Originally, Jason Bourne was a character in a Robert Ludlum novel, but the movie Jason doesn’t bear much resemblance to the book guy who, when he’s not saving the world from the bad guy is a professor of oriental studies. They both begin with amnesia and a couple of gun shots in the back, floating in the Mediterranean. After that it gets a little fuzzy.
There have been other adaptations of the Ludlum books, beginning with a TV miniseries in 1988 starring Richard Chamberlain as Bourne and Jaclyn Smith as the love interest. I really need to see that some time. Sounds hilarious. After the first three adaptations starring Matt Damon, The Bourne Identity, in which he is found floating and discovers both his alarmingly efficient killing skills, and love, The Bourne Supremacy, in which he hands the CIA its collective ass when they try to kill him despite his mad skills, and The Bourne Ultimatum, in which he spanks the CIA even harder when they don’t learn their lesson, there was an offshoot film The Bourne Legacy which is a sort of Bourne-lite starring Jeremy Renner. I didn’t see that last one, though I’m sure I will some time, because Renner seemed too dour and serious to be a match for Matt Damon’s Bourne.
If you have not seen the first three Matt Damon films, it would be a good idea to do that before going to your local Cineplex to see the current one. Damon is perfect as Bourne because he’s completely believable as the sweet boy next door who learned how to beat up, out shoot, out run, out tech and kill in every conceivable way any bad guy who crosses him. No one does “Earnest Face” like Matt Damon as Jason Bourne pulverizing any bad guy who thinks his triple black belt in assassin will save him. He almost never looks mad or scared, just “Why is this happening to me?” And, “Oh, geez, how did I know how to do that?”
All the movies are great fun, and they follow a very strict formula, which is the other reason you should see the first three first or at least one of them. Because the current film follows the formula to the letter: Bourne’s bloodlust is awakened by some CIA noob who thinks he’s the one who will take him down for _______ reason. There’s a woman on the periphery but Bourne is not a film with romance. There are hand-to-hand fight scenes that would break every bone in a normal person’s body. There are brilliant chase scenes through exotic locales. Bourne and all his nemeses use the cool tech of the day in cool ways (and it’s fun to watch the changes over the years). The CIA bad guys follow all of it from a distance, sneaking stunned looks at each other as one after another of their “assets” are wasted by the relentless Bourne. Something unexpected happens at the end.
All of these things are always well done, and the current movie is no exception. If you only had the fight scenes it’d be cool. Same for if you only had the chase scenes. But put all of it together and every one of the movies are serious action fun. Still, I feel like the current film is the weakest of the four because the retread rubber has worn a little thin. Everything felt just a little rote. The ______ excuse was kinda lame. Bourne has lost his Earnest Face and looks a little pinched around the mouth. The occasional shaky camera of the earlier films roars to the front here to the point of almost making me nauseous. I hate shaky camera. I think it screams to the audience, “This is exciting!” My answer to that is always, let the film be exciting on its own.
Jason Bourne really needs to beat up a woman. In all the hours of relentless chasing and beating and teching, he has never done a car chase or fight scene versus a woman. If this franchise really wants to move into the 21st century he’s going to have to go mano a mana with someone like Gina Carano and beat the snot out of her. In other ways the Bourne films have shown us an evolving world and I love that about them. The first movie had two women in it, one who did nothing but tag along and the other who typed some and managed not to get killed. The second two films have a high muckity muck CIA woman who is obviously more skilled than her evil compatriots but yet is continually pushed aside and sneered at because this is a man’s racket, baby. Yuck. The current film has another woman in a top position but this one is jockeying for power by using all the toys in the sandbox. She’s in there battling with the other baddies for top bad dog spot and I say yea for her. There’s not a hint of sneering and I loved that. Also, there is finally a person of color in a prominent spot. One who isn’t an “asset” wearing red somewhere on their body.
Overall I’m glad I went to see this and I recommend that any Bourne fan go out a see it with the Dolby sound of fists and feet and walls smashing human flesh. All the required Bourne parts are intact with the typical nice updates of tech and social advancement. It might be worn around the edges, but it’s still a fun action franchise.
Jason Bourne – Official Trailer (HD)