Espionage

Better In The Dark #84: CASINO ROYALE and QUANTUM OF BOREDO…SOLACE! WE MEAN SOLACE!

007-daniel-craig

The journey the Boys Outta Brooklyn started back in Episode 34 is getting closer to completion as Tom and Derrick discuss the first  two films of The Reign of Craig. They examine how Bond was re-imagined for the 21st century, and how the unconventional choice of Daniel Craig fit the remit for change. They really like one film, hate the other one, and then talk about the present situation with MGM and what it bodes for the world’s longest-running movie franchise. All this, plus a little disagreement on the hotness of Karen Gillan, a major announcement, and the revelation of what the letters in QUANTUM stand for. It’s a six-head’s worth of fun, so get to clicking!

http://www.betterinthedarksite.com/episode-archives/episodes-81-90/

The Bourne Legacy

2012

Universal Pictures

Directed by Tony Gilroy

Produced by Frank Marshall and Patrick Crowley

Screenplay by Tony Gilroy and Dan Gilroy

Based on a story by Tony Gilroy

Inspired by The Bourne Series written by Robert Ludlum

I will give THE BOURNE LEGACY credit for being original in one major area: it’s not a prequel or sequel to the previous three Jason Bourne movies starring Matt Damon. The events of this movie take place at the same time the events of “The Bourne Ultimatum” play out. Jason Bourne is mentioned a few times and we briefly see pictures of him but for all intents and purposes these are new characters dealing with a different level of fallout caused by Jason Bourne exposing Operation Blackbriar and Project Treadstone.

But after that I’m sad to say I can’t give THE BOURNE LEGACY any more credit after that. Matter of fact, by the time I got to the end of the movie (which has a terrific new version of Moby’s “Extreme Ways” playing over the credits) I felt the filmmakers owed me.

While Jason Bourne is in Manhattan carrying on cranky, CIA Director Kramer (Scott Glenn) and Mark Turso (Stacy Keach) bring in Eric Byer (Edward Norton) to help control the chaos. Turso and Byer are apparently part of a larger organization/conspiracy that has way more power than the CIA since Byer is able to sanction the dismantling of all CIA Black Ops programs. Including Operation Outcome which is genetically modifying super agents through blue and green pills that enhance physical and mental abilities via a virus that can actually restructure DNA. Byer also sanctions the assassination of all Outcome operatives.

One of these super agents, Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is on a training mission in Alaska. He meets up with another operative, Number Three (Oscar Isacc) and caught by a blizzard, accepts Number Three’s invitation to stay the night. Kinda makes it easy for Byer to attempt to kill them both by using a U-CAV to blow up the cabin. Cross alone survives and somehow makes his way back to the lower 49 as he is out of blue and green pills and must get a new supply.

Virologist Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) is the only one who can successfully make more pills, all the rest of her colleagues having been brutally murdered in what is for me the movie’s best and most suspenseful scene. Marta barely survived that massacre and it’s only through Cross showing up at her house in time that she survives a hit team of CIA agents sent to kill her.  From then on, it’s Cross and Marta trying to stay one step ahead of various attempts to kill them. The film jumps back and forth between them and Byers, Turso and a buncha other suits in a control room that would give NASA technicians fits of envy. They spend most of their time fretting about their dirty tricks being discovered.  Really.  That’s all they do. They also yell at each other a lot. Cross and Marta don’t do nearly as much yelling but they sure do a lot of running.

I really wanted to like THE BOURNE LEGACY a lot. There isn’t an actor in this movie I don’t like or didn’t turn in a solid, professional performance. Jeremy Renner with this movie goes up a dozen rungs on the ladder to being the Next Big Action Star. Edward Norton doesn’t know how to do anything less than be terrific in any movie he’s in and Rachel Weisz is way more interesting playing a scientist than a lot of other actresses who have played brainy types.

But it’s that first hour of THE BOURNE LEGACY that sank the movie for me. Now I don’t mind a movie that makes me work and makes me think about what I’m watching but there is so much that happens in the first hour that is not explained and characters introduced and I wasn’t sure of who they were or why they were there or what they were doing or why should I care about any of it. Maybe it would have helped if I had re-watched the first three BOURNE movies before seeing this one but I don’t think that really would have helped.  The only actors from those movies who are in this one are Joan Allen, David Strathairn and Albert Finney but their appearances are little more than cameos.

John Gilroy did the editing for this movie. Now if you’ve been reading my reviews for a while you’ll note that I generally don’t mention editing unless it’s spectacularly bad and it is in this movie during the action and fight scenes. You can’t convince me that Aaron Cross is supposed to be an unstoppable fighting machine unless I can tell who he’s hitting and how he’s hitting them. Just a frantic blur of motion and bodies flying through the air don’t cut it for me. It’s not shaky-cam but it’s almost as bad.

