Awards Profile: The Bourne Legacy

Directed By: Tony Gilroy
Written By: Tony and Dan Gilroy (Based on Eric Van Lustbader’s novel of the same name from the universe created by Robert Ludlum)

Cast: Jeremy Renner, Edward Norton, Rachel Weisz, Joan Allen, David Strathairn, Albert Finney, Stacy Keach, Oscar Isaac, Scott Glenn, and Corey Stoll.

Synopsis (Courtesy of IMDB): A story centered on a new CIA operative in the universe based on Robert Ludlum’s novels.

Why It Could Succeed:
Aside from being one of the most critically acclaimed action franchises of the 21st century, one has to sit back and gawk at the cast list. Six of the first names mentioned in the roster are all former Oscar nominees, and one of them has actually taken home the golden juggernaut (Rachel Weisz). If the quality of actors that are littered in the film doesn’t excite you enough, then Tony Gilroy’s new seat as director just might. Yes, I am deeply wounded knowing that Paul Greengrass has decided to step away from the project, but I’ll reserve judgement for the franchise’s changing of the guard until I see the film. I will be the first to admit that I am no fan of Tony Gilroy the filmmaker, but I do love his screenplays. The fact that Gilroy is a resident screenwriter for the Bourne series leads me to believe that the film will probably be in good hands. As much as I love the incomparable force of energy that is Matt Damon, there is something genuinely exciting about Jeremy Renner filling in the role as the titular hero, carrying on this heroic “legacy” that Damon so intensely paved.

CIA Deputy Director Pam Landy returns. I love me some Joan Allen!

For those of you who are not intimately familiar with Robert Ludlum’s Bourne novels, I can assure you that the films and the novels exist in two entirely different realms. Paul Greengrass made sure of that with his shocking decision to kill off a main character at the start of The Bourne Supremacy, and ever since that bold move was made the series has flourished into something not even Ludlum could have foreseen. Main characters are easily dispensable, and paranoia and claustrophobia are to Jason Bourne what oxygen and food are to you an I. Credit has to be given to Greengrass in this regard, but Gilroys’ screenplays have always been a high point of the series. The tense dialogue nearly matches the intensity of those stupendous action sequences, so I am just praying that Gilroy can handle the series in a way that remains respectful to Greengrass’s erratic atmosphere while imprinting an artistic stamp of his own.

The five year release gap between the The Bourne Ultimatum and this new film has certainly upped the anticipation levels. I don’t expect the box office success of the previous two Bourne films, but I do believe that the wide demographic for this film will hit theaters in droves. The Bourne series has always been a huge hit with males ranging from their teenage years to those hitting the green with their fellow senior chums. Older generations of readers love Ludlum’s Bourne series as if it were their religion, and the all-important 18-35 male demographic is drawn to these types of action flicks that are high-octane, intense, and ultimately cathartic as a movie-going experience. I worry that the film may not attract the large female audience that a superhero or Bond franchise might, especially now that Matt Damon is no longer attached to the project, but this fourth entry in the Bourne series will certainly earn returns and then some.

Why it Could Fail:
Although Jeremy Renner has been a household name for film buffs and awards prognosticators like ourselves ever since The Hurt Locker, I’m not sure the American public sees him in the same recognizable light. I’m convinced Renner’s current status in America’s eyes is: the dude who played that hero in The Avengers who shoots a bow-and-arrow like a true badass…dude! By name alone, he doesn’t particularly draw in a huge audience, and his recent bouts in franchise films have him sidelined to minor supporting roles. This is Renner’s first leading role in a blockbuster, and I sure hope he is charismatic enough to draw in the masses. Personally, Renner is more amazing each time I see him. Like Jennifer Lawrence, he’s an actor who is diverse enough to succeed in any given genre, be it action, science-fiction, romance, comedy, or drama. Likewise, Renner can maneuver between a heroic persona and a villainous one with ease and believability. It will be interesting to see how he handles his morally ambiguous assassin-turned-agent role in The Bourne Legacy. I just worry that Renner may not have the magnetism of his Bourne predecessor.

