The Bourne Legacy (2012)
Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Joan Allen, David Strathairn, Albert Finney, Scott Glenn, Louis Ozawa, Oscar Isaac, Donna Murphy, Dennis Boutsikaris, Stacy Keach, Zeljko Ivanek, Paddy Considine, Corey Stoll, David Asmar, John Arcilla, Lou Veloso, Elizabeth Marvel, Shane Jacobson and Corey Johnson
The Bourne Legacy is the fourth film in the Bourne series that are based on Robert Ludlum's Jason Bourne novels. The first three films were of course "The Bourne Identity" (2002), "The Bourne Supremacy" (2004) and "The Bourne Ultimatum" (2007). Director Tony Gilroy was a co-screenwriter on the first three films. It was his decision to continue the series without changing its key events, some of the events in this film overlaps with that of the third. Matt Damon who played Jason Bourne didn't return in this film. I was personally not very excited about the idea of continuing what is already such a well established trilogy. The way it found its footing, the way it was carried out and the way it ended, what else would you want to do? Still though, I really like Jeremy Renner so I was hopeful for the film. The Bourne Legacy is about a CIA agent Aaron Cross (Renner) who is a member of a black ops program. He is a field operative who is genetically enhanced as part of Operation Outcome which utilizes these special pills that enhances both physical and mental abilities thus making them sort of super-soldiers. When we see him, he is in Alaska for his training exercise in which he has to survive the harsh climatic conditions. He'll arrive at a remote cabin if he does so, where he'll find another operative, Number Three (Isaac). But things go wrong for both of them when Bourne's actions leads to public exposure of Operations Treadstone and Blackbriar. Eric Byer (Norton) who is a retired Air Force colonel is brought in who discovers a video on the Internet that could lead even further exposition of agents and programs within CIA. So Byer decides to shut down the Operation Outcome and kill the agents. They'll have another supposed program of super-soldiers to cling on to so this sacrifice would be worth it. The drones that are sent to Alaska ends up killing Number Three in that cabin but Cross is able to escape repeatedly. He tricks Byer into thinking that he is dead.
The first three Bourne films, specially the final one, were really smart and exciting thrillers. There would always be enough to chew on, excitement of being a well-made thriller as well as on character level, the series offered a good way of building and exploring the identity of its titular character. This film lacks almost all of these things. First and foremost, there aren't many action sequences in the film. Then it drags on and on without ever really doing the effort to introduce us first with the characters and their situations. They are done in a very traditional way, that is the expositions and over the top statements. The film fails to really provide an interesting and smartly constructed narrative where all of these pieces fit. The side of its rogue agent, his exploration, his journey, what he ends up doing along the way, the CIA people, the government. I was looking for when this film will get interesting but it took a while to make that happen. Even when the character played by Rachel Weisz comes in. She is the sole-survivor of a shooting who works in a lab where she gives doses of those virus to the agents and blah blah. She is Cross' last chance to access what is necessary for his survival. By the time they escape together to get access to medicine/virus in Philippines for Cross, the film becomes your typical action fare. I really like Rachel Weisz but what the hell is she doing in this film? A lackluster and lifeless character played typically boring by her. I liked how Renner looked and carried out the action scenes but he too was disappointing. The loud and endless chase scenes through the street, markets, roads were nicely done but then it was too late for the film to redeem itself. I mean talk about trying to be desperate. The Bourne Legacy is hurt by its muddled writing and lack of a proper direction. It falls victim to its own ideas that fails to work in the presence of an already established body of work. In parts, the film looks good and seems as if it might work anyway but it doesn't. Cross is not an interesting character, he is lost somewhere in the film and fails to connect with us or even with himself. It drags and talks a lot but fails to make it all convincing. Not a very bad film by any means but it is an unnecessary addition.
The Door (2012)
Helen Mirren, Martina Gedeck, Karoly Eperjes, Gabor Koncz, Eniko Borcsok, Mari Nagy, Agi Szirtes and Peter Andorai
The Door is a Hungarian film that is based on a novel of the same name. Prior to watching this film, I had no knowledge of its existence. It popped up on one of the TV channels and I had nothing else to do, not to forget that it starred Helen Mirren so I decided to give it a try. Emerenc (Mirren) is a maid who works for a family of two. She lives in a small house which is opposite to the house she works in. Emerenc is a different personality, she is very methodical when it comes to her work and habits. She sweeps, cleans and cooks. For the most part of the film, we are unaware of her life beyond this. She never lets anyone in, whether its her past life or her home. She has completely closed 'the door' if you will. Frankly, this film turned out to be a big bore for me, a waste of time. The Door is really bland for the entire time, the story or the charcters never get interesting and lack any sort of appeal. By appeal I don't mean emotional attachement but any distinct identity, colorful nature or convincing personas. Every other character around Emerenc are even further bland because they don't have much to do. So the film tip-toes around the character that never lets anyone in and the characters who don't have much to them beyond their mere existence. Magda (Gedeck), who is the employer living in the house with her husband is given enough share of spotlight herself. Though sometimes her part is dragged long enough that one forgets that Emerenc is supposed to be the main character. Once the film comes right back to Emerenc, you are lost as to what this film is actually trying to do with its characters and what it is that it wants to tell. Taking too much time to hold off something which in turn would not really affect much in the end.
