Face Off: Ethan Hunt vs. Jason Bourne

Last week's Face-Off column was a gunfight between a pair of great modern Westerns, and more of you agreed that TOMBSTONE walked away from the showdown and left SILVERADO laying in the street.

This weekend, Tom Cruise is back in another action blockbuster, the sci-fi war movie EDGE OF TOMORROW. One of Cruise's most famous roles is Ethan Hunt from the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE series, but how does his high-tech superspy stack up against amnesiac espionage operative Jason Bourne?

(Please note: Face Off is an opinion column. We're not using any actual science to prove or disprove anything. It's just for fun.)
Tom Cruise, one of the biggest box office stars in the world for three decades
Matt Damon, a versatile dramatic actor who became a credible action star thanks to the BOURNE series
Along with his fellow agents of the Impossible Missions Force (IMF) over the course of four movies, Hunt has to: acquire an important data file to clear his name after being disavowed, prevent a deadly virus from being used by a rogue IMF operative, stop an arms dealer from obtaining the mysterious "Rabbit's Foot", and (after being disavowed again) avert a global nuclear war
After waking up with gunshot wounds, missing memories and considerable espionage tradecraft, Bourne tries to piece together his past only to discover he was an assassin in a CIA black ops behavior modification training program called Treadstone. When he's hunted as a rogue agent, he presses his investigation and becomes determined to hold accountable those responsible for Treadstone (and its upgrade program Blackbriar).
Wall-climbing sticky gloves, explosive chewing gum, realistic full-face disguises, hallway holograms, a small arsenal of firearms and explosives, various high-tech computer and communication devices
Aside from randomly acquired guns and rifles, Bourne has an uncanny knack for using everyday items (pen, magazine, hardcover textbook, hand towel) as deadly weapons
Hand-to-hand combat, marskmanship, expert driving skills, remarkable physical resilience, wall-climbing
Hand-to-hand combat, marskmanship, expert driving skills, remarkable physical resilience, wall-climbing, transforming household objects into dangerous fighting instruments
IMF agents Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), Jane Carter (Paula Patton), William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), Jim Phelps (Jon Voight), Claire Phelps (Emmanuelle Beart), Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), Jack Harmon (Emilio Estevez), Sarah Davies (Kristin Scott Thomas), Billy Baird (John Polson), Nyah Nordoff-Hall (Thandie Newton), John Musgrave (Billy Crudup), Lindsay Farris (Keri Russell), Franz Krieger (Jean Reno), Zhen Lei (Maggie Q), Declan Gormley (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), Theodore Brassell (Laurence Fishburne), and fiancée Julia Meade (Michelle Monaghan)
Marie (Franka Potente), a German bystander who becomes his lover, CIA officer Pam Landy (Joan Allen), former Treadstone logistics technician Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), journalist Simon Ross (Paddy Considine), Italian fishermen
You can take about a quarter of the names listed above and plunk them here as turncoats, since the IMF evidently has some rather loose hiring standards and more moles than Jennifer Lawrence. On top of that, Hunt has to deal with an ustable ex-IMF agent (Dougray Scott), a notorious arms dealer (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and an obsessed nuclear strategist (Michael Nyqvist), and all their random henchmen
Bourne goes head-to-head (or face-to-fist) with several lethal field operatives (Clive Owen, Karl Urban, Marton Csokas, Edgar Ramirez, Joey Ansah, Scott Adkins), but his real adversaries are the devious bureaucrats behind the Treadstone project (Albert Finney, Chris Cooper, Brian Cox, David Strathairn), who are willing to do anything for status, personal gain and covering their asses
-Brian De Palma
-John Woo
-JJ Abrams
-Brad Bird

Their entries in the M:I series may have been hit-or-miss, but their combined filmography is truly impressive
-Doug Liman
-Paul Greengrass

Greengrass (and his handheld shaky-cam style) became the director most associated with the franchise
Jeremy Renner showed up in GHOST PROTOCOL as an IMF analyst who turned out to be a former field agent (and is ultimately recruited back to active duty). Future appearances in the M:I series are TBD
Jeremy Renner took over the franchise (but not the Bourne alias) as new operative Aaron Cross in the semi-sequel THE BOURNE LEGACY. While his skills were overly reliant on "chems" and his first mission met with only modest critical and financial success, he's getting another shot in a fifth movie to carry the BOURNE name
Based on the long-running TV spy series that you may have seen in reruns
Based on a series of Robert Ludlum novels that your dad probably read
$2.1 billion combined for all four MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE movies
$944 million combined for all three BOURNE movies ($1.2 billion if you include LEGACY)
Both characters have consistently and effectively demonstrated their badass abilities, and while Cruise is a veteran in the action blockbuster game, Damon in particular surprised us all with his bone-cracking proficiency (or as Paul Rudd put it in THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN: "I always thought that Matt Damon was kind of a Streisand, but he's rocking the shit in this one!"). They'd probably be evenly matched in physical combat, but Cruise's Ethan Hunt faces higher stakes. Plus he has better tech goodies and more attractive colleagues, and ultimately he comes out on top.

Agree? Disagree? Which do you prefer?



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