When it comes to "The Bourne Legacy," the natural first question is, "Will we miss Matt Damon?"
Upon hearing Jeremy Renner was cast as a new agent - not Jason Bourne - to take over the franchise, I was thrilled. I love Renner, but there are many skeptics out there. Let's not forget that the Bourne franchise turned Matt Damon into the unassuming superstar that he is, and Renner, who had a solid albeit semi-anonymous career before starring in the Oscar-winning "The Hurt Locker," is cut from the same cloth as Damon. Neither actor needs to be a star, and they carry that quality into their super-agent characters.
That's why they both play their characters so well, and it's also why I did not miss Damon in this movie. I did miss something else, but we'll get to that in a minute.
Thanks to Jason Bourne, the government's secret program to create a network of genetically altered superspies is in danger of being exposed (see the previous three movies for why). The creator of that program, Edward Norton's Colonel Eric Byer, is now in charge of destroying all evidence that the program ever existed. That also means killing anyone who actively worked on the program or knows of its existence.
Renner's Aaron Cross is simply known as Number Five, presumably no relation to the robot of the same name in Short Circuit. Byer goes to great lengths to kill Cross, believing at one point that he was successful. Eventually, though, he'll discover the truth - "Number Five is alive!"
Also on the hit list is Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), the scientist in charge of examining program participants. Weisz holds her own during the well-choreographed action sequences, all of which are deft, thrilling and, in one case, quite long.
Turns out, I didn't miss Damon in "The Bourne Legacy." Renner does a fine job with the material he's been given. What this movie is missing, though, is the excellent writing and clever direction of the first three. Tony Gilroy wrote all of the Bourne movies, including this one, but this is the first time he's directed one. With "Michael Clayton" and "Duplicity" he proved his writing/directing chops, but the magnitude of the action sequences in "The Bourne Legacy," coupled with the suspense, seems a little too much for him to handle.
Some are going to find "The Bourne Legacy's" story hard to follow, and those who can follow it likely going to be massively disappointed by the ending. Actually, even if you can't follow the story you'll be disappointed by the ending. Having said that, I'd like to see this team get a crack at another Bourne movie because even with this film's flaws, they're too talented to screw it up twice.
Two-and-a-half out of five stars.