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11 August 2012

The Bourne Legacy (Review): "The Manila Legacy? A Sardonic Movie Review by a Filipino who Actually Lives in Metro Manila"

"He can survive Manila."
What is Manila to the world? It is certainly not a bustling cosmopolitan city like Seoul, New York and London, cities that played host to the Bourne movie series. Manila is also not as chic as Paris, even if you compare Paris to any of Manila’s many but small burgeoning upscale districts.  In my opinion, Manila may be described as a “patch” city, meaning one can see patches of almost everything: the first world, the third world, the ancient, the supernatural, the absurd, and some events that may only make sense in a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel.  In the many cold and impersonal cities of the Western world, do foreigners dream of one day resting their weary feet on the often flooded streets of Manila?   Who knows? If “The Bourne Legacy” is to be taken seriously, the west may simply see my city as a perfect place to manufacture drugs and viruses. 

The Philippines is famous for its pristine and paradise-like beaches and azure seas, which, from time to time, are inundated by Chinese fishing boats.  These tropical isles are what lure the white men to brave this once Spanish and American colony.  But still, Manila has one thing to offer Hollywood.  With Manila’s heavy traffic, uncannily skilled motorists, underpaid and ill-equipped police force, residents who are barely surviving for the day, and countless underused talented character actors, my city is a perfect location for an action-packed movie. 

On the other hand, Manila is a location not for an unskilled director.  A car chase scene on the streets of my city requires a big serving of imagination on the part of the director.  First of all, how on earth can you justify a fast-paced car chase if our streets often resemble moving parking lots than actual pathways? You need a special vehicle to maneuver between the small spaces and the motorcycle is the best vehicle for the job.  Secondly, you need a character that must be meticulously trained for special operations (and I mean special covert superhuman C.I.A. kind of training). How else can you drive through our crowded streets with oddly placed overpasses and other street structures that littered my city. Thanks of course to our beloved city politicians who are “forced” to liquidate their city budgets.  Signs like “this waiting shed is a project of Mayor Hmm” are common in Manila. Strangely enough, these waiting sheds are built on places where buses and jeepneys are not allowed to pick up passengers.   

When “The Bourne Legacy” was being shot in Manila, it created a buzz loud enough that so-called credible news channels covered the shoot, and sometimes, the shooting overshadowed more important national news.  No doubt, many Filipinos will watch this movie and as I suspected, the loudest cheers came from Jeremy Renner’s character beating up some policemen. Unfair it may be, the cheers may just be considered an act to elicit a city-wide catharsis.   Some viewers laughed seeing their beloved city on a Western movie.  That is the Filipino way; we are adept at laughing sardonically without knowing it.  

Bottom line, “The Bourne Legacy” is an entertaining movie, not that embarrassing compared to Robert Ludlum’s novels and Doug Liman’s and Paul Greengrass’ film adaptations starring Matt Damon.  The movie started with a good build-up but the chase scene was, at least for me, disappointing.  The movie has one good thing going, Jeremy Renner.  For me, he looked like he could survive in my city, and so in the end, he deserves a vacation in one of our gorgeous islands.  As for Rachel Weisz, we love her and hoped she got a good tan. (First published in “The Chair” Blog)

It was a delight seeing Joan Allen (playing Pamela Landy) even for just a minute. 


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