Before I begin this next paragraph, I want to give you fair warning: what I am about to say will probably upset many Tony Gilroy fans. You have been forewarned, so here goes. Oh Tony Gilroy, where do I even begin? Never have I seen a filmmaker with such talent as a writer fall as flat on his face like he did with Michael Clayton and Duplicity. In fact, I preferred Duplicity more than his obnoxiously overwrought Clooney thriller. What Gilroy does amazingly is build tension from the dialogue spoken amongst his actors. Where he fails is in the aftermath — when the dire circumstances come to fruition outside of the closely-quartered offices, they cease to be interesting or meaningful. Gilroy’s action sequences are as dull as they are uninspired, and I have serious misgivings about what The Bourne Legacy has in store for us since Michael Clayton and Duplicity have already indicated a failure in the suspense-thriller genre (at least to this lover of film). Sure, Duplicity may have been more of a comedy-thriller, but I think the majority of us were laughing at the absurdity of the plot than the punchlines of the dialogue. I also find Gilroy’s style a bit outdated, stale, and cliché. He tries to wow with some stylistic title sequences that seem ripped from such classics like Hitchock’s North by Northwest. In fact, his flair for the stylistically dramatic threatens to swallow his films whole, implosion all but a guarantee.

Will you be 'Bourne' again this August?

The recent Bourne Legacy trailer had me concerned that Gilroy’s drastic diversion from Greengrass’ hand-held, realistically envisioned approach would mark the film as one embodying the age-old “style over substance” dilemma. But here’s the kicker: how can you have style over substance when the style ceases to exist? The use of bars cutting across the film in fractured form may be emblematic of the split-identity of Renner’s character in the chaotic world he inhabits, but I believe Tony’s intent isn’t analogical. He’s simply trying to demonstrate his equivalency to the boys who’ve done similar work better a la Hitchcock and Fincher. To me, that kind of film-making is a tad pretentious (unless you are the aforementioned masters), especially since fans are looking forward to the action and plot more so than the superficial layering of the film. Gilroy has a handle on his dialogue, no question, but it’s his execution as a director in this genre that has me so deeply concerned. In an ironic sense, all the problems I’ve described with Gilroy has me anticipating the film even more so. I love when somebody proves me wrong, and I cannot wait to see what Gilroy has to offer the Bourne franchise in the role of director. However, are we in for a major upset with the absence of the maestro of editing, Academy Award Winner — for  The Bourne Ultimatum, no less — Christopher Rouse? Let the weeping begin…

Awards Speculation:
Because of the legacy Christopher Rouse left in both The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, the first awards speculation for this franchise goes straight to “Best Film Editing.” The editor for this film is Tony Gilroy’s brother, John Gilroy, who has done some impressive work in Michael Clayton and last year’s Warrior. I’m not sure his body of work can measure up to Rouse’s god-like editorial powers, but I’m never counting out a Gilroy in the Oscar race. Speaking of Gilroy, does anyone believe this could be one of the first major times where an action blockbuster nabs an Oscar screenplay nomination? I doubt it will happen, but Gilroy’s strength does lie in his command of words and the intense dialogue sequences that come from them when projected onto the silver screen. Gilroy also have marvelous actors to deliver his spellbinding words, so they should all be convincing enough to possibly get a screenplay campaign underway. Speaking of the actors, I doubt any of these Oscar-nominated pros will fall under the Academy’s radar. The franchise has simply too much going on for one particular performance to be singled out.

The biggest delight of The Bourne Legacy is the return of cinematographer Robert Elswitt to the screen. His work in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and There Will Be Blood (for which he won his Oscar) was mesmerizing. He’s had a few hiccups in his career — Salt was not a solid effort — but by and large, this cinematographer is one of the all-time greats. If he shoots this film with his usual sense of scale and depth, Oscar might just come a knockin.’

The Bourne Legacy will be released on August 3rd, 2012. The film is being produced by The Kennedy/Marshall Company and distributed by Universal Pictures.

Oscar Potential:
Best Film Editing — John Gilroy
Best Adapted Screenplay — Tony and Dan Gilroy
Best Sound Editing
Best Sound Mixing
Best Cinematography — Robert Elswitt
Best Original Score — James Newton Howard