The Bourne Legacy 2012 ★★★½

First there was the sequel and the prequel, then there was the "inbetweenquel", and now we have what will henceforth be called the "sidequel". Not only does this fourth instalment in the Bourne series dispense with Jason Bourne (Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass apparently didn't want to play ball), it also goes down the unusual route of branching off into a storyline that features another Bourne-like agent running parallel to the events of THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM. It's a novel approach and it works, though it did leave me feeling a little lost at times (it's been a couple of years since I last saw ULTIMATUM and I wasn't sufficiently up to speed on the nitty-gritty of some of the events being referenced). As such, it doesn't really work as a standalone entity, though as an attempt to relaunch the franchise with Jeremy Renner as the new lead it works just fine.

The plot is in many respects a retread of THE BOURNE IDENTITY, with Renner in the Matt Damon role and an annoyingly screechy Rachel Weisz filling in for Franka Potente. Writer/director Tony Gilroy, who penned all three previous films and here steps into the director's chair for the first time, has a good handle on the action set-pieces, of which there are two that rank among the best the series has had to offer so far. His style is closer to Greengrass's than that of Doug Liman, who directed IDENTITY, but he's more restrained in his approach, actually allowing the camera to stay still at times and framing his shots less haphazardly. (When footage is inserted from ULTIMATUM, the difference is quite noticeable, with the camerawork immediately becoming more chaotic and seasickness-inducing.) That's an improvement in my book, and I honestly can't say I missed Greengrass's presence behind the camera.

Damon I'm not so sure about. It's true that Renner's Aaron Cross emotes more and seems more "human", for want of a better word, than Damon's Bourne, but despite this I'm still not sure I have much of an angle on who the character is meant to be beyond the generic "determined action hero" type, despite spending a couple of hours in his company. Edward Norton is on good form as the guy trying his best to clear up the CIA's mess, and the cameos by Scott Glenn, Joan Allen and David Strathairn are appreciated. Rachel Weisz doesn't get a lot to do except shriek and look horrified, and to be honest her character is the weakest note in the piece.

It doesn't exactly set the world on fire, but it doesn't disgrace the previous entries in the way that many people seemed to fear when they heard that this was going ahead without Damon. To be honest, I actually prefer it to THE BOURNE SUPREMACY, comfortably the worst in the series from my standpoint.

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