Bourne Trilogy

I felt a little silly spending time when I’m in London at the BFI Imax theater watching the Bourne trilogy back-to-back-to-back, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. While its true that no one visits London to sit in a movie theater, there were a couple of things that gave it a fun twist.

One thing I’ve enjoyed about all three movies is that they’re set in interesting locales, including Paris, Berlin, London, Madrid, India and NYC. I like watching movies and seeing places that I’d like to visit, or even more fun to see places that I’ve been. The third movie, Bourne Ultimatum had a special element in this regard. One of its big action sequences in the early part of the movie is set at Waterloo Station, which is the rail terminal where most international trains arrive in London. It’s one of the largest and busiest stations in London. The cool part is that the theater where I watched the movies last night is located right across the street from Waterloo. So I had the experience of arriving at Waterloo on the tube and walking thru it to get to the theater, and then seeing it right back up there on the big screen. In fact, there was one wide shot of London at the beginning of the scene where you could see the theater itself.

Another nice touch was having one of the actors from the third movie around to introduce the films and answer some questions. One of the trademarks of the Bourne trilogy are some very realistic-looking hand-to-hand combat scenes. In the third movie, the actor who goes up against Jason Bourne (and naturally ends up as a deceased bad guy) was a guy named Joey Ansah. I didn’t know before-hand that he was going to be there, but it was a nice touch.

Seeing the three movies in a row was fun for someone who’s really a fan of them like I am, because you can put together the details that they include in each movie more directly. For instance, you see one of Bourne’s alternate passports in the first movie and then in the he uses that passport and it’s a key point in the development of the story. I also liked being able to compare the different fight scenes and car chases. There’s one big question that I was still not able to answer, probably because I wasn’t paying close enough attention and there are a lot of details. There is a final scene at the end of the second movie, Bourne Supremacy, where Bourne and the CIA boss lady, Pamela Landy have a telephone conversation. At the end of the second film it seems like a nice coda to what’s happened and you assume that it’s a prelude for Jason Bourne to fade back to invisibility. However, the third movie comes along and you discover the scene has a radically different import. The question I was trying to answer, after seeing the third film was whether or not they used the same footage from the second film, or re-shot the scene and included anything new or different. Seeing the two back-to-back (the whole movies, the scenes are separated by probably an hour of film time) I am pretty sure that the actual content of the conversation is the same. However I think they did re-edit it, because there’s additional video of other characters the second time around. Also, I’m not positive, but I think Joan Allen’s part may have been filmed again, with the same dialog. This one will have to wait until the DVD comes out. (It’s ridiculous the stuff I waste my time on.)

One of the criticisms of the Bourne Ultimatum when it premiered this summer was that it was anti-American. I remember Bill O’Reill being especially harsh, and there were a fair number of columnists on the right who shared similar opinions. Having seen the movie again after reading all that, my take is that its not so much an anti-American film altogether, but the makers take every opportunity to score cheap political points about the war and the current administration. While it’s true that the ultimate bad guys in the entire trilogy are some shadowy figures at the CIA who have developed this program to create an elite squad of amoral assassins, that’s not so unusual of an idea in the movies. And really, what is more conservative than the idea that if you give a government too much power and don’t look askance at its motives then it will become a tyranny?

The thing that did rub me the wrong way, especially in the third film was the way they tied the bad guys in with what’s going on today. One of the CIA bosses brags that his operation has carte blanche for things like (paraphrasing here) “rendition, extreme interrogation methods, surveillance and even lethal force.” In another scene, the CIA director, who is complicit in the coverup, is shown talking on the phone. For a moment, the focus of the camera is drawn to the American flag sitting in a holder on his desk while you hear him plan whatever evil thing is coming next. Finally, there are repeated flashbacks throughout the movie of what is basically waterboarding, that was used on Jason Bourne as a means of breaking him when he first entered the program, to turn him into this unfeeling assassin.

I noticed all this stuff more this time than I had previously. It didn’t really hamper my enjoyment of the movie too much, but it was certainly there and I can understand why people were pointing it out.

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2 Responses

  1. You should read (or listen, like I did) to the books.
    Such a better story overall. I like the movies too, but the books are an entirely different animal.

  2. I agree that the books are completely different, but I didn’t enjoy them that much. I think I read at least two of them, starting with Identity, between the first two movies. Having seen the first movie already probably influenced me somewhat, because I already had an idea of the character and I think he’s a little different in the book, but mostly I recall thinking that I didn’t enjoy the stories as much.

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