Skip to main content

In The Bourne Legacy, Matt Damon’s amne­si­ac super-soldier Jason Bourne is a shad­owy fig­ure, loom­ing invis­ibly over a plot that for con­trac­tu­al reas­ons can’t accom­mod­ate him. It’s as if he’s in the sin bin – after a yel­low card for demand­ing dir­ect­or approv­al – watch­ing the clock tick down until he can take the field again.

The dir­ect­or that Damon objec­ted to is Tony Gilroy – co-writer of all the Bournes and writer-director of Michael Clayton – and next time someone should listen to Damon’s instincts. He said he wouldn’t do anoth­er Bourne without Paul Greengrass (dir­ect­or of the last two, Supremacy and Ultimatum) and the weird com­prom­ise con­cocted by Gilroy to keep the fran­chise alive will prob­ably only sat­is­fy the stu­dio and the Robert Ludlum estate. Bourne is on life sup­port but no more than that.

The plot of The Bourne Legacy runs roughly par­al­lel with the last of the Damon films. As Bourne is attack­ing the sin­is­ter gov­ern­ment forces who turned him into a ruth­less killing machine, the state in turn is try­ing deper­ately to shut down the pro­gramme and des­troy the evid­ence. One of those bits of evid­ence is Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) who escapes an attempt on his life in Alaska and goes search­ing for the source of the drugs that made him so strong. His jour­ney – with the help of sci­ent­ist Rachel Weisz – is cross-cut with some of America’s finest act­ors sur­roun­ded by satel­lite imagery on big screens say­ing things like “How could that hap­pen?” and “I don’t know!”

Perennial second-banana Renner shows lead­ing man poten­tial for the first time but unlike Greengrass, Gilroy is no great shakes as a dir­ect­or of action so – com­bined with the pur­pose­less plot – the res­ult is the first tedi­ous Bourne movie – The Bored Legacy.

Richard Linklater’s Bernie is the fun­ni­est and warmest slice of American small-town life since Waiting for Guffman. Carthage is in rel­at­ively civ­il­ised east Texas – that dis­tinc­tion being made by a help­ful loc­al in one of the many real and mock inter­view seg­ments – and likes to think of itself as the small town’s small town. The people are gra­cious, gen­er­ous, decent and respect­ful and when Bernie Tiede II (Jack Black) moves to town as assist­ant dir­ect­or of the loc­al funer­al home he fits right in. He’s all of those things to a fault.

When grumpy loc­al wid­ow Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine) takes so much advant­age of Bernie’s gen­er­os­ity that he shoots her in the back and dumps her in a freez­er, the com­munity basic­ally refuses to con­vict him and ambi­tious loc­al DA Matthew McConaughey has to try the case in a dif­fer­ent county.

Based on a true story – and fea­tur­ing many of the loc­al char­ac­ters play­ing them­selves – Bernie is about a mur­der­er with a heart of gold and the film is pretty sym­path­et­ic to its hom­icid­al cent­ral char­ac­ter, helped by Black’s lovely turn in the lead. MacLaine is always a pleas­ure to watch on screen and McConaughey proves once again that he’s been wast­ing a fine – if strange – tal­ent on dis­pos­able rub­bish over the last few years.

Cheerful Weather for the Wedding is a Sunday Theatre epis­ode trans­ferred to the big screen because we don’t really have Sunday Theatre on TV any­more. Adapted from a 1932 Bloomsbury nov­el by Julia Strachey, it’s only in the final quarter – when things start to get a bit more spicy – that the film only threatens to tran­scend the trap­pings of bor­ing old coun­try house cos­tume drama. You may have lost interest by then. Current pouty British cinema “it” girl Felicity Jones (Like Crazy) plays betrothed Dolly, hav­ing severe rum-fuelled doubts on her wed­ding day. Rose-tinted flash­backs to the pre­vi­ous sum­mer help fill in the gaps and explain her quandary.

If the art­house is where you want to go to escape the wind and rain, choose I Wish by bril­liant Japanese dir­ect­or Hirokazu Koreeda. He made Nobody Knows in 2004, about a young fam­ily try­ing to cope when they are sud­denly aban­doned by their moth­er. In 2008, he gave us Still Walking about adult chil­dren and eld­erly par­ents. I Wish is back in the world of chil­dren as two young broth­ers, in dif­fer­ent cit­ies thanks to their par­ents’ sep­ar­a­tion, attempt to reunite the fam­ily by wish­ing on the mira­cu­lous new bul­let trains as they pass each oth­er at top speed.

Wonderfully real­ised, with unas­sail­able per­form­ances from all the chil­dren, I Wish is very spe­cial indeed. To a child, everything has the poten­tial for magic but there’s a grow­ing up moment we all go through when you real­ise that some broken things stay broken. It’s this trans­ition that is brought to life so beau­ti­fully by Koreeda and his young cast and I found myself think­ing a bit about my own child­hood as a result.

Finally, Iron Sky is a bril­liant idea stretched to break­ing point and bey­ond. A bizarre Finnish-German-Australian co-production ima­gin­ing a colony of Nazis sur­viv­ing for more than 70 years on the dark side of the moon who then return home with a fleet of space­ships to fin­ish off World War II once and for all. It’s also a mostly thud­ding satire of con­tem­por­ary polit­ics and soci­ety, with a few genu­ine laughs along the the way. Unfortunately, it feels the need to keep remind­ing you of the zani­ness of its cent­ral con­ceit, and the com­bin­a­tion of the steam­punk design and jokes about Sarah Palin make the film feel more like 2008 rather than 2012.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 22 August, 2012.