Sunday 4 September 2016

The Bourne Movies by Gilroy, Greengrass et al

With Jason Bourne in the multiplexes I thought it was time for a quick look at the background to this film series...

Up until now I'd been an adherent of the theory that the even-numbered Bourne movies were the ones worth celebrating. The first, The Bourne Identity (2002) was certainly fun, but not to my thinking great,  

But the second, The Bourne Supremacy (2004) was absolutely terrific and even managed to come up with an interesting and exciting variation on that most weary of cinematic clich├ęs — the car chase (in this case, spreading mayhem through the streets of Moscow). 

Number three, The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) saw a dip in interest, at least in my interest, although there was a memorably tense sequence in Waterloo Station. But then there was the fourth film, The Bourne Legacy (2012)...

This was in some senses not a Jason Bourne movie at all, making cheeky use of the name in the title, despite introducing an entirely new character, played by Jeremy Renner. Yet it was probably the best of the bunch.

Now, who is responsible for these? Well, the first movie was directed by Doug Liman, but the major creative personalities behind the series have been Paul Greengrass and, above all, Tony Gilroy. 

Greengrass is a former BBC documentary film maker whose work has a powerfully realistic feel. He directed the second and third films, and now the fifth.

Tony Gilroy was a screenwriter on all of the first four films, and also directed the fourth. He is one of the great Hollywood writers and with the excellent Michael Clayton (an unusual sort of legal drama starring George Clooney) he also became a first-rate writer-director.  

In addition, Gilroy wrote The Devil's Advocate, a favourite guilty pleasure of mine, and is currently involved in writing the new Star Wars spin-off Rogue One.

Yet Gilroy isn't involved in this summer's Bourne movie, Jason Bourne... and it's still a winner. And breaks the even-numbered-Bourne rule.

I'll tell you all about it next week. 

(Image credits: all from the very useful Imp Awards — Identity, Supremacy, Ultimatum, Legacy.)


  1. I always felt that The Bourne Legacy was deeply unfairly maligned simply because 'it isn't Matt Damon' I am surprised to see the studios are still interested in progressing with Renner in the role, despite the about turn back to Damon and Greengrass.

    The new one's a winner? I must say, yours will be the first positive review I've read of it then! Intrigued...

    1. Great to hear from you. Apologies for a late reply. I think having two strands of movies, with Renner and Damon, could be cool. And I wouldn't say the new movie is a complete winner, but it's certainly good fun.

  2. I, too, rather liked Bourne Legacy. Even as an amnesiac, Matt Damon's Bourne was too perfect to root for, too good at combat and tech and getting others to give him what he wanted, and he seemed to fight only because others were fighting him. Renner's character Aaron Cross had a deeper, more personal stake, self-awareness of what he was, and you could never quite be sure just HOW ruthless he really was. Even at the end, I was wondering what he was planning next.

    I haven't seen the latest Bourne movie because I don't like the shaky-camera style of 2 and 3. In me, that doesn't create excitement, only nausea. I was relieved when Legacy avoided it for the most part.

    You didn't mention the original Bourne Identity movie starring Richard Chamberlain. I'd be curious to hear your take on that one in comparison to the others, given the different eras and technology and emphasis.

    1. Ah, I didn't even know about the original Richard Chamberlain version. I must seek it out. Thank you for the tip -- and apologies for the tardy reply!