Another thing that bothered me was the high number of innocent bystanders who get killed in this movie. If I’m correct and counted right, Aaron Cross kills at least six people who have nothing to do with the conspiracy trying to kill him and were merely people who were just doing their jobs. They’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And by the time I got to the ending I finally figured out why the movie is constructed the way it is. The studio is obviously so convinced this movie is going to be such a huge hit that a sequel is guaranteed and they needed to save a lot of story for that.

So should you see THE BOURNE LEGACY? I’m gonna grudgingly say yes. It’s not that it’s a bad movie. It’s professionally made and the performances are good. But it’s just that whole confusing first hour that didn’t work for me and the poorly edited action sequences.

135 minutes

PG-13

Hanna

2011

Focus Features

Directed by Joe Wright

Produced by Marty Adelstein

Screenplay by David Farr

 

HANNA is a movie that I fear I may be doing a disservice to as I wasn’t in the mood for the type of movie it is.  It’s an espionage/revenge film with some nifty fight scenes (Eric Bana has the best ones) a straightforward plot and some good performances with enough characters bits and quirks that had me chuckling a couple of times.  Which usually is enough to satisfy me in this genre.  But there are plot holes large enough to throw bowling balls through.  And it’s an action movie told and filmed as though it were an art house movie.  But then again, what can you expect from the director of 2005’s “Pride and Prejudice” and “Atonement”?  I’ve not got a thing at all against a director attempting to tell an old story in a new way but this way wasn’t my huckleberry.  But again, I say that could be because I was more in the mood for some good ol’ fashioned shoot-em-up-punchy-punchy-run-run and HANNA isn’t that.

Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) is a sixteen-year old girl who has spent her entire life raised in isolation.  Her whole world has been a cabin in Finland and the icy wasteland surrounding it.  Her father, rogue CIA agent Eric Heller (Eric Bana) has unrelentingly trained her to be a killer, pure and simple.  Hanna has extraordinary hand-to-hand combat skills, can live off the land and speak half a dozen languages fluently.  Her drawback is that Eric has taught her nothing of the outside world.  But she knows it’s out there and she wants to go and see what it’s like for herself.

Eric pulls out a transmitter he’s kept hidden all these years and tells Hanna if she’s truly ready to go, flip the switch to turn it on.  He warns her that if she does, their enemies will come for them.  Hanna turns it on.  The transmitter sends out a signal that alerts CIA agent Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett) that Eric is still alive.  She deploys a team to dispatch him but most of them end up getting dispatched themselves.  The survivors come back with Hanna, while Eric goes on the run, hiding out in Berlin.  Surprisingly enough, Hanna demands to speak with Marissa who is too smart to meet with Hanna herself.  She sends an agent in her place who is murdered by Hanna in an amazingly cold-blooded scene.   Hanna escapes from the high tech holding facility she’s been locked in, discovering to her amazement that she’s now in Morocco.  While wandering around, Hanna meets up with Sophie (Jessica Barden) who befriends her and persuades her parents (Jason Flemyng and Olivia Williams) to give Hanna a lift to Berlin.  Hanna’s dad has had her memorize a number of fake back stories which she uses to convince Sophie’s parents she’s simply a very independent young lady traveling on her own (they seem to completely overlook the fact she has no money, no passport and no luggage) and she hitches a ride with them.  So while Hanna gets a crash course in the ways of the world from her new surrogate family, Eric Heller and Marissa Wiegler continue to play out a deadly game of cat-and-mouse, bound by a dark and deadly secret they are actually eager to kill each other over in order to keep it buried.

When we stick with the espionage stuff, we’ve got us a pretty good movie.  Cate Blanchett appears to be having a good time being bad.  The only thing off about her performance is that she loses her American southern accent right in mid-sentence in some scenes and I’m wondering if she did it on purpose, especially given what we learn about her and her relationship to Eric Heller and Hanna.  And no, it’s not what you’re thinking.

I always enjoy spy/espionage movies set in Europe as they seem to be darker and less frivolous than American-set movies of the genre and HANNA takes advantage of great locations such as Germany, Morocco and Finland.  I only wish the story didn’t have such obvious holes.  Eric Heller has raised Hanna in a totally technological free environment for sixteen years yet she can work a computer to Google information about DNA research.  Sophie’s hippie family is embarrassingly ignorant.  And there are way too many fairy tales references thrown into the movie to try and give it that feel.  Especially near the end when Marissa’s role as The Wicked Witch/Evil Stepmother is practically spelled out in neon.

So should you see HANNA?  It’s an interesting movie; I’m not going to deny that.  I can’t think of the last time I saw an art house espionage movie and HANNA is well made, I’ll give it that.  It just didn’t engage me on an emotional level or make me care about its characters or what happened to them.  I say wait until it comes to Netflix.

PG-13

111 minutes