If you were to map out the threading of a really good story, it would probably resemble a plate of dropped spaghetti, where twists and turns loop a path through splotches of mess needing urgent attention should they stain the fabric. Sadly, the narrative progression of The Bourne Legacy gets you from A to B on a road as long and linear as 90 Mile Straight—if it was any less curvy it would flatline.

The Bourne Legacy is an above-average action flick, but it is Bourne in name only. The eponymous Jason Bourne gets plenty of mention but never actually materialises, so most of the film is spent waiting and hoping for an appearance that never comes. For that reason, The Bourne Legacy feels a bit like Christmas—there’s the joy of finding presents under the tree, alongside the disappointment that you missed out on seeing Santa.

The Bourne Legacy fires a sideline trajectory from the previous Bourne instalments, aimed this time with Operation Outcome agent Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) in the (ahem) cross-hairs. Following the exposure of Operation Blackbriar (The Bourne Ultimatum), the CIA proceeds to shut down its Treadstone projects, eliminating all personnel within the program. Cross manages to evade eradication and rescue Outcome lab scientist Dr Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) in the process. As a guinea pig in the Outcome research program, Cross relies on CIA-issued drugs to enhance his physique and IQ, so he and Shearing become fugitives in a race to find more drugs before Cross becomes weak and stupid. Or weak, stupid, and dead.

Like a scruffy James Bond, Renner brings a sense of warmth and merriment to the Bourne franchise, veering away from its usual Matt Damon sobriety. Weisz looks fragile and beautiful, but her unidimensional  character belongs to a mousy lab rat, not a PhD-wielding biochemist. The best performance is from Edward Norton as Eric Byer, whose stressed-to-the-eyebrows presence is enough to bring on an eyeball hernia with a stomach ulcer.

The outdoor sequences are mostly impressive, including some stunning mountain cinematography in the opening third. The vehicle chase at the end of the film supplies the best thrills, with cars and motorcycles zooming through the crowded streets of Manila that don’t appear to have been cleared for filming. The chase does go on for a bit too long though, which, like the film’s motivation, is adequate, just not especially compelling.

Starring: Jeremy Renner, Edward Norton, Rachel Weisz, Stacey Keach, Scott Glenn, Donna Murphy, Albert Finney

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