Jeremy Renner has been acting for a long time, but many – myself included – have only really started to take notice of him in the past few years.

It’s not as if he hadn’t starred in big budget movies up till now; he had played secondary characters proficiently in S.W.A.T. and 28 Days Later. But since his breakthrough in 2008 the 41 year old has rapidly ascended the acting ranks with his portrayals of focussed characters, and he is fast solidifying himself as a bona-fide action star.

With the upcoming release of The Bourne Legacy next month, here’s a look at some of his best roles to date.

  • The Hurt Locker (2008)

Funnily enough, one of the reasons Renner was cast by director Kathryn Bigelow was because he was a relative unknown at the time. He gives a gripping, breakthrough performance as Staff Sergeant William James, a reckless team leader of an EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) unit who gets his adrenaline rush by disarming bombs. As the film goes on, we watch as Renner peels back the layers of his complex character, and his efforts earned him an Oscar nomination for best actor.

  • The Town (2010)

In this Ben Affleck directed thriller, Renner stars as Jimmy Coughlin, the hothead in a crew of bank robbers. Whether he be shooting at cops or sharing anecdotes about his time in prison, Renner is always engaging as the impulsive ex-con, and his scene stealing performance earned him another Oscar nomination, this time for best supporting actor.

  • Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)

Not to be outdone by Tom Cruise’s vertigo inducing feats, Renner stood out again in his role as the mysterious Agent Brandt. Here is perhaps our best look at Renner’s physical acumen before The Bourne Legacy: on multiple occasions he shows that he can handle himself in a fight. With sequels forthcoming it will be interesting to see how his role will develop; there have even been rumours that he will become the leading man in the franchise once Tom Cruise decides to stop climbing tall buildings.

  • The Avengers (2012)

In a masterstroke by Joss Whedon, the villainous Loki puts Renner’s Hawkeye under his control early on, giving the actor more screen time than he might have been allowed otherwise. Though he might not feature as prominently as this time round, he makes the best possible use out of every moment afforded to him. Renner also enjoyed some great interplay with Scarlett Johannson’s Black Widow, hinting at an intriguing back story that’s just begging to be explored. Solo movie anyone?

  • The Bourne Legacy (2012)

Next month Renner will play yet another secret agent – Aaron Cross – in the highly anticipated Bourne sequel. With the popular Matt Damon trilogy still fresh in everyone’s minds, there is a whole lot riding on Renner for this one. Judging from what we’ve seen thus far, it’s a safe bet that he’ll deliver another memorable performance.