It’s been nine years since Matt Damon last went rogue in The Bourne Ultimatum. Why should we care about Jason Bourne, the film that reunites Damon and director Paul Greengrass for another tale of globetrotting espionage? The studio didn’t screen it in time for a review, but here’s a primer on the franchise.
It’s the spy series we deserve
The Bourne Identity may have been shot before 9/11, but its release in the summer of 2002 made it the perfect film for an audience suddenly wary of shadowy threats and enemies within. As Damon’s amnesiac Bourne ran for his life through Europe, audiences got a glimpse of a world deeply mistrustful of Americans. And given what our hero was doing there, it seems the world had good reason.
It’s the anti-Mission: Impossible
Where Tom Cruise’s mega-franchise offers a squeaky-clean vision of international intrigue (the bad guy can be a rogue agent within the Impossible Mission Force, but never the IMF itself), the Bourne movies are much more cynical. The system is rotten, as we’re shown over and over again, because spies have power, and power corrupts. The Bourne Legacy is all about the CIA and NSA coming after its other operatives – including Jeremy Renner’s Aaron Cross – when Bourne’s actions threaten to expose the program.
It’s the role Matt Damon was born to play (no pun intended)
When Doug Liman cast Damon in The Bourne Identity, Good Will Hunting was fresh in the public consciousness, so the actor had no trouble selling the “ordinary guy hiding a particular set of skills” thing. But the character of Jason Bourne lets Damon use his own genial persona as a disguise. At any moment, this pleasant, nondescript guy could explode into merciless violence. He also gives the character an essential streak of sadness: this is a life he knows he’ll never escape, because it’s literally the only one he knows.
See review of Jason Bourne Friday (July 29) at nowtoronto.com/movies.