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The Bourne Legacy (4 stars)

Sleek and sophisticated addition to the Bourne series, with Jeremy Renner taking the lead

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The Bourne Legacy

From the opening shot of a man swimming in the water to the closing sounds of the franchise’s signature song, Moby’s 'Extreme Ways', The Bourne Legacy feels like a Bourne movie in every way – with one exception. No Matt Damon, which means his memory-addled CIA killing machine Jason Bourne is absent. So how do you make a Bourne movie without Bourne?

Writer and director Tony Gilroy, who penned all three previous episodes, has come up with an elegant solution that manages to widen out the story without feeling like a Hollywood cash-in. Rewinding to last episode, The Bourne Ultimatum, Gilroy’s script weaves a new story around old events and characters.

With Bourne still on the loose, the CIA brass (led by Edward Norton’s newcomer Byer) sets out to shut down the intense programme that he was the guinea pig for, ruthlessly terminating all agent trainees. Only one escapes – Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), who narrowly avoids death-by-missile in the Alaskan wilderness before going on the run with Rachel Weisz’s scientist, another CIA target.

For his first Bourne directorial assignment, Gilroy marshals the action impressively, particularly a motorbike chase across Manila that’s every bit as thrilling as Ultimatum’s one in Tangier. And in Renner, he has the perfect star. Like a modern-day Steve McQueen, one of many jaw-dropping stunts Renner takes on sees him run up the side of a house – Spider-Man eat your heart out.

If there’s a problem with the film, it’s that unlike the amnesiac Bourne, Cross knows exactly who he is and why he joined up (in one flashback, Byer tells him he’s a 'sin-eater', there to suck up all the bad stuff so we don’t have to) – which does fatally remove the mystery that drove the original trilogy. In the end, The Bourne Legacy is a survival story, albeit a sleek and sophisticated one.

General release from Mon 13 Aug.

The Bourne Legacy

  • 4 stars
  • 2012
  • US
  • 134 min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Tony Gilroy
  • Written by: Tony Gilroy, Dan Gilroy
  • Cast: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton
  • UK release: 13 August 2012

The CIA wants to shut down its pesky enhanced-agent programme and eliminate all the trainees. Agent Cross (Renner) escapes, going on the run with CIA scientist Shearing (Weisz). Writer/director Gilroy weaves a slick, sophisticated and impressive survival tale around familiar events and characters; Renner’s stunts are…

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