Emerenc lived an interesting life and she went through quite a lot. The demons of her past still haunts her as evident by some scenes where she just erupts into hysteria, no longer able to hold it all in. The ambiguity that film tries to build, it never is able to do that. Helen Mirren has her moments in The Door when she is able to showcase her acting talents. The dinner scene outburst, when the person Emerenc is about to meet never shows up is one of them. For the most part though, Mirren isn't really able to break free from the mediocrity of the film itself. Emerenc has become a bitter, sometimes cruel and insensitive character. I guess that is what closing the door does. Mirren is almost convincing in portraying that side of her character but she falls flat for the most part. Don't know why she did this film in the first place? Other actors aren't that good as well here. Talking about writing, the dialogues often feel quite clumsy and lacking. Like poor translation of some foreign film. Yes, it is in English but the writing is quite bad. The direction of the films is quite tasteless as well. There isn't much subtlety in the more deeper aspects of the characters, making them bone dry and boring doesn't equal darker or veiled characters. It all comes across as if one is simply translating a given text without any desire or compulsion to look beyond, explore deeper and portray in an orderly manner the characters and their situations. Visually simple as one would expect, with the exception of one scene, pretty dull too. The Door for me is one of the worst films of 2012.
The Secret World of Arrietty (2012)
Mirai Shida, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Shinobu Otake, Keiko Takeshita, Tatsuya Fujiwara, Tomokazu Miura and Kirin Kiki
The Secret World of Arrietty is a beautiful little film from Studio Ghibli that is directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi while co-written by master Hayao Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa. The film is based on a children's book "The Borrowers" by Mary Norton. The story is basically about tiny people who live in the walls and floor of typical households. Of course their existence is a secret and they always try their best to remain as such. For their survival, they borrow things from humans and try their best to avoid being detected. At the heart of it, a young girl-borrower named Shida befriends a human boy named Kamiki. Their friendship and the boy's acceptance and openness to these different people is what forms the core plot of the film. Which isn't to say that the film itself has so much plot or adventure but it is a distinct feature. The humans live the way they do, both peacefully and otherwise but rarely together. Through the eyes of these tiny people, we are quite big. But we have much smaller hearts and mindsets. Nature, eco-system, society is for everyone and every single being. Just like us, every big and small, normal and different deserves to live. The recent Studio Ghibli offerings (minus "Ponyo") never really impressed me as much as I thought they would. They aren't among the best of what this wonderful studio have offered up until now. But still for what they are, I prefer them over the dumb and stupid animated films that the kids are mostly subjected to these days. I still liked The Secret World of Arrietty very well but had slight problems with the fact that the film never got interesting in many ways beyond what it showed. It is gentle and calm by nature, which is fine. But there isn't much conflict there and the characters are easily resolved and pre-thought, typical versions of who they are. This isn't like usual films from them you know where the characters stands far and above.
Call it a Ghibli-lite if you can. It is very easier on mind and heart. Probably for the very younger kids but there is again a disbalance where it clearly wants to show emotionally mature elements and situations but refrains from doing so for the kids. But it wasn't as much of a severe problem for me because I liked what I saw and what the story was and where it ended. On the other hand, the film has splendid visuals. It is quite appealing how the miniature world of those tiny people is designed. Things look big and dangerous from their perspective, the very things that don't really matter to the humans otherwise. The more beautiful things like tiny drops to name one, are shown with equal care for those tiny people like any other thing for humans. The characters themselves are nicely created. As usual, the change in perspective between both the worlds creates quite a contrast. The scenes where either side of the characters panic are the ones that truly breathe some odd mix of horror and humor into the film. Life of the borrowers is quite simplistic and it is shown in a very observant way. Those scenes create an otherworldly, almost post-apocalyptic kind of feel. There is a shift in story where the borrowers' survival is challenged which is a nice turn. They are people too you know. Different but still people. They have as much right to live like anyone of us. The very balance of the nature is turned upside down in the film because of those tiny borrowers and the people of that house react in their own way. All but one of course. The storytelling though never too deep remains charming and beautiful enough. The visuals are lovely and the film has a good score. It is nice and slow, careful and fragile just like those tiny borrowers.