt Damon like this before) is when he is laying on a park bench in Switzerland, approached by two policemen who are about to accuse him of loitering. Within the conversation, Bourne discovers he can effectively speak Swiss-German, and then as soon as one of the officers reaches to touch him, he responds with breathtaking speed and accuracy and before we know it, there is a little pile of police at his feet. […] nice guy Jason can’t really help it. Posit this against the casual cold blooded and calculated moves of the relaxed and suave Bond” — Lisa Thatcher

Verdict

The name’s Bourne, Jason Bourne… Maybe it was just me, but this Matt Damon action-thriller seemed to arrive under the radar back in the early ’00s (I don’t think I even heard of it until it was on DVD), but quickly established itself as the influential new kid on the block. Perhaps the Paul Greengrass-helmed sequels have been even more influential (they can be credited with bringing the much-derided ShakyCam style of filming action into the mainstream), but for me this first film is still the best of the bunch: an engaging mystery-thriller adrenalised by excellent action sequences.

#16 will be… Bourne again.

The Bourne Legacy (2012)

2013 #55
Tony Gilroy | 135 mins | Blu-ray | 2.40:1 | USA / English | 12 / PG-13

The Bourne LegacyAs Jason Bourne flits around London and New York making trouble for what’s left of Treadstone, a group of shady men go about safeguarding their own secretive activities. When Bourne exposes Treadstone, a series of convoluted join-the-dots links means it could bring them down too, so they set about destroying their risky initiatives, including killing a bunch of medically-enhanced operatives. What they didn’t count on was one surviving…

That basic setup covers roughly the first 30-40 minutes of The Bourne Legacy. Normally I’d hate to describe so much of a film, but it’s not my fault that co-writer, director and Bourne series veteran Tony Gilroy takes that long to get his story up and running. And it’s another 20 minutes before the real meat-and-potatoes of the tale begins.

And it feels it, too. About 52 minutes in I paused it and went to the kitchen. Not for any particular reason; I just needed a break. There, I saw a slug crawling into my dog’s water bowl, drinking the water or something, I don’t know. I’d never seen that before. I ended up watching that slug slowly edge around the bowl for 15 minutes or more rather than go back to the film. It’s that engrossing.

Gilroy has written or co-written every Bourne film to date, so you’d think he knows his way around the franchise — and he does, but perhaps too well. Each Bourne sequel has basically relied on the same formula: “the conspiracy was bigger than you thought, and now the next level up want Bourne dead”. That was fine in Supremacy — indeed, it took characters left dangling from Identity and wrapped up their roles. Cross by name, cross by natureFor my money, Ultimatum felt like it re-hashed this storyline, bringing in new characters to force a new level of backstory and hierarchy. (Clearly most viewers didn’t mind, as it’s widely regarded as the best Bourne film.)

And Legacy recycles this idea for a third time. Now, Treadstone and Blackbriar are just two of many such programmes run by the CIA and/or some shadowy higher organisation I’m not sure is real. On the bright side, they’re not after Bourne, but new escapee Aaron Cross. Not that it makes a huge amount of difference.

If such a repetitious story wasn’t bad enough, Gilroy spends a ludicrous amount of time setting it up. The beginning of Legacy overlaps with the end of Ultimatum, showing us in dully intricate detail what the numerous new CIA characters were doing during that time. And intercut with that we have our new hero wandering by himself across Alaska. For half an hour. This isn’t an art film meditation on isolation, it’s an action thriller — get a bloody move on!

What did Gilroy lose between Ultimatum and this? Well, co-creators. He co-wrote Identity and Ultimatum, and had two different directors across the first three films. Here he’s responsible for the story, co-writing (with his younger brother), and directing. He undoubtedly has some degree of talent, but maybe the other voices were essential to honing it. The other thing a fresh perspective could bring is fresh ideas. If Gilroy has rehashed the same basic plot three times now, surely they need someone with a new story to offer?

