During the early 2000s the Bond series was struggling, it was running out of ideas and was seemingly off pace amidst the changing face of intelligence services. Enter Jason Bourne…
He was young, adrenaline fueled and fighting not with gadgets but his mind and abundance of old Nokia phones against the Central Intelligence Agency. It seems like an overly romanticised view of the series but it is true. He was not bankrolled by a national treasury but instead fights with all his might every step of the way, nothing was handed to him.
The plot is thus incredibly compelling. Bourne, once a CIA operative, appears a dangerous rogue agent but instead has forgotten his purpose following a bout of amnesia after a botched mission. The Bourne Identity (2002) follows Bourne as he looks to establish not how he ended up in this predicament but what his career even was. Matt Damon is superb as Bourne, convincing in the moments of real mental trauma trying to make sense of things but also when his expression tightens…
Those moments are scattered throughout the trilogy and are energising, edge of seat moments. For Bourne enters a furious series of motions, the camera desperately trying to follow him, the dynamic cinematography not distracting but exhilarating. One such example in The Bourne Supremacy (2004) when fighting a fellow operative who is armed with a knife Bourne scrambles for a magazine, a seemingly innoxious object, and uses it to disarm and beat his opponent resoundingly. Words do not do these moment justice; use of live action stunts gives these scenes an unbelievable pace and ferocity.
Bourne did change things for this genre of films. The Mission Impossible franchise and Pierce Brosnan’s Bond films which were around during the original Bourne trilogies release looked too genial in comparison; the market had shifted. The Daniel Craig Bond films, Casino Royale (2006) in particular, had a similar ‘edge’ to them… perhaps trying to emulate the Bourne series success. By the end of the trilogy, with The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), the greatly increased interest in the series saw the budget rise and the film look more polished but yet it remained gritty, rugged, realistic and immersive.
Of the three films there was no dud or bad half, just brilliance. And whilst The Bourne Legacy (2012) should certainly be forgotten and Jason Bourne (2016) can be overlooked in part, the franchise still stands as an awe inspiring trilogy in which Matt Damon channelled his fearless character impeccably. To say this isn’t a classic should get you a swift smack from Jason Bourne and one of his improvised weapons.
By Arran Byers
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