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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 10 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 32
Movie Reviews
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Latest 'Bourne' film a familiar legacy
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

THE BOURNE LEGACY
Opens August 10


At the same time Jason Bourne is running around dismantling the CIA's clandestine Treadstone and Black Briar programs in New York, a shady outside operative, retired Col. Eric Byer, USAF (Edward Norton), is instructing his team, as well as a mysterious government bigwig - fellow retired military man Adm. Mark Turso, USN (Stacy Keach) - that they've got a bigger problem than just a single man on a mission of vengeance. They need to erase not only all memory of the programs Bourne was a part of, but the ones his training and development led to as well.

Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is in the wrong place at the right time. It's blind luck that the highly trained agent was in the middle of Alaskan nowhere when the kill order came down and, using every facet of his unique skill set, he's able to escape, wondering what is going on. But he needs to refill his medications - the drugs his superiors who have augmented his abilities have gotten him borderline addicted to. When the woman in charge of his medical evaluation, Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), is also marked for assassination, Cross knows it is up to him to save her, and in so doing hopefully get refills to satiate his growing need.

One thing leads to another, of course, a gigantic conspiracy far larger than anything Jason Bourne ever could have imagined ultimately unveiled as Cross and Shearing make their way across the globe trying to avoid detection. It's interesting, and even a great deal of fun, but there is no avoiding the fact that The Bourne Legacy, an expansion of the universe set forth by The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, and The Bourne Ultimatum - but without that trio's titular hero and star - does feel a bit on the overly familiar side. As spectacular as some of the beats are, as great as many of the escapes, close calls, and bits of intellectual ingenuity can be, the simple truth is that we've seen all of this before, and even though we're presented with a new cast of characters, the situations themselves present more than a little déjà vu.

SAME WORLD, BUT BIGGER But give credit where credit is due. Director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton, Duplicity) has had a hand in all of the previous films and he knows this world inside and out. Instead of going with a reboot - and simply jettisoning Matt Damon for another actor like the James Bond flicks have done for five-plus decades - he and his brother and co-screenwriter Dan Gilroy (The Fall) attempt to broaden the scenario, making the world Jason Bourne inhabited a much larger entity. They've set the action during what is essentially the last third of The Bourne Ultimatum, showing how Jason Bourne's New York demolition derby affected the shadier aspects of U.S. intelligence-gathering.

Better than that, Gilroy has managed to make this new direction of the series entirely his own while maintaining tonal fidelity with the trio that preceded it. Old characters played by Joan Allen, David Strathairn, Albert Finney, and Scott Glenn float in and out, while new ones portrayed by Norton, Renner, Weisz, Keach, Zeljko Ivanek, Donna Murphy, and Corey Stoll slowly take center stage. It is an efficient movie, electrically paced (even at 135 minutes), beautifully shot by Robert Elswit (The Town), enthusiastically edited by another Gilroy brother, John (Warrior), and scored to within an inch of its life by the great James Newton Howard (The Hunger Games).

The movie works far better than it probably has a right to. I was never bored by the proceedings and was constantly curious what was going to happen next and where Gilroy and company were taking us. Like the other entries in the series, the action propels the narrative, is organic to the material, and doesn't feel pre-designed so that the script would have to be molded around it. While a lot is taken on faith, and while many of the motivations are strictly of the surface-level variety, this is still a character-driven enterprise through and through, and as such it's extremely difficult not to become intertwined in the labyrinthine mess Cross and Shearing find themselves ensnared in.

Does that make The Bourne Legacy necessary? Not really, but that doesn't make it any less entertaining. It may be following familiar and in some ways iconic footsteps, but Gilroy is doing it with flair, skill, and panache to burn. The world of Jason Bourne has just gotten a heck of a lot larger, and if audiences find themselves drawn into it like I think they will be, I for one am curious to see just how far down this rabbit hole Cross, Shearer, Byer - and maybe, at some point, even Bourne himself - are willing to descend.


Ai Weiwei documentary nothing to be sorry about
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

AI WEIWEI: NEVER SORRY
Opens August 3


Director Alison Klayman was working as a journalist in Beijing when she met Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei. Over a period of time, she managed to gain something close to his trust, and the charismatic, if reclusive, artist allowed her to film him and his endeavors over a handful of years.

That's the basic story behind her documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, but as it concerns a figure as internationally lauded as this one, there's far more to it than that. At the same time, as big as this story is, as massive as the themes are, I can't say I know any more about him now than I did beforehand. I can't help but be impressed - what Weiwei is fighting for stirred me to my core, and his fight is one I wholeheartedly endorse - but as a human being he remains an enigma, and on that front I can't help but feel a tiny bit frustrated.

Still, a lot of what Klayman was able to document is stunning. Weiwei, the man behind the magnificent Bird's Nest Olympic Stadium that was the focal point for the 2008 Summer Games, is a fascinating figure, and the lengths he goes to in order to speak his mind and make his opinions known is staggering. His work crafting a memorial for the more than 5,000 children who were lost in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake is mind-blowing, while his aggressively passive attempts to document police intimidation and corruption are something else indeed.

Klayman shows all of this with ease and restraint, allowing all of the footage to speak for itself, whether captured by her own camera or by Weiwei (or one of his devoted pupils). She does not comment - each moment speaks so clearly there really isn't any need for her to do so. As an activist, what this man does, how devoted he is to getting truth out into the world (his Twitter following is second to none) - all of it borders on unfathomable, and the filmmaker showcases this fact with unhurried ease.

But the man himself? His human failings? What drives him? What makes him such an extraordinary, world-renowned artist? I'm not sure I know the answers to those questions. Klayman shows some of his flaws, at least as a husband, but she does so in a way that makes them seem like passing asides not worthy of interest - speed bumps that only hinder the portrait of the artist as a lofty figure worthy of adulation.

This is a problem, of that there is no denying. Most of the great human beings we have celebrated over the centuries had personal failings of one sort of another, and it was in those faults that we are able to grasp a greater understanding of the person as a whole and what it was exactly that made them great in the first place. No one is perfect, and while Klayman's film doesn't remotely suggest Weiwei is, it doesn't spend much time looking for shades of grey.

Still, this documentary is compulsively addicting. Once it starts rolling, once the artist starts digging in his heels and makes his opinions known, it's hard not to come away from the film monumentally impressed. Klayman's portrait could have been more fully developed and definitely could have dug a bit deeper, but it comes close to being essential viewing almost in spite of itself. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry isn't perfect, but I'm not sure it needed to be. A man as complicated and as intriguing as this one is deserving of numerous snapshots, even if the full picture might not ever be developed.






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Latest 'Bourne' film a familiar legacy
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