Bourne Series (original trilogy)
My taste in films has, dare I say it, matured somewhat over the years, but I still enjoy a good action blockbuster now and then so it's remarkable that it's taken me so long to get around to watching the adventures, or should that be misadventures of Jason Bourne. I already knew that they were based on a series of novels by Robert Ludlum but I didn't realise how long they've been around - the first one was published way back in 1980 so I'm surprised it hasn't been 'Hollywood-ised' before. Nonetheless, Doug Liman (of Swingers fame), long a fan of the novel, did eventually get the ball rolling and slightly surprisingly cast Matt Damon as the titular character who, as we soon learn, is an ex/rogue/lost CIA spy/assassin.
That means, like so many films and TV shows in recent years, the stories relayed in the Bourne novels/films are ones involving various secret 'black ops' programmes run by American government agencies, usually by corrupt and/or power-hungry directors or involving rogue agents, etc, etc. I'm sure it all sounds as familiar and unoriginal to you as it did to me, but let's not forget - the stories, or at least the first one, and the general premise involved were conjured up more than 30 years ago now when tales of our sinister governments were much less prevalent. For the film versions, the stories were of course modernised but the basic premise remains the same - Jason Bourne is a covert operative for 'the agency' who's missing, presumed dead after a botched mission...
The Bourne Identity (2002)
The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
I may have waited a long time to see these films but that hadn't dampened my enthusiasm for them - I had been hearing people raving about them for years after all - but when I finally did see them all, I couldn't help but feel a little disappointed to be honest. Technically they're excellent; the direction, soundtrack, post-production, and all that stuff is all faultless, and the acting is also decent enough. I was initially sceptical as to whether Matt Damon could pull off an action role like this but he quickly and completely convinces, especially in the impressive (and realistic-looking) fight scenes. That said, the amount of personality and sympathy he brings to the role is more questionable. Pretty much all the other casting is good as well - Chris Cooper, Joan Allen, Brian Cox, Scott Glenn, and David Strathairn comprise the assorted CIA suits, Paddy Considine makes a welcome appearance as the reporter in Ultimatum, Franka Potente is on eye-candy duties, and there's a load more as well.
Not only are they technically sound but they're all very entertaining films in their own right, so all things considered they should be pretty damn essential viewing shouldn't they? Well, there's not really much to separate the three instalments, but that's partly a problem as well. I watched them on three successive days only around a month ago but while writing this feature I was actually finding it quite tough to remember a great deal about them. Even now if you showed me a short clip, in most cases I'd probably be unsure which of the three films it actually came from!
I guess the consistency is impressive but it also means there's little that stands out about any particular film, and that includes Bourne himself - he doesn't know who he is, and we know little more, so do we really care what happens to him? I didn't really, to be brutally frank, and certainly didn't look at him the same way as I look at someone like Jack Bauer who is far less... robotic for one thing; it was the action and suspense that kept me watching here, not concern for Jason's well being. So, I suppose the way to look at them is: three decent individual action films, but less appealing as a series. The only question now is: do I watch The Bourne Legacy? Based on these three I suppose I should if and when I fancy an action fix but I'm not likely to get any more than that...