A whiff of superb Filipino actors in Bourne Legacy

The Inbox

By Pablo A. Tariman, VERA Files

Photos by Patrick Christian Fernandez

The Bourne Legacy -- directed by Tony Gilroy who co-wrote it with his brother Dan -- is a suspense-filled spin-off (or variation) inspired by the novels by Robert Ludlum.

Matt Damon who portrayed the original Jason Bourne isn't in the picture but the writers created another interesting character with similar predicament — how to get away from a big organization trying to get rid of their agents scientifically (genetically)  treated  to get the best results for the espionage job. .

One such former agent was Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) who stumbles into a doctor (Rachel Weisz as Dr. Marta Shearing) who didn't realize her science (or her profession) was used for the ruthless scheme of the organization.

Here you come across the shadowy figures running or in cahoots with this organization gone mad. You really feel the chill as you get the roles played by Edward Norton  as Ret. Col. Eric Byer, Stacy Keach as Ret. Adm. Mark Turso, Oscar Isaac Outcome #3, Joan Allen  as Pam Landy and Albert Finney (of the Two for Road fame) as Dr. Albert Hirsch.

But on the whole, this film may be retitled "The Long, Big Chase" as its lead characters try every trick in the trade to escape the long arms of the organization. When Renner and  Weisz get to Manila, another suspenseful long chase ensues and here you get scenes from San Andres and Marikina market as interesting backdrops.

The Manila scenes showed excellent samplings of the Filipino as superb actors from John Arcilla as the security guard, Antoinette Garcia as the hysterical entresuelo owner and Lou Veloso as the bystander stunned by the sight of the chase victims.

The film showed the squalor of Manila as Aaron Cross's and Weisz's next escape route.

Outstanding was the brief but marked role of Madeleine Nicolas as the landlady with that grimly expressive face wondering where those white strangers came from.

It may come as a respite from Manila's Lower Depths when the film ends in Palawan where the lead stars come to terms with their characters and find relief and redemption in the deep blue sea of this country's premier tourist destination.

After being treated to main characters in distress for close to two hours, you realize this is not a great film but it is largely entertaining  and a good production on which Filipinos actors showed their best even if their parts were short and nearly negligible.

What makes it special, according to Madeleine Nicolas, is the presence of the lead actors. "Jeremy (Renner) and Rachel (Weisz ) have very good chemistry. You see humanity in the characters they portrayed, they are believable. There were tender moments in their scenes and I empathized with the character of Jeremy. He was intense in the opening scenes. It is special because it was shot in the Philippines and hundreds of Filipinos got involved in the production. I am proud of the professionalism and amount of work the Filipino staff and actors put into it."

Nicolas was invited to audition for two roles in November last year and a day after her interview with Gilroy, she was cast as the landlady.  In January this year, she got a callback and had costume fitting on same day. "I could not believe it and I was so thankful" added Nicolas. "There were so many good actors who auditioned."

The Filipina actress debuted on film in "Bawal na Pag-ibig" starring Romeo Vasquez and Alma Moreno and directed by Behn Cervantes. Her theater company, the UP Repertory, was part of it and showed life at the backstage and rehearsals for a play. Her succeeding films were megged by directors who have since then become National Artists for Film like Lino Brocka who directed her in "Orapronobis" and Ishmael Bernal whom she worked with in "Working Girls" and "Hinugot ang Langit."

"I am certain that the foreign production outfit recognized the abilities of the Filipino production staff and actors, and I am sure that they learned from us as well. We may have a different way of doing things, but we are creative, resourceful, and hardworking. No doubt that there is a wealth of highly-skilled staff and talents in our country,"  said Nicolas who just  appeared with the French actress Isabelle Huppert in the new Brilliante Mendoza film "Captive":

A veteran of many Filipino and Western plays, Nicolas gives  a clue to the kind of acting that works: "There is not one definition for good acting. For one, you have to go beyond yourself. It is a lot of hard work and commitment. You always have to strive to do better. It is a passion. As they say, you know what good acting is when you see one."

Basically, she said it's about honesty and generosity: "It is imparting true emotions to the audience. It is being generous in sharing yourself with your co-actors, being able to engage the audience and capture their hearts."

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for "true.")