Star rating - 7/10
Let's get the obvious deficiency out of the way - Jason Bourne does not star in this film, although his presence is clearly felt and his name and photo feature throughout. But on the basis of the quality of this continuation of the excellent Bourne franchise by director Tony Gilroy, Matt Damon might be seriously considering a comeback.
This time it is Jeremy Renner who steps into his shoes as part of a sinister US government programme to create superhuman secret agents. Renner is excellent as Aaron Cross, and is no stranger to tough physical roles, having starred in the phenomenal Iraq war film The Hurt Locker. And he is great in this role too, beginning by managing to impressively extricate himself from an impossibly ridiculous isolation in a remote snowy wilderness in an extremely entertaining and thrilling way. What than man can do with wolves is nobody's business.
There are all the usual Bourne ingredients here - a decidedly shady secret programme, a government turning against its own agents to suit its will, a beautiful scientist, and a daring escape across the globe against all the odds.
It starts amusingly, in a deadly sort of way, with a Guardian journalist being shot in London before they can publish an exposé of facts the US authorities simply cannot allow to enter the public domain. And the Brits continue to fare badly in the face of ruthless American deep CIA action.
Apart from the convincing and very watchable Renner, Rachel Weisz is her usual accomplished and very watchable self as Dr Marta Shearing, the chemist who has unwittingly sacrificed her life for the programme. And Edward Norton is fabulous as the ruthless and chilling American official who is calling all the shots as he periodically barks out orders for rooms to be cleared and people to be 'bagged'. You really would not want to argue with him.
The chases are as thrilling as you would expect, if a little overlong in places. And yes it is super cheesy, often in an extremely amusing way. After taking out around 5 government agents in her tumble down remote house, Renner orders Weisz to ' get your bag- we need to get out of here', or words to that effect. No, really Aaron, she wanted to hang around to have coffee and cake...
It's great entertainment, and as good as a Bourne film without Bourne could be. And to be fair much better than I expected. I for one would like to see Renner and Damon united for the next installment. While Bourne was essentially duped into being part of the CIA experiment, Cross seems to have quite willingly volunteered for the role. Now that would be some storyline for the next Bourne film.