Tony Gilroy penned the Bourne trilogy and turns writer-director for this reboot of the series, which shares crucial DNA with the earlier films but is drawn from the shallower end of the gene pool. A committed performance from Jeremy Renner breathes life into his Bourne-like character, Aaron Cross, but it’s harder to identify with this genetically enhanced superspy than with Matt Damon’s highly trained but emotionally vulnerable agent. In box-office terms, the Bourne legacy is safe, but there are doubts about its creative sustainability.
Exposed by the media fallout from Jason Bourne’s very public ultimatum, Colonel Eric Byer (Edward Norton) orders the immediate termination of the parallel programme Outcome – and its agents. But Aaron Cross survives, and goes on the run with Dr Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), a scientist with access to the pills his body craves. Funded by Byer’s shadowy research group, a pharmaceutical company has used behaviour modification to create a new breed of pumped-up, hyper-intelligent field agent. Now one of these agents has gone rogue with a civilian female in tow. So it’s déjà vu, as Byer’s team track Cross and the doctor to the Philippines – the exotic location for a string of competently staged action set-pieces. These mildly suspenseful scenes showcase Renner’s physical agility and screen presence as well as Weisz’s talent for credible crying and screaming, but they scarcely trouble their respective acting abilities.
Particularly irritating are the plot contortions needed to accommodate pointless cameos by familiar faces from the trilogy: Paddy Considine, Albert Finney and Joan Allen. Not to mention the repeated, cryptic flashbacks designed to sketch in Cross’s murky military past. It all falls apart during the climactic foot and motorcycle chase, which is more exhausting than exciting, and features a cypher-like villain who utters not one word of dialogue.