Here is yet another example of a great series of movies that are, over all, fun, but has its share of problems, namely the changing of the director. As with the X-men series, the first director knew what he was doing, then they hired someone else and messed it up (in my opinion). Unlike X-Men 3, I don’t hate the “bad” Bourne movies, they’re still good and they still work in the series. I’ll explain more as we dive into each film.
This isn’t the first movie based on Robert Ludlum's novel, the Bourne Identity. An earlier TV version was made back in 1988 staring Richard Chamberlain as Bourne. But you never heard of that one, so we don’t care.
This movie has your quintessential “who the frick am I” lost all memory beginning with amazing abilities and started a craze with other movies and television stories wanting to do the same thing, namely John Doe (seriously, John Doe just ripped off Bourne). Though it’s a slightly heavy handed plot device, the amnesia card works well in this first movie. As an audience member we find our selves caring for Matt Damon like a lost little puppy...a lost little puppy with fangs and can rip your feet off if it feels threatened. In the first scene where Bourne discovers his physical abilities, he wakes up to the police poking him, attempting to wake him as he sleeps on a park bench. Matt Damon goes nuts and kicks the crap out of them. This scene is not sped up with movie magic, that is just simply how fast Matt Damon is hitting them, that is a testament to his training. No, he’s no Bruce Lee, but we really like it when famous headliners do their own stunts, and Damon doens’t disappoint.
We also like the cute lady he starts hanging out with who takes him in (hey, like a puppy dog) and we root for them and want them to succeed. But the bad guys are after him, for some reason (though, the writers do a good job in assuring us there is a good reason, we just don’t know it yet), and he has to fight to stay alive.
This movie was fantastic and not heavy handed. It’s a little movie with a relatively small budget (“only” 60 million, compared to the sequels which were 80 and finally 130 mill) but delivers a fun story with good character development, action and intrigue.ll explain more as we dive into each film.
In the beginning of this movie we see Jason Bourne and his cute girlfriend Marie living a simple life away from everyone. Then Bourne is discovered by an asset to the “bad guys”, reported, and a clean up team is sent to take him out. However, they miss and kill his girlfriend instead. Now you’ve done it, you’ve pissed off the perfect killer who doesn’t remember who he is so he has no allegiances and now no reason to stay away...now you’ve done it.
Jason Bourne goes off the hizzie and begins to look for answers while racking up the body count, while Joan Allen’s character begins poking around where she shouldn’t to try to find out why the heck the people she works for want Jason Bourne so badly. This second movie does a good job in fleshing out the evil collection of people who remind us of the evil zombie loving Umbrella Corporation or even the alien loving Wayland-Yutanni corporation. But this feels much more believable.
I do have problems with this movie, but it didn’t fail, far short of it, it grossed more than the original, raking in $288,587,450 world wide, where the original brought in $213,300,000 world wide. It IS a successful movie, and although we have a different director here, it still feels very much the originals sequel and fits in the story line well. However, one major complaint I have is that in stead of showing off Matt Damon’s excellent training in martial arts and hand to hand combat, the director decided to do a shaky, hand held camera shoot for ALL of the fight and car chase scenes. I’ve had not a small number of my friends tell me this actually made them feel sick. Now, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to make your audience sick, sometimes that’s a good thing, I talked about that with Alien.
However, the scene in the original when Jason Bourne wakes to being poked by the police and him going nuts and beating the crap out of them stuck in my mind. He did an amazing job, and the camera just holds on him to simply SHOW us what Damon is doing. With the sequel, honestly, I can’t remember ONE good fight scene that sticks out in my mind. Not one. The car chase scene is memorable, however, but it was still that shaky camera look that I’m not crazy about.
In the end, though, I have to admit it was a GOOD action movie and definitely not as bad as a Schumacher sequel or the third X-Men movie..
