Doug Liman, Paul Greengrass
Or three movies of Matt Damon kicking asses round the world.
THE BOURNE IDENTITY had two giant obstacles to overcome: 1) Could SWINGERS director and indie darling Doug Liman really uproot James Bond and turn in a fresh take on the spy genre, and 2) Could Will Hunting seriously be anything but laughable as a kicker of asses? Amazingly the film answered an emphatic “Yes!” to both these questions, especially the second one.
There’s a fun mystery to the typical amnesia plot in BOURNE IDENTITY, with Liman using the most of his international settings to make a very different type of action movie…which Matt Damon sells to a tee. Seriously, who would’ve thought? Damon is completely believable as the cold, calculating spy and brings a cerebral take to the action and fights. He also has a great chemistry with RUN LOLA RUN star Franka Potente, which adds a human element to all the chases and ass kickings. Chris Cooper and the omnipresent Brian Cox are perfectly cast as the slimy CIA analysts and even Clive Owen shows up for some assassin fun.
Altogether it’s a great launching point for the series, laying the foundation for a fresh new character.
3.5 out of 5 stars.
THE BOURNE SUPREMACY
People give BOURNE IDENTITY the credit (or the blame, depending on your point of view) for the new realistic and gritty (read: shaky) take on recent action movies, but it’s really THE BOURNE SUPREMACY and director Paul Greengrass that had the biggest impact on the franchise and people’s perceptions. Greengrass’s handheld documentary style and furious pacing fit perfectly with the material. There’s a gripping intensity and immediacy to the sequel that pretty much redefines it immediately, overpowering the original and dwarfing what Liman and Damon did.
Damon is still the man in this movie, kicking even more ass all over the screen. The fights are more brutal and the final car chase along the streets of Moscow not only tops the first film but is one for the history books. The plot itself makes some brave decisions and leads to quite the dark side for Bourne, making him a much more conflicted character, which thankfully Damon can handle. The great Brian Cox returns, but it’s the addition of Joan Allen that brings a lot to the table. Allen exudes a sense of class and seriousness and makes a great foil for the hero.
There’s still some human elements that make the character worthwhile aside from the ass kickings (especially the near final scene with Bourne and the girl), and the film ends on a high note with a promise of great things to come.
4 out of 5 stars.
THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM
Compared to its predecessor, THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM is a little bit more of the same, but since the “same” is really good, I don’t see a problem with that. Both Greengrass and Damon return ready to close out the series with a serious bang. (We’ll see if they actually stick to their trilogy plan.) And the pair is successful; the film is fierce in its pace, building on what worked in the first and second movies and sticking to it.
When I said the tempo of the film is fierce, I wasn’t kidding. It literally starts off mid chase and never lets up, traversing the globe like the previous movies in search of unique locations. The rooftop chase in Tangier is pulse pounding; the hand to hand fight there is maybe the best of the series, and when Bourne finally returns home to New York City, they manage to whip out another badass car chase to make America proud. Damon has grown comfortable in the role, but not lazy. Same for Joan Allen. The addition of a wrinkly Scott Glenn and a mucho serious David Strathairn only heightens the CIA scenes, although the film’s only misstep is the continual pushing of Julia Stiles upon the plot. It’s impressive she’s stuck around through all three, but her inclusion here (and slight romantic interest) is awkward and drags the film down. Matt Damon doesn’t need love. There is no opportunity for ass kicking there.
THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM ends in a fitting way, and if the filmmakers stick to it as a trilogy it will be quite the success. And seriously, Matt Damon, well done.
4 out of 5 stars.
THE BOURNE IDENTITY
Commentary by director Doug Liman: Liman attempts enough new stuff with his take on the spy genre to keep this track going with info. (WIZARD OF OZ…really?) Not the most dynamic speaker, but interesting if you’re interested.
Alternate Opening/Ending (10:47): A look at how the 9/11 terrorist attacks influenced and shaped how the film started and finished. What they ended with is quite different and would’ve changed the rest of the series.
