Introduction to The Jason Bourne sprint: The Bourne Identity


Just around the corner will be the UK premiere of The Bourne Legacy which is out on the 13th. Minus Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon, I have mixed feelings about whether Legacy will live up to the expectations left by the previous trinity of awesome films. The trilogy ended almost perfectly, but because of its incredible success the studio big wigs have decided cash in on its solid reputation. And because of rebooted and prequel versions of Batman, Spiderman and James Bond this could run and run.

Is the any need for another Bourne film? According to Matt Damon, not without the kinetic powers of Paul Greengrass. So Legacy will feature not Jason Bourne/David Webb but Aaron Cross/Kenneth Gibson being played by Jeremy Renner and the events that occur in this film are said to have happened sometime after the exposure of Bourne.  Obviously Aaron Cross/Kenneth Gibson will be a mirror image of Jason Bourne/David Webb but I have doubts whether it will feel the same.

However either way you are going to bet your ass that I will be in that cinema watching it, hoping and praying that it is not another Phantom Menace. To tie in to its eminent release on the 13th the Illbomb will be doing a little mini BlogalalongBourne. Yes similar to Blogalongbond; actually a direct rip off, but shorter and you are not obligated to get involved. I won’t call it BlogalongBourne, but The Jason Bourne sprint inspired by Usain Bolt as its release conveniently ties in to the end of London 2012. Therefore in the remaining days before it ends up in UK cinemas I will recap on one amazing Bourne film before I get to see The Bourne Legacy. Today we visit where it began with The Bourne Identity.

The Jason Bourne sprint/ The Bourne Identity:

The Bourne Identity:

It begins…a body is left for dead in the sea off the coast of Marseille. Who is this man and how did he get there? Well if he himself can’t provide you with this answer then no one will. So begins a journey of self discovery. Action-espionage films will always be judged solely on before Bourne and after Bourne. But what makes the movies so special? What makes it better than James Bond, Jack Ryan and Ethan Hunt or rip offs such as Taken, Shooter or The Transporter. Well a number of reasons; it is edgier than most action fares, and it introduced a different type of action hero to what we are most used to.

 In the 80’s action films were dominated by muscle bound beefcakes i.e. the Planet Hollywood trio of Sylvester Stallone in the Rambo films, Arnold Schwarzenegger and to a lesser extent Bruce Willis Schwarzenegger and Stallone were the epitome of the male killing machines; men that aesthetically put the fear of god into all the bad guys. They were big, they were bad and they promoted the right wing ideology of the then Reagan administration. The action spy movies of the late 80s and 90s were pretty standard stuff. They weren’t terrible but they were formulaic, always trying to find a better way to form a spectacular action set piece into the film without getting to the heart of any of its characters. Brosnan’s Bond films were guilty of this, as were Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible films. Yes they were great entertainment but nothing that would be included in Sight and Sound’s best ever films (that is, they’re not classics).

But then Jason Bourne came along. Jason is leaner than the ‘expendables’ of Stallone and Schwarzenegger; he is a hybrid of the renegade dissent Rambo of First Blood pursued by immoral officials who want his blood. But although he can take care of himself, his muscles are not for show; wearing an orange polar neck jumper for the majority of the film. He is also a different sort of man; he doesn’t wisecrack like Axel Foley or John McClane and he is not a player or a smart-alec like James Bond. Ultimately he is a sensitive person whose irresolution of his personal identity and flashbacks greatly disturbs him. He is of the Gary Cooper type strong silent, one of the first Caucasian heroes to look good at martial arts and with a persona where he uses his wits, guile and his gyroscopic cool to master every situation.

Identity is supposed to be the weaker of the trilogy, which may be true but it still remains a great and original film where the set up of what is to come is done adeptly. As we have said; a man is found unconscious by a group of Italian fishermen in the Mediterranean Sea. He has two gunshot wounds in his back. He is suffering from retrograde amnesia so cannot offer an explanation to himself or his saviours on how he got where he is, what is his name and who shot him.

So the first clue of this detective story starts with the surgically implanted laser in his hip with details of an account number to a safe deposit box in Zurich. He finds his way to the safe deposit box opens it and picks up an American passport that details Jason Bourne from New York City, home of residence Paris. But what he finds under the hidden layer of the box is far more disturbing; a shit load of cash of different currency, multiple national passport identities and a gun. We know he has something to do with the CIA, however he does not.

Therefore the first clue into finding out who he is displeases him as he says to Marie:

“Who has a safety deposit box full of money, six passports and a gun? Who has a bank account number in their hip? I come in here and the first thing I am doing is I am catching the sidelines I am looking for the exit”

His form of amnesia is perfect for the unravelling of the mystery that will foretell; retrograde amnesia means that though he is able to remember how to tie a knot, speak fluent French and German, or how to fight, but people, names and other stuff escape him.

“How can I know that and not know who I am?” he asks.

The source novel which was written by Robert Ludlum in 1980 portrays the CIA as bad guys in the era of the cold war. Made after 9/11 the film still portrays the CIA in a negative light rather than defenders of the nation, secretly ordering the assassination of a vocal African dissident Wombossi; showing what the intelligence agencies are capable of, regarding United States foreign policies.  The Alexander Conklin character played by Chris Cooper was based around director Doug Liman’s father’s recollections of Oliver North when he was investigating the Iran-Contra affair. Whilst the inner workings of the Treadstone organisation was inspired by Liman’s fathers job in the National Security Agency (NSA)

The action sequences:

There are three major action sequences in the movie. The first involves a car chase; something that would be repeated in the other movies, as Bourne and Marie are escaping the attentions of the police. Made to the soundtrack of Paul Oakenfold the chase is obviously a modern version of the chase in The Italian Job as Bourne gives the police the run around in Marie’s red mini. I think the part where the car goes down that stair case is the pinnacle of the octane choreographed set piece.

The second is the gun battle scene between the ’professor’ (Clive Owen) and Bourne staged at the farmhouse in Paris. This is a scene that Liman fought to keep in and the film is the better for it. Although it is the lowest key of the action sequences it provides enough suspense to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. Bourne is protecting the relatives of Marie and the part where the little girl hugs her father is a direct parallel to the flashback when Bourne was supposed to assassinate Wombossi but relents because he spots that Wombossi is with his children. In one case he is the protector and in the other he is the killer, but as the child hugs her father Bourne gives a look as if he remembers something part can’t quite put his finger on it.

His duel with ‘the professor’ is also offers pathos. As the ‘professor’ lies dying he confides in Bourne: “do you get the headaches?” he asks. Then he says “Look at this, look at what they made you give” a line that would be repeated by Bourne when he understands more of what Treadstone is and faced by another assassin in Ultimatum.

The final great action scene occurs when during the night towards the end of the movie and against multiple gun men. This shows Bourne at his most bad ass taking out a massive bodyguard with a combination of hand to hand combat and then shooting him, then taking out a further two gun men staged on a long winding staircase.  The part where he uses the dead guy as a magic carpet to fall down and break his fall while shooting at the remaining gunman does test the air of believability but is still highly impressive in its execution. 


The Bourne Supremacy



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