The Bourne Series (film)

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Jason Bourne. We think.
"I can tell you the license plate numbers of all six cars outside. I can tell you that our waitress is left-handed and the guy sitting up at the counter weighs two hundred and fifteen pounds and knows how to handle himself. I know the best place to look for a gun is the cab of the gray truck outside, and at this altitude, I can run flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking. Now why would I know that? How can I know that and not know who I am?"
Jason Bourne, The Bourne Identity

A series of action films tenuously (pretty tenuously) based on the Robert Ludlum books of the same name and starring Matt Damon. It revolutionized the spy genre for its simplicity as well as for having a smart protagonist, eurotrotting (with virtually zero California Doubling), well-crafted suspense and aggressive action sequences. Jason Bourne is an amnesiac who finds himself with super-assassin skills and has to stay on the run from former employers and whoever else wants to manipulate him to evil ends. Each movie follows a slightly different story but retains some basic elements of Bourne eluding government custody, killing a fellow assassin with some household implement and going for an innovative and harrowing car chase.

So far, there are five films in the series:

  • The Bourne Identity (2002): A man (Bourne) is fished out of the Mediterranean Sea riddled with bullet-holes and with no memory of who he is. He makes the surprising discovery that he knows how to speak several languages, has plenty of money and passports in a safety deposit box, and he knows how to kill anything that moves. Retracing his steps, he finds himself being hunted by the government and, with the help of a pretty German globetrotter, he goes in search of his identity.
  • The Bourne Supremacy (2004): After a botched undercover mission, a CIA operations leader finds evidence that Bourne was responsible for killing their agents. He's not, but those who framed him also want to kill him. After his girlfriend's death (via a shot that wins awards for sheer accuracy, being fired from a standing position at 200+ meters at a moving target through traffic), Bourne comes out of hiding to find the people who killed her and bring them to justice, and also to start making amends for past wrongs.
  • The Bourne Ultimatum (2007): Picking up where Supremacy left off, Bourne is on another mad chase - this time, it's to pick apart all of the loose ends about his identity and life, as he sets out to track down the source of the Government Conspiracy that made him into a weapon and caused all the trouble in the first place. This leads him through a series of individuals with the information he needs, and he picks up an unexpected ally in the computer specialist who had been in the background of the previous films. Cleverly retcons the second movie's final scene.
  • The Bourne Legacy (2012): Matt Damon refused to make another film without Paul Greengrass (director of Supremacy and Ultimatum) involved, and Greengrass has insisted that he's yet to find a story good enough to merit a continuation of the franchise. As a result, the studio have a new character, to be played by Jeremy Renner, who is being hunted down by the people behind operations Treadstone and Black Briar. They try to kill Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner). After having run out of the medication that prevents his migraines he takes contact to Dr. Marta Shearing. After saving her from an assassination attempt, she tells him that he should have stopped.
  • Jason Bourne (2016): Bourne gets involved in a plot to leak classified information. His former girlfriend Nicky Parsons obtains information about the American government's black ops program, including data on Jason Bourne's father. Nicky and Jason meet up, and after a chase sequence, Nicky gets shot. She manages to deliver the flash drive to Bourne, who then will uncover his past. The classified information gets destroyed by hacking a phone, so the only driving force is the uncovering of Jason's past.

The success of the films, especially the first two, helped influence the direction of the rebooted James Bond franchise with Casino Royale.

Tropes used in The Bourne Series include:

Nicky: Working with you was...difficult for me. (Beat) You really don't remember anything, do you?