This is the third, but perhaps not the final movie in the Bourne series as they are all loosely based on books and there are more books after Ultimatum. This movie deviates from the book in that it has Bourne still a young man, where in the book he’s an old dude, but still affective. But I get why they decided to keep Bourne a young man, it just wouldn’t have worked as well. You may remember a movie called The Talented Mr. Ripley, where Matt Damon played a sympathetic psychopath just trying to fit in, but ends up killing all his friends. It’s really quite well done, but pretty disturbing, Damon does a very good job. Anyway, a sequel was made with John Malkovich playing Ripley as an older guy. Malkovich probably did a good job, but I didn’t see it and neither did anyone else because it’s just not a good idea when you switch actors in a series (Except for Batman or Bond). Also, I didn’t really want to see another movie about a sympathetic serial killer that is the protagonist, we have enough of those already.
As you may have noticed, we still have the shaky camera director: Paul Greengrass, who, did what he knew how to do, shook the camera during every action scene. This one, however, there IS an action scene that stands out for me, the one with Bourne and another Treadstone asset fighting in extremely close quarters in a bathroom. It was pretty well done, but Jet Li did the same thing but better in Unleashed. Also, Matt Damon’s wife was pregnant and then had a their kid during the filming of this movie. This means that Damon didn’t have enough time to train for the part. So, what did Greengrass do? Shook the camera to hide the fact that Damon didn’t have enough time to train, and Greengrass admitted it. This proves my freeking point, that the shaky camera, hand held look is usually (but not always) just sloppy film making.
Yes, it works in certain circumstances to give us that more “real” feel, and “works” in projects like Cloverfield,...but that wasn’t that successful as a blockbuster, so nobody cares. (I still cant decide if I liked Cloverfield or not).
Again, I can’t say that this Bourne movie wasn’t successful, with a bigger budget of $130,000,000, it pulled in $442,161,562 world wide, almost making twice as much as the 2nd film.
By the end of this movie, we are given much more information about who was at the heart of the Treadstone conspiracy and Bourne’s true identity and the reason for creating men like him. This does not disappoint, answering questions that were brought up two movies earlier. There is also a great moment where Bourne stares down a man who has been ordered to kill him and he asked him simply “have you ever asked why?”. Not only does this have a nice allegorical application to our lives in questioning just doing what everyone expects of us, but it also subtly hints that a good soldier doesn’t necessarily just follow orders but actually questions them.
The Bourne series, as a whole, is really an anti-nazi story: let me explain. The Nazi party did a very good job in brain washing ten’s of thousands of soldiers into simply following orders, passing on the responsibility of wrong doing to their superiors. This has been proven as a human trait in many sociological studies. Another interesting, yet terrifying psychological trait at work in the Nazi party was group think, the tendency to allow ourselves to do horrible things when everyone else is doing them as well, when that becomes the norm. This is true during riots, where people with no criminal background start smashing cars, stealing and even beating people like in the L.A. riots.
But Treadstone didn’t want group think, they didn’t want a large group of people, they only needed a few, well trained men to be “activated” to go and kill whoever they said to. So, they skipped what the Nazi party did with propaganda and speeches and just put them through intensive brain washing techniques including traumatic experiences like killing people and torture. And the scary thing is, this actually works. Just ask a human trafficker how they get girls to prostitute themselves. All they have to do is rape them and threaten to kill their family or threaten to get their younger sisters and usually after that they’ll do whatever they say. This is pretty horrible and very depressing...but it’s important that movies are made to talk about issues like this, that we remember why the Nazi party worked so we make sure that the collective “we” are actually individuals who think for ourselves so that when someone comes a long says “hey everybody, I have a good idea, let’s kill all of those kinds of people because everything is there fault”, we don’t all listen and agree.
THIS is what free speech is for and why it’s so important, this is why a democracy works because it prevents one guy with a horrible idea to ruin our country or world. I better stop before I get too political. It’s also why having Jason Bourne going around, killing all the bad guys who set all this up is kinda nice too.
The Bourne movies are good, I like them, but I like the first one the best. Ok, I’m done.
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