Reviewing the Jason Bourne Series


Jason Bourne #1: The Bourne Identity (2002)
Release Date: June 6, 2002
Director: Doug Liman
Studio: Universal Pictures
Based on the late Robert Ludlum’s 1980 novel of the same name, The Bourne Identity represents an explosive renaissance of the gritty, realist, high-espionage film drama that James Bond had so whimsically drifted apart from at the time (cue the scenes of Pierce Brosnan riding a giant CGI melted arctic ice wave spawned by a remote space laser, or Bond driving an invisible car upside-down through a remote frozen castle as featured in 2002’s Die Another Day). Despite there being a small handful of obvious green screen shots and one rather ridiculous moment of Matt Damon falling several stories down a stairwell to land on a corpse only to trudge away moments later, the realism of The Bourne Identity is a welcome rejuvenation for the spy genre –it is the first part of an all-time classic franchise.


Jason Bourne #2: The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
Release Date: July 23, 2004
Director: Paul Greengrass
Studio: Universal Pictures
The second installment of the brilliant Bourne trilogy was directed by Paul Greengrass, rather than Doug Liman who directed the original, and while the narrative of the sequel is successfully carried over from the original, The Bourne Supremacy significantly escalates the intensity and action especially on the cutting room floor where we see very few moments in the movie lasting longer than a few seconds. It is replete with quick cuts and high-octane energy. The shaky, documentarian-style of cinematography is perfected in The Bourne Supremacy, as a rejection of typical Hollywood rules and expectations. Today, this realist style of camera-work has become something of a Hollywood cliche but that is largely owing to the success of the Bourne franchise.


Jason Bourne #3: The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
Release Date: July 25, 2007
Director: Paul Greengrass
Studio: Universal Pictures
Shockingly, The Bourne Ultimatum is anything but a tired, slumping sequel. It is the perfect example of a continuing franchise series done right. In a way, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum represent two separate parts of a singular story, with both being directed by Paul Greengrass. The quick cut action scenes in Ultimatum are more refined and sharper than they were in Supremacy, and the background of our amnesiac protagonist Jason Bourne is further revealed as well as other characters such as Nicky Parsons played by Julia Stiles.


Jason Bourne #4: The Bourne Legacy (2012)
Release Date: July 30, 2012
Director: Tony Gilroy
Studio: Universal Pictures
While certainly lacking the luster of the original Bourne trilogy, The Bourne Legacy is still a fun thriller that takes us through an alternate deep state narrative that runs concurrent with the events of the Jason Bourne series. It stars Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross, a black ops agent in “Operation Outcome,” a program that is testing performance enhancing drugs on its agents. Cross and a single survivor Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) flee to Manila while being tracked by Colonel Eric Byer (Edward Norton).


Jason Bourne #5: Jason Bourne (2016)
Release Date: July 11, 2016
Director: Paul Greengrass
Studio: Universal Pictures
While it was nice to see Matt Damon reprise his role as Jason Bourne, The Bourne Ultimatum had succinctly concluded the Bourne narrative and so the need for another movie was suspect in my view. Jason Bourne is a terrific action film but it falls far short of the original Bourne franchise despite the return of the many of the original players including Director Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon.

Ranking My Favorites of the Jason Bourne Series:

Top Tier:

The Bourne Identity (2002)

The Bourne Supremacy (2004)

The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

Second Tier:

The Bourne Legacy (2012)

Jason Bourne (2016)

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