  • Anyone Can Die: Several important characters are surprisingly dispatched over the course of the series. In the first film, Conklin is anticlimactically murdered at the end. In Supremacy, Marie (a character who survived the entire book series) is suddenly killed during a chase sequence. Later, Danny Zorn, Conklin's right-hand man and one of the few surviving Treadstone agents, is murdered by Ward Abbot. Abbot is later exposed as a murderer and traitor and commits suicide. In Ultimatum, Simon Ross (played by notable actor Paddy Considine} is set up to be a main character, then efficiently dispatched by an assassin. Neal Daniels is set up to be the man who could answer Bourne's questions, but is blown up. In fact the only major characters to survive the series are Bourne, Nicky Parsons, and Pamela Landy.
  • Artifact Title: The Bourne Identity makes sense given the context of the movie. The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum... less so.
    • Had the titles been reversed for the second and third movies, they might have made more sense. While the second has no ultimatum, the third film was basically Bourne destroying the government conspiracy surrounding Treadstone (showing his "supremacy" over the government officials involved with it).
      • The 'ultimatum' might stretch to referencing his insistence at the end of the first movie that Treadstone leave him alone or he'll kill them, which he certainly tries to carry out in the second movie.
    • They weren't shy about it either. When asked what the eponymous "ultimatum" was he replied "I've no idea. To be honest I'm not even sure what was so 'supreme' about me in the last movie."
  • The Atoner: Bourne.
  • Awesome Yet Practical: Virtually anything improvised by Bourne and his legacy.
  • Badass: Bourne, totally.
    • Same goes for every Treadstone and Blackbriar asset, whose levels of skill and determination nearly or equally rival Bourne's.
  • Being Tortured Makes You Evil: In Ultimatum we get glimpses of the induction process Treadstone (and presumably Blackbriar) agents undergo. Specifically, Jason is told to murder a man, sitting in a room with a bag over his head, and every time he refused Jason had a bag put on his head and he was severely punished, visa a vie solitary confinement and water-boarding among other methods, until he finally broke and killed him. To twist the knife further it seems that Jason, who volunteered, initially seemed to think the test was to not kill the man, given how soldier-like he took the orders.
  • Being Watched: Jason can plot the location and arc sweeps of multiple surveillance cameras at a glance and guide others through them as well as himself.
  • Berlin: One of the primary settings of the second movie.
  • Better to Die Than Be Killed: Castel after his fight with Bourne in Identity.
  • Black Shirt: Noah Vosen.
  • Book Ends: The Bourne Ultimatum ends with Jason Bourne being shot in the back, falling into water, and being lost and presumed dead by his pursuers. This directly mirrors the events preceding the first film, where we first see Bourne being rescued from the ocean, having been shot in the back and left for dead by Wombosi and his men.
    • Also, Ultimatum ends with Landy closing off the events of the film in a government committee, in a nigh identical fashion to how it's done in the first.
  • Burn, Baby, Burn: Inspired that entry.
  • California Doubling: Spectacularly averted for the most part, with only a few minor exceptions: Scenes from Zürich and the french countryside in Identity were filmed in the Czech Republic (in and around Prague), The skyline of and scene taking place in Amsterdam in Supremacy are probably filmed there as well and the very brief re-appearance of Moscow in Ultimatum was filmed around old GDR era buildings in Berlin.
    • In Ultimatum they filmed a scene set at the Waterloo train station on location, but there was no way they could get the location shut down for filming, so they just worked around the crowd. It generally worked alright as they put up signs to please ignore the film crew.
  • Call Back: "Look at what they make you give."
  • Car Chase: Several in every film. The car chase between Bourne and the Paris police from the first movie is rather original and involves surprisingly little in the way of crashes. And it's freaking hilarious, since Bourne's making his dramatic getaway through the crowded streets in Marie's old and battered 1960s Mini Cooper !
  • Car Fu: Used by both Bourne and the hitmen sent to eliminate him during the car chases in the second and third movie.
  • Carnival of Killers: Castel, The Professor and Mannheim from the first movie.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: By the end of the third movie, Bourne is able to survive a ten-story fall into water; see Soft Water, below.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: In Identity Wombosi's children are mentioned and seen briefly before a flashback reveals they're the reason Bourne couldn't kill Wombosi on the boat.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Ward Abbott, who first betrayed his superiors to form a black ops squad with Conklin, then betrayed his black ops squad to use it for personal gain and finally betrayed Conklin as well.
  • Combat Pragmatist
