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My initial reaction after watching the first film (The Bourne Identity) was
“Why in the world have I only watched it just now?????? This movie is pure genius!!!”. (ditto to the 2 sequels)
The movie is pure genius in terms of making the viewer guess and think things through, genius in terms of action, suspense, and thrills. Note that I’m only mentioning the film, not the novel by Robert Ludlum. And I know what you’re thinking
“What?? The Bourne Identity was back in 2002, The Bourne Supremacy was in 2004 and The Bourne Ultimatum was last year! Where have you been living? Under a rock?”
Yeah yeah I know it’s already been quite a while, and I know I should’ve watched all three (or at least the first two) years ago, but hey, I’m just 22. I had some other concerns back then, and I probably wouldn’t have been able to appreciate the movies much if I watched them 4 or so years ago. Then there’s still school of course and my other interests: programming, watching anime, gaming, reading books and so forth and so on enriching my knowledge and giving myself what I have and know today. There go my excuses and alibis for you.
The Bourne Identity garnered a massive 83% on rotten tomatoes‘ top critics (not just any critic of the site), The Bourne Supremacy got 74% on rotten tomatoes’ top critics, and finally, The Bourne Identity gets a whopping 93% from rotten tomatoes’ top critics. How’s that for starters? The 3rd movie (though this is weird since the previous 2 movies were also highly acclaimed around the world. I guess the people over at the Oscars are too damn busy watching dancing people sing) got these on the 80th Academy Awards: Christopher Rouse for Best Film Editing, Scott Millan, David Parker and Kirk Francis for Best Sound, Karen M. Baker and Per Hallberg for Best Sound Editing.
Anyway, I haven’t read Ludlum’s 3 ‘Bourne’ novels yet, and even though the 3 movies deviate largely from the books, I still think Ludlum is a master of suspense action/thriller, as can be seen from New York Times and other reviews on his books. What’s amazing was how Doug Liman (director of ‘Identity’ and producer of the last 2) and Paul Greengrass (director of the last 2 films) were able to update Ludlum’s novels to the 21st century. Mr. Ludlum’s novels were written in the late 80s, and one would quite certainly guess that the technology present in the 3 movies would probably be barely in Ludlum’s imagination at the time of the writing of the novels ( and he certainly wouldn’t have been able to accurately pinpoint what technologies would go off at our present time). This guess could be entirely mistaken, though, since I haven’t read the novels yet, but I would certainly bet my money on my guess. The update and modernization of the films from their novel counterparts were partly due to director Liman’s father’s work in NSA (this coming from the DVD commentary).
Why the movies are so cool (translation: why I like the movies)
1) They’re not Bond films
What got my attention on the ‘Bourne’ movies was primarily their espionage/black ops type of genre/film. I’ve watched almost all James Bond movies and believe me, I was a kid (around 10 or so) when I started watching those movies with my dad, and still I said to myself that James Bond stories and ending can’t always be true (a hint of my future pessimism and partial paranoia?). First, James Bond always had the prettiest girls, always drank the best drinks around, drove the best cars etc. Then he has in his command, the latest (and usually the queerest or most impossible) selection of gadgets around. He (Bond) always saves the world, gets rid of the bad guys, and the cycle continues. That can’t be right, can it? I mean, I love comic books and all but if anybody wants me to believe in James Bond, they have to do better than have comic-book-happy ending stories (while comic book stories don’t usually have a happy ending like in ‘Bond’ films mind you). I love spy movies (probably due to my dad’s liking of Bond films), espionage and stealth genres/themes, and I think that’s why I’m also pretty interested in ninjas, among other things.
2) Very cool action
I also liked the action certainly: from the first till the 3rd movie, the action gets even more physical and makes you want to hold on to something. Car chases, hand-to-hand fights in the movies make James Bond films look like Saturday morning action cartoons. This is how an agent (at least an extremely talented and capable agent/assasin) moves.
3) Parallelism to MGS
Another thing that made me extremely like the 3 movies is their parallelism/similarities to the Metal Gear Solid game storyline. I am a huge (did I also mention big and devoted?) fan of the Metal Gear series and storyline. Metal Gear tells the story of Solid Snake (as well as his father’s) and how they manage to pull through covert, black ops missions to save the world from nuclear holocausts. I tried searching through Google for possible mentions that Hideo Kojima (brilliant creator of the Metal Gear series and franchise) had some inspirations from mr. Ludlum’s novels, particularly the ‘Bourne’ movies, but to no avail. A lot of people I read from the Internet talk about the parallelism especially of Jason Bourne and Solid Snake’s (codename) father, Snake/Big Boss (also a codename), which I think is worth noting. The 2 were both very good at what they were doing (killing, covert/black ops, stealth missions) for the sake of their country, their people, and what they believe is right. However, they were both victims of their superiors’ desires to amass illegal wealth and power. Both of them were used, then afterwards framed, by their superiors, after which they take the fight back to them (superiors). What’s great about the ‘Bourne’ films is that Jason doesn’t really have to hide in corners or in the shadows to move around stealthily (at least in the ‘watchful’ eyes of the CIA) since he knows how the CIA agents think and move, which is quite different in Solid Snake’s case, as the latter requires some hiding etc in his missions. Then again, Solid Snake’s missions are quite different from Jason’s, as Solid Snake’s mission are usually in highly secured areas like fortresses, jungles, etc. It’s also quite ‘refreshing’ to see a spy film not use flashy gadgets or out-of-this-world equipments like those from the ‘Bond’ movies just so that one can defeat the bad guys, and also a spy movie which rely mostly on brains, and some brawn of course.
4) Strong women
What I also like very much on the ‘Bourne’ films is the way they treat women: women can and will have the power as well as the strength and the brains to do what they want. That’s what I believe and the movies certainly do a great work on it (empowering women). The roles played by Joan Allen as CIA Deputy Director and Task Force Chief Pam Landy, Franka Potente as Marie Helena Kreutz (Bourne’s girlfriend), and Julia Stiles as Nicky Parsons (CIA contact and logistics officer) all play strong women. Strong in this sense means great intellectual power, morality and sense of duty, though I would certainly think some of them can also kick other men’s asses. I’m a firm believer that women, who have mostly been subjugated by self-righteous men (religious men not the least, though they may not really realize it, nor the women who willingly let the men subjugate them), and even at some places in the world women are taken into what J.R.R. Tolkien would refer to as thralldom, can leave their misery behind them. I believe that women should be treated as equals of men in terms of ability to work, hold office, etc. The ‘Bourne’ movies certainly shows this line of thinking, which I appreciated very much. Frankly, I currently prefer women like the ones in the 3 movies: strong, opinionated women. Of course, there’s still room in my view for damsels-in-distress though.
4th movie/Sequel to ‘Ultimatum’
Director Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon (Jason Bourne) have expressed that they didn’t want another movie as they think they’ve “ridden the horse as far as they can” or so Matt said. However, as of March this year, due to the financial and critical success of the 3 films, Matt and Paul are going to do a 4th movie, though the details of the new film aren’t out yet. The new film will most probably take some stories from the novel The Bourne Legacy
Finally, if you’re looking for an extremely well handled action-suspense-thriller movie that let’s you think, a movie that will make you hold on to your seats, and a movie that will touch you in many ways (physically, emotionally, psychologically etc), then this movie is definitely for you. I should say that it will not leave you unchanged after watching it.
Now, I’m off listening to the end soundtrack of the 3 movies: Moby’s Extreme Ways.