Ah, Rachel WeiszPerhaps also, after four films, he’s too close. Clearly that has advantages for remembering the intricacies of the timeline and continuity, especially with the trilogy’s increasingly complex web of conspiracies and conspirators; but maybe Gilroy has become too deeply embroiled in that. After all, he thinks it’s OK to spend the first half hour of the film connecting up the dots between the previous story and his new plot — who really wants that? That’s for geeky fans to do later.

And yet, for all that, the timeline doesn’t quite make sense. If we assume Identity is set in 2002, because that’s when it was released, then Supremacy is two years later, in 2004. Ultimatum is six weeks after that, so late 2004 or early 2005, and Legacy is immediately after that (as I said, the start overlaps). So, it’s set seven years ago? But a character finds a moderately key plot point on YouTube as if it’s the most natural thing in the world… but the very first YouTube video wasn’t uploaded until April 2005. I guess the films operate on a sliding timeline now, much like long-running superhero comics or the Bond films. That or The Bourne Identity is really a sci-fi film set in the Future Year of 2009. Considering the ‘science’ brought to bear in Legacy, perhaps that is the idea.

This is also the first Bourne film that leaves its storyline truly open. The other sequels had threads to pick up on, obviously, but if the series had stopped after either Identity or Supremacy, you’d have still had a complete tale (or Ultimatum, of course). It’s ironic, because this is also the first time I’ve been left with no desire to see a follow-up. The ending reminded me a bit of Saw IV, actually. For those who don’t know their Saw films, that takes place concurrently to Saw III, following different characters and a different storyline. Requisite Bourne movie car chase, with a bikeAt the end, the two films come together, adding a few seconds more story to what we saw at the end of IV, and ready to move on with unified purpose (well, sort of) in Saw V. Legacy feels like it concludes the same way: we’ve been introduced to new bad guys and a new hero, and the events that ended Ultimatum have been given a few seconds more development with a new twist; so now all is ready to rejoin where we left Bourne himself and continue afresh. Except Matt Damon seems to have ruled out that idea already. And, like I said, do we really want more of these characters and their increasingly ludicrous levels of conspiracy?

Legacy isn’t all bad. When it finally moves up to second gear (after a whole hour) there’s the occasional good action sequence. The requisite Bourne car chase is replaced by a bike chase, but I’d happily argue it’s at least the equal of any of the series’ other road chases — the only part of the film that can stand up to its predecessors, because the other fights and foot chases don’t have the same edge. Indeed, a rooftop/alleyway chase in Manila is just a rehash of Ultimatum’s Tangier sequence, but not as exciting. And through all that, the story remains resolutely uninvolving.

And don’t get me started on the cast. Jeremy Renner is fine as an action man but doesn’t deliver any other significant likeable qualities here (and I don’t think that’s his fault). Rachel Weisz is normally brilliant, but here is reduced to a snivelling plot piece. They’ve made her character a Clever Scientist, which is presumably supposed to make her a Strong Female Character too, but that’s not how it’s played at all. Edward Norton Starring Edward Norton staringis wasted staring at monitors; Albert Finney is literally wasted, his one meaningful moment relegated to the Blu-ray’s deleted scenes section; Zeljko Ivanek gets a pivotal character but is underdeveloped and so his talents are wasted; and some actors from previous Bourne movies appear to be credited merely for use of their photos, until they turn up for ten-second cameos near the end that you’d rather weren’t there because it means someone is planning on a Bourne 5.

After the muted reception Legacy got on release I was expecting it to be mediocre — or perhaps, if I was lucky, underrated — but I thought it was mostly just boring, worse than I’d heard, and not even close to any of the previous Bourne films. They’re exceptional examples of the action-thriller, of course, but this isn’t even good as a routine genre entry, because it’s quite spectacularly dull. I do believe they could have continued this series without the character of Jason Bourne — there’s potential in some of the ideas here. But this version just doesn’t work, as a compelling film or worthy successor.

2 out of 5

The Bourne Legacy is on Sky Movies Premiere at 4pm and 8pm every day for the next week.

It featured on my list of The Five Worst Films I Saw in 2013, which can be read in full here.