The Bourne Legacy, the fourth installment in the Bourne action-thriller franchise, expands on the events of the previous films with the story of a rogue agent, Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), who sets out to expose an illegal CIA operation to the public. The film, released Aug. 10 by Universal Pictures, is directed by Tony Gilroy, who wrote the screenplay for all four films.
The sound team for the film was led by supervising sound editor Per Hallberg of Soundelux, Hollywood. Hallberg supervised sound for each of the three prior Bourne films and won an Academy Award (with Karen Baker Landers) for their work on The Bourne Ultimatum.
From a sound perspective, the film is characterized by an extreme attention to detail, verisimilitude and the way it pulls the audience into the center of the action.
“Like the previous films, it is very reality based,” said Hallberg. “We can’t have anything that sounds like a ‘superhero’ movie. The fight scenes, for example, stay connected with reality. They never go over the top. The complexities have to do with speed and the ability to process information. We give the audience clues to what is going on around them.”
The new film, however, departs from its predecessors in significant ways. The story is more textured, probing deeper into the characters’ minds and histories, and so the rhythm is different. It ebbs and flows. That, naturally, impacted the way Hallberg and his team constructed the soundtrack.
“We take a little more time,” Hallberg explained. “This film has quiet scenes and reflective moments that weren’t in the earlier films. They had a driving tempo that was there all the time. In this film, we give the audience some time to breathe.”
Even some of the action sequences have a quieter side. One shootout occurs in a vacant laboratory where gunshots are separated by extended stretches of near silence. “The director wanted it to be very stark, almost clinical,” recalled Hallberg. “There is no music and very little sound – just a distant horn – and that silence increases the sense of desperation. It’s scary and when a gun goes off. It creates a shock. It’s a different approach for that sort of scene and it worked well.”
A similar effect occurs in a scene set in a home environment when a seemingly innocuous encounter takes a deadly turn. “There is a long sequence of dialogue that lulls both the character and the audience into a feeling of security,” said Hallberg, “but then it shifts into a full-blown action sequence. So we go in an instant from floor creaks to guns blasting. That type of shift back and forth happens throughout the movie and it works beautifully. You don’t get numbed by a constant onslaught of action.”
Similarly, the interplay of music and sound is rich and organic. Hallberg was very pleased with the collaboration that developed between the sound team, composer James Newton Howard and picture editor John Gilroy. “James Newton Howard’s score was beautiful, really well laid out,” said Hallberg. “Our stuff flowed right into it.”
The result, according to Hallberg, is the most satisfying Bourne film to date. “Once in a while all the pieces come together to form a bigger whole,” he said. “That’s how we felt about this film. Nothing was missing and there was nothing extra that shouldn’t have been there. We were all very pleased in the end.”