Published on: August 17, 2012The Bourne Legacy
is a good example of strategic business thinking.
The producers of the first three Jason Bourne films - all big hits starring Matt Damon as the amnesiac assassin searching for clues about his past life while trying to avoid being killed by US intelligence agents - had a problem. Damon said he didn't want to do another Bourne film, but they didn't want to end the franchise. They could've rebooted the series by going back to the beginning, or they could've simply recast the part in the way that a half-dozen actors have played James Bond. But none of those options seemed to work.
Enter Tony Gilroy, who'd worked on the scripts of all three previous films and who had developed a strong reputation as director of Michael Clayton
, an excellent thriller, albeit one without the action of a Bourne movie. Gilroy's idea was simple - invent a parallel universe in which there are other Bourne-like spies, and focus on one of them dealing with the repercussions of Bourne's efforts to bring down the agency trying to kill him.
In other words, use the same source material but create something new that would simultaneously avoid direct comparisons with the earlier work (though comparisons will be made, of course) and create a foundation upon which to launch a new series of movies. (The beginning of Legacy
essentially takes place at the same time as the events in The Bourne Ultimatum
Hence, The Bourne Legacy
, co-written and directed by Gilroy and starring the almost ubiquitous Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross, who has been turned into a kind of super-spy with the help of chemical engineering. US intelligence wants to wipe out all evidence of the program that created him, which means killing Cross and anyone in contact with him; Cross needs to avoid being killed while simultaneously making sure that he is able to maintain access to the medications that keep him smarter and stronger than anyone else.
There are a few slow spots in the beginning as Gilroy goes through all the exposition necessary to understand the story, but that's a minor quibble. The movie looks gorgeous, is well-acted - by Renner, by Edward Norton as the government agent trying to cover up various programs that will make the US look good if they come to light, and Rachel Weisz as the scientist to whom Aaron Cross turns for help. (There also are nice turns by Stacy Keach, as well as by Joan Allen, Scott Glenn, David Strathairn and Albert Finney in roles they played in some of the earlier films.)
There are a couple of scenes late in the movie that give a hint about Gilroy's broader intent. They suggest a far more cynical view of the world that we saw in the first three films (though those hardly gave one a rosy view of the US intelligence community). If the Bourne
series goes forward - and I have no reason to doubt that it will - I'll be very interested to see where he takes it. Maybe a trio of films starring Renner, written and directed by Gilroy, all of them focused on his view of the world? And then they can find another actor to play a spy and spin him (or her ... why not?) out of that universe for another trilogy. (I've already got the title: The Bourne Alternative
When I was in Portland, I think I only turned on the television twice - once to watch the Wimbledon and once to look to see if there was a ballgame on. Because the apartment where I was staying didn't have HBO, I never got the chance to watch "The Newsroom," the new Aaron Sorkin series that has been on the last couple of months. Well, I've caught up with all the episodes to-date, and have to say that I have not been disappointed.
If you don't know, "The Newsroom" is about a fictional cable news program doing through emotional and philosophical upheaval - they've been doing soft news for so long that they've almost forgotten how to do serious, hard news. Sam Waterston, playing a crusty news division president, decides to hire a serious producer played by Emily Mortimer to revitalize the program and its anchor, played by Jeff Daniels. Of course, Daniels' character and Mortimer's used to be lovers, which creates a whole other level of tension.
The thing about Aaron Sorkin's work is that it is highly distinctive. His movies and television shows - which include A Few Good Men
, The Social Network
, The American President
, and "The West Wing" - are word-driven morality plays. They are about something
, and his characters prize intelligence above all else. They don't talk like real people, but that's okay. They just talk like many of us would like people to be able to talk.
"The Newsroom" has elements of Network
combined with elements of His Girl Friday
, and that's a good thing. It is still getting its bearings after eight or nine episodes, and I know some people don't like its use of real events as a backdrop for how the news program covers them, but I kind of like the context of it all; rather than create events "out of the headlines," it actually uses the headlines. And the cast is terrific.
Above all else, though, there is the writing. Sorkin can be an acquired taste for some, and other simply don't like or agree with his world view, and so cannot abide him. But even when I disagree with him, I love listening to the words and hearing the passion with which his arguments are made. In a political season during which intellect and sophisticated debate are in short supply, crushed under the weight of innuendo and cheap shots from both sides of the aisle and fueled by seemingly unlimited amounts of money, I'll take smart talk and passionate beliefs wherever I can find them.
That's it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.