The Bourne Mastermind (6:37): A puff piece praise Bourne author and creator Robert Ludlum. Sure he was an entertaining writer, but this would lead you to believe he was one of the greatest humans to live in existence.
Access Granted (4:04): An interview with writer Tony Gilroy, who explains both the fun and difficulties of adapting such a beloved character for the big screen.
From Identity to Supremacy (3:38): Damon and Franka Potente speak about the characters and how they wanted to “kick clichés in the ass.” There’s also a PR push for the second film (humorous considering Potente’s inclusion).
The Bourne Diagnosis (3:26): A psychologist from UCLA uses his medical knowledge to pick apart and try to explain Bourne. Not enough Matt Damon kicking ass.
Cloak and Dagger: Covert Ops (5:32): A real life CIA analyst takes you through what they do and exactly how Jason Bourne would be trained and used. Kinda cool.
The Speed of Sound (4:05): An in depth look at the exciting Mini car chase, with an interesting focus on sound editing and an option to make your own mix. Unfortunately it locked up my DVD player and made me restart.
Declassified Information: A fancy name for 7 minutes of deleted scenes.
Inside a Fight Sequence (4:43): See how Matt Damon went from Streisand to rocking the shit!
Moby “Extreme Ways” music video: I hate Moby. He negates all the asskickery that Matt Damon brings.
THE BOURNE SUPREMACY
Commentary by director Paul Greengrass: Greengrass is a bit soft spoken and his comments are more observing in spots, but his take on the story and filmmaking is worth listening to.
Explosive Deleted Scenes (7:13): Well there’s not much in the way of explosions, but you do get more Brian Cox! Always a plus in my book.
Matching Identities (5:28): Your average PR piece on casting the film, though this time the gushing comes from Paul Greengrass, which is acceptable.
Keeping It Real (5:00): A look at Greengrass’ pedigree and how he shakes things up with his take on the franchise. I like the way he thinks.
Blowing Things Up (4:02): A “how’d they do that?” piece on the ridiculous house explosion sequence. Guess what? It’s all real. (The ratchet stuntwork is especially impressive.) Exciting and fascinating.
Bourne On The Move (4:52): Location scouting in Europe and how each city played a role in the story.
Bourne To Be Wild (4:23): Clever, huh? Some more on the fight training used for the epic encounter between Bourne and the Treadstone operatives. Damon is still impressive, dammit.
Crash Cam (6:04): The final car chase is incredibly thrilling, and stunt coordinators and other crew go over how they filmed it. Again, Greengrass’ technique works wonders. Very impressive and worth watching.
The Go Mobile Revs Up The Action (6:50): The Go Mobile is a rig like a rocket that they used to pull off the car chase. The stunt team was able to do pretty much anything they wanted to, with a camera attached to it. A great feature.
Anatomy of a Scene (4:43): A look at the bridge chase with comments from Greengrass and Damon.
Scoring with John Powell (4:49): Your typical music piece.
THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM
Commentary by director Paul Greengrass: Similar in style and execution to Greengrass’ SUPREMACY commentary. Bourne fans will enjoy it.
Deleted Scenes (12:22): There’s some set up to remind audiences of the previous films that was unnecessary. Nothing really substantial.
Man on the Move (23:57): Take a look at each of the places Bourne travels to in the film, from Morocco to Paris to Berlin (doubling for Moscow). There’s some nice behind the scenes footage and fun interactions between Damon and Greengrass that shows the familiarity and trust between them.
Rooftop Pursuits (5:40): The rooftop run is a thrilling sequence and it’s amazing to see how they pulled it off. Crane sized cable cams to a really brave stunt guy holding a camera. (Remember the camera that follows the guy through the window?)
Planning the Punches (5:00): The same stunt team is the same as the previous films, but the fights are different and more impressive. Damon, again, wow.
Driving School (3:24): Go for a test drive with the stunt crew as they plan the rooftop chase. Damon does his own driving and is glad to get paid for it.
New York Chase (10:47): More behind the scenes of the car chase, this time during actual filming.
Extra Tidbit: People that were in the Bourne movies you probably didn’t realize: Michelle Monaghan and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje aka Mr. Eko.