But Cross survives the worst that nature and Byers can throw at him before teaming up with Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz, The Lovely Bones), who, in the film’s best sequence, interacts with a pair of counselors who feign compassion but have darker motives.

Outside of that scene, the film is a bit of a mess. Cross’ character and origins are poorly explained. He spends most of the film desperately seeking his “meds”—small pills that are essential to his functioning. With no other apparent motivation for the character’s actions and little understanding on the viewers’ part as to why these pills are so essential, Gilroy has Shearing and Cross engage in an extended dialogue about the scientific intricacies of neural processes. The movie stands or falls on our understanding of this sequence, and the director botches it, mistakenly thinking this discussion of cerebral science will have audiences fascinated. Instead, he tosses around concepts and terminology that only will only muddy the waters for those expecting action, not a lesson in neuro-chemistry.

From there it’s a rush to Manila, where a villain pursues our dynamic duo in a wild motorcycle chase that feels like a rather pale imitation of the spectacular speeder-bike sequence from Return of the Jedi, circa 1983.

For a story that makes so little sense, Gilroy brings a certain energy to the proceedings, dialing back the aforementioned erratic style of the predecessors, keeping things moving in a way that, for a time, masks the story’s inherent problems. But those problems catch up with the film quickly. Brief appearances by familiar characters from earlier Bourne installments do little to alleviate the feeling that the story needed more attention. The increasingly choppy editing during the finale only adds to the overall incoherence.

Rather than a rejuvenation of the franchise, this Bourne entry is more disappointing than if the series had wrapped with the previous installment. Even bringing back Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass wouldn’t have helped; it’s Gilroy’s script that leaves a poor legacy.

CAUTIONS

  • Language/Profanity: “Jesus!”; “a-s”; “bulls-it”
  • Alcohol/Smoking/Drugs: Cross is constantly on the hunt for pills
  • Sex/Nudity: Nothing sexual; bare-chested men in a couple of shots, including one in which a woman cleans a man’s chest 
  • Violence/Crime: Injection into an arm, man shot in head; a man drops dead, other dead bodies shown, including a woman with blood dripping from her nose; a building is destroyed; a wolf is caught in a trap, and other wolves are shot; a shootout; people shot at close range; multiple fights, often in self-defense; a neck is snapped; motorcycle theft; reckless driving; a violent crash
  • Morality: An agency worker describes his work as immoral yet essential

Questions? Comments? Contact the writer at crosswalkchristian@hotmail.com.

Publication date: August 10, 2012