It seemed cheeky using the name of Matt Damon's borderline iconic spy in a film that doesn't feature him, and having watched The Bourne Legacy it really is. Jeremy Renner does his best to fill Damon's shoes, but helmer Gilroy (who has scripted previous instalments) messes with the formula a little too much and ultimately doesn't deliver the expected thrills.
Somewhat smartly aligning with the last in the Damon/Greengrass series, Gilroy's film introduces Renner's Aaron Cross and a couple of other government operatives who have been through similar programmes as Jason Bourne. There are some familiar faces (brief appearances by Albert Finney, Joan Allen and David Strathairn) but for the most part Legacy attempts to be its own beast, with Rachel Weisz and Ed Norton added to the mix to lend credibility. The plot essentially involves Cross avoiding being clipped by spooks, while searching for answers and attempting to right the physical and mental wrongs that have been inflicted on him, and others, without consent.
While there are genuinely sharp elements to Legacy that credibly cause it to exist in the same universe as it's seminal predecessors, it just doesn't click the same way the previous films did. Gilroy's foundations are similar; a room full of people stare at monitors and track their target, while the target dispatches of whoever they send using force - all while having a series of flashbacks that give their character some context. There are hints of Doug Liman and Paul Greengrass's prior films in the soundtrack and some of the execution, but overall it lacks that frenetic feel after a promising start.
The film opens with Renner in a disconcertingly tense scene in the woods featuring Oscar Issac; both men figuring each other out with the atmosphere almost palpable. Had that kind of intensity travelled through the entire production then we'd be looking at a corker and one with an entirely different feel to the Damon trilogy.
Renner is great; Bourne is a modern day James Bond and it was never going to be easy ostensibly filling the shoes of such a loved character. But he's got the physicality and edge to pull it off and he does. Cross is a lot more vocal than Bourne - less the strong silent type and more multi-tasking McGyver. Weisz is the archetypal damsel in distress while Norton is another top drawer actor with not enough to do. Less slimy than Strathairn, but more coldly efficient.
Lacks the visceral punch of the Damon/Greengrass flicks and thus never really feels like a Bourne flick - despite that title.