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Face Off: Ethan Hunt vs. Jason Bourne

06.04.2014by: Dave Davis
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.)
ACTOR
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
CHALLENGES
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).
GEAR
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
SPECIAL ABILITIES
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
ALLIES
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
VILLAINS
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
DIRECTORS
-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
RENNER CONNECTION
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
SOURCE MATERIAL
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
BOX OFFICE
$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)
ETHAN HUNT
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?
POST YOUR CHOICE BELOW!

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11:40PM on 06/05/2014

Bourne, but it is shouldn't be forced to choose!

Man, this one is kind of tough. Who would you rather go into spy battle with? Hunt knows what he's doing and why he's doing it. Bourne knows what he's doing but not why he's doing it. Bourne's actions are motivated by personal agenda-to find out what happened to him and why he's got a major case of CRS. Hunt is out to save the world! That's right-you and me and everyone we know! Certainly less selfish motives for killing people and blowing stuff up. I guess I'll have to focus more on the movies
Man, this one is kind of tough. Who would you rather go into spy battle with? Hunt knows what he's doing and why he's doing it. Bourne knows what he's doing but not why he's doing it. Bourne's actions are motivated by personal agenda-to find out what happened to him and why he's got a major case of CRS. Hunt is out to save the world! That's right-you and me and everyone we know! Certainly less selfish motives for killing people and blowing stuff up. I guess I'll have to focus more on the movies and less on the characters and actors at hand. While the MI films may have bigger budgets and a more glorious look, they all feel very different from one another (clearly due to different directors every time). The Bourne films on the other hand, all have a similar feel and atmosphere (even if Greengrass notoriously used more shaky-cam than Liman). The Bourne trilogy (we'll pretend the boring and unnecessary Legacy film doesn't exist) feels like one complete adventure that can be enjoyed in one sitting. While the quality of the MI movies is more inconsistent, all the Bourne films (again, we'll stick with the Damon ones) are excellent films. I'd say I respect Ethan Hunt more (as far as you can respect a fictional character), but my preference for the Bourne films give this win to Jason Bourne.
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+1
5:44PM on 06/05/2014
Ethan Hunt is just a bad ass mother... shut your mouth!
Ethan Hunt is just a bad ass mother... shut your mouth!
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4:59PM on 06/05/2014
Ethan Hunt, because the other bloke spends most of his time whining about people chasing him. Bourne is the fucking shoegazer version of an action hero.
Ethan Hunt, because the other bloke spends most of his time whining about people chasing him. Bourne is the fucking shoegazer version of an action hero.
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2:43PM on 06/05/2014
I'll take Ethan Hunt. His obstacles are just so damn ridiculous and enjoyable to watch.
I'll take Ethan Hunt. His obstacles are just so damn ridiculous and enjoyable to watch.
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2:35PM on 06/05/2014
Love both film series, but I gotta go with Ethan Hunt.
Love both film series, but I gotta go with Ethan Hunt.
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+0
1:08PM on 06/05/2014
One plus to the M:I series: you can see the action.

I was never fond of the shaky-cam action of Bourne where you could hardly see what's going on, and I found it worse that it actually started a trend in action movies.
One plus to the M:I series: you can see the action.

I was never fond of the shaky-cam action of Bourne where you could hardly see what's going on, and I found it worse that it actually started a trend in action movies.
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+0
12:33PM on 06/05/2014

No freaking way

While I love both Damon and Cruise as actors, I probably like Cruise a little more, even so, there's no way in heck Bourne should lose this match. In the pantheon of action star characters it pretty much goes: 1) James Bond 2) Jason Bourne 3) Everyone else.
While I love both Damon and Cruise as actors, I probably like Cruise a little more, even so, there's no way in heck Bourne should lose this match. In the pantheon of action star characters it pretty much goes: 1) James Bond 2) Jason Bourne 3) Everyone else.
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11:12AM on 06/05/2014
Bourne has more raw skill and smarts than Hunt, IMO. Would have liked to see battle between Jason Bourne, James Bond, and Jack Bauer anyways.
Bourne has more raw skill and smarts than Hunt, IMO. Would have liked to see battle between Jason Bourne, James Bond, and Jack Bauer anyways.
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8:38AM on 06/05/2014
This is obvious for me. It's Bourne. We feel his struggle, and he's making up for what he's done. We sympathize with Bourne. I love Ethan Hunt too but I don't feel connected with him.
This is obvious for me. It's Bourne. We feel his struggle, and he's making up for what he's done. We sympathize with Bourne. I love Ethan Hunt too but I don't feel connected with him.
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4:29AM on 06/05/2014

