By the time 2002’s Die Another Day hit our screens, signalling the decline of a certain British spy with the initials JB (or at least Pierce Brosnan’s portrayal of him), we had already been introduced to an American undercover agent with the same initials and the heralding of a new kind of action film
The operative in question was called Bourne.
Although he was also known as John Michael Kane.
And in fact, as we would discover in a later movie, his real name was David Webb.
But we knew him as Jason Bourne.
Although, for a while in the inaugural film, he didn’t know any of his names.
Because he had amnesia.
Which was quite an important plot point.
There’s no doubting the impact that the Bourne franchise had on the genre.
By the time the next Bond film rolled around, Brosnan was gone to be replaced by Daniel Craig, and gone too were the inanities of invisible cars, ethnicity-altering surgery and bad guys called Mr Kill. Instead 2006’s Casino Royale is a stripped back affair with a harder, colder Bond and a greater focus on the plot making actual sense. It’s arguably the best of all the Bond films (though I still prefer On Her Majesty’s Secret Service despite all its plot holes and George Lazenbyness) and owes much to the Bourne series.
There are now five Bourne films in existence (if we count 2012’s The Bourne Legacy and ignore the 1988 made-for-TV version of The Bourne Identity and we probably should do both of those things). 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum is often viewed as the ‘pick’ of the bunch and it rightfully has its plaudits.
Overall though, I still have a preference for the film that kicked the whole franchise off, 2002’s The Bourne Identity. It may be because the bulk of that film is set in Paris and I found myself living in that fair city shortly after the film’s release.
But I think it’s more because, however great some of the sequels are, it’s Identity which introduces us to the world of the absent-minded assassin and sets the tone for the later movies.
Also, whereas the others tend to invite a time-hungry binge of Bourne (I often find that when I watch one I suddenly need to watch the rest immediately) Identity is its own self-contained story. I certainly had no objections when Supremacy came out in 2004, but had there never been another Bourne film made, Identity would still be a complete narrative in and of itself. We didn’t need a sequel, however much we might have wanted one, (although the studio, in clear contradiction of Mick Jagger’s wisdom, did give us what we wanted over what we needed).
In any case it is The Bourne Identity which is hiding in plain site behind door number 14 of The James Proclaims Advent Calendar of CHristmas(ish) Films.
Matt Damon absolutely owns the role of Bourne, but there are topnotch performances all around, particularly from Chris Cooper as the troubled Alexander Conklin. Franka Portente is also excellent as Bourne’s fellow fugitive and subsequent love interest.
So good is The Bourne Identity that it inspired me to read the original Robert Ludlum books.
They mostly have very little in common with the movies but they pass the time if you have nothing better to do.
But the films are much better.
And The Bourne Identity, in particular, is always worth a watch.
Score For Christmasishness
I must have seen The Bourne Identity countless times. But it wasn’t until I started my Christmas(ish) films Advent calendar that it occurred to me that one might consider it a Christmas Film.
Because it isn’t really a Christmas Film.
But it does appear to be set around Christmas time judging by the festive decorations on display throughout the movie.
Like many other aspects of the movie, the Christmas theme is understated.
Which makes it a very ‘Bourne’ Christmas when you think about it.
So while it’s not the most Christmas(ish) of all the movies to feature in The James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) films, it’s certainly not the least..