Anyone else....

Just had the greatest fucking idea for a crossover movie in the history of the world??????? Come on, at least one of you got to think how awesome Bourne Vs Hunt would be.
Just had the greatest fucking idea for a crossover movie in the history of the world??????? Come on, at least one of you got to think how awesome Bourne Vs Hunt would be.
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3:36AM on 06/05/2014

oh no no no

Bourne wins this and wins it easily.
Bourne wins this and wins it easily.
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8:34AM on 06/05/2014
Agreed
Agreed
4:30AM on 06/05/2014
He kissed her, and he kissed her good.
He kissed her, and he kissed her good.
2:17AM on 06/05/2014
Bourne would kill Hunt. Death by ballpoint pen.
Bourne would kill Hunt. Death by ballpoint pen.
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2:12AM on 06/05/2014
Jason Bourne, because his journey in piecing together his past and re-discovering his various skills was more compelling.
Jason Bourne, because his journey in piecing together his past and re-discovering his various skills was more compelling.
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1:00AM on 06/05/2014

Ethan Hunt

Love both films, franchises, characters, and actors, but I have to give this matchup to Ethan Hunt because in the Mission Impossible films, Hunt deals with bigger problems as in saving the world more than once, while Bourne's arc isn't really as big and as threatening.
Love both films, franchises, characters, and actors, but I have to give this matchup to Ethan Hunt because in the Mission Impossible films, Hunt deals with bigger problems as in saving the world more than once, while Bourne's arc isn't really as big and as threatening.
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12:53AM on 06/05/2014
I'd say it's a tie. Ethan Hunt may have super supporting team and nifty toys. But Jason Bourne makes up for that by his awesome hand-to-hand combat and other survival skills.
I'd say it's a tie. Ethan Hunt may have super supporting team and nifty toys. But Jason Bourne makes up for that by his awesome hand-to-hand combat and other survival skills.
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-4
12:52AM on 06/05/2014
Ya, this isn't a good match up. Sorry guys.
Ya, this isn't a good match up. Sorry guys.
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12:44AM on 06/05/2014

Not really fair

Would make more sense if it was Ethan Hunt vs. James Bond.
Would make more sense if it was Ethan Hunt vs. James Bond.
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3:46AM on 06/05/2014
Yeah, Aaron Cross. Thanks, guys.
Yeah, Aaron Cross. Thanks, guys.
2:15AM on 06/05/2014
Agreed that it would make more sense if it was Hunt vs Bond. M:I always felt like an American Bond franchise to me.

And Jason Bourne's real name is David Webb. Renner's Character was Aaron Cross.
Agreed that it would make more sense if it was Hunt vs Bond. M:I always felt like an American Bond franchise to me.

And Jason Bourne's real name is David Webb. Renner's Character was Aaron Cross.
1:50AM on 06/05/2014
Aaron Cross.
Aaron Cross.
1:01AM on 06/05/2014
I believe it was Aaron Webb. I'm positive on the first name, so so on the last name.
I believe it was Aaron Webb. I'm positive on the first name, so so on the last name.
12:54AM on 06/05/2014
Yeah, I agree with you. It should be Hunt vs. Bond. Or Matt Damon's Bourne vs. Jeremy Renner's new Bourne (can't remember his actual character's name).
Yeah, I agree with you. It should be Hunt vs. Bond. Or Matt Damon's Bourne vs. Jeremy Renner's new Bourne (can't remember his actual character's name).
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