  • Come Alone: Subverted in Identity.
  • Contract on the Hitman: The various hitmen hired to kill Bourne. And, indeed, Bourne himself.
  • Cursed with Awesome
  • Darkest Africa: The dictator Nikwana Wombosi from the first movie comes from an unmentioned (but subtly revealed -- see Lawyer-Friendly Cameo) African country rife with infighting and military juntas.
  • Deadly Doctor: Albert Hirsch, the mastermind.
  • Deadpan Snarker: A lot of the characters, especially the employees of the CIA.
  • Did You Actually Believe??
  • The Dragon: Conklin to a number of Big Bads; Vosen to Hirsch.
    • Conklin isn't actually dangerous physically, so hes a pretty bad dragon. When he is searching for Bourne in the safehouse, there isn't even the slightest concern that Bourne won't get the drop on him. He just happens to have a lot of very dangerous people under his command.
      • None of the higher-ups in the CIA/Threadstone are physically threatening, really, but they're all extremely dangerous. An administrator can be a dragon as well, especially when they work for the freaking CIA.
  • Easy Amnesia: Averted. Bourne took a damn bullet to the back, and drifted in the sea without any protective gear.
  • Elite Mooks: Treadstone/Blackbriar operatives.
  • The End of the Beginning: At the end of the Ultimatum, Jason Bourne is no more, and David Webb has more or less taken his place.
  • Enhance Button: In Jason Bourne a low-quality video is being shown. Heather Lee (played by Alicia Wikander) says to freeze the frame and enhance.
  • Escort Mission: In Ultimatum, Bourne guides reporter Simon Ross (carrying important information about Black Briar) through Waterloo Station evading agents out to get Ross, mostly through instructions via cell phone. A potentially awesome escape is averted when Ross deviates from Bourne's instructions and in a panic, rushes into the open, prompting a headshot from an awaiting sniper.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Treadstone is supposed to have transformed Bourne into the ultimate assassin, but he can't bring himself to kill a father while his kids are watching.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Avoided, but played straight once in Identity.
  • Evil Mentor: Dr. Albert Hirsch.
  • Famous Last Words: Look at what they make you give from the first movie.
  • Film Noir: Some of the stylistic elements of the series (e.g. Bourne is a loner on the run investigating the convoluted secrets behind his past, most of the action in Europe takes place during the snowy winter months, adding to the gloomy atmosphere, etc).
  • The Film of the Book
  • Flat What: Marie evokes this trope in the first movie.
  • Foe Yay: Landy and Vosen have a bit of this.
  • Follow the Leader: You can see a lot of influence these films have had on similar genres, both in movies and television, including James Bond / Casino Royale, Taken, Burn Notice and Leverage.
  • Gay Paree: Averted. Paris is portrayed realistically (and pretty dirty) most of the time. There are no "postcard shots" emphasizing the location (though some famous sights do make an appearance).
  • Genius Bruiser: Bourne is basically what you get if you combine Bond and Batman.
  • The Government: Both flavors.
  • Guns Akimbo: In Identity when Bourne is breaking out of the Treadstone safehouse through a handful of mooks.
    • And he's actually firing one of the captured pistols while holding it upside-down !
  • Heel Face Turn: Bourne's semi-voluntary defection to the side of niceness.
    • Also, in Ultimatum: Pamela Landy's switch from hunting Bourne to helping him and blowing the whistle on Operation Blackbriar.
      • And Nicky, too.
  • Heroes Want Redheads
  • Hitman with a Heart: Bourne, sort of.
  • Hot Pursuit
  • Hyper Awareness: In the books and movies, but much more noticeable in the books, where Bourne can sense he's being trailed.
  • I Can See You: When Bourne calls Pamela Landy at her office, he lets her know he's within line of sight.

Bourne: Get some rest, Pam. You look tired. *click*

    • A similar example: Bourne requests a meeting with Nicky. He is asked what if they can't find her.

Bourne: That shouldn't be too hard. She's standing right next to you.

    • An inversion happens during Bourne's phone conversation with Vosen later on.

Bourne: If you were in your office, we'd be having this conversation face to face.

  • If You're Dedicated Shoot This Hooded Man: Albert Hirsch has David Webb shoot a complete stranger at the climax of the behavior modification which turns him into Jason Bourne the assassin.
  • Immune to Drugs: What fact could make Supremacy's final chase scene even more awesome? Both Bourne and Kirill will have been WASTED while it was going on.
  • Impossible Mission Collapse
  • Improbable Age: Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) is one of Bourne's field handlers on an extremely sensitive mission and apparently has beyond Top Secret clearance given what she is involved in (monitoring all of the Treadstone field agents). In other words, significantly more dangerous to the Agency than Bourne is if she screws up, or if something was missed in her vetting and she is less than 100% loyal. When the movie was filmed, Julia Stiles was a very young looking twenty-one.
    • Attempted Lampshade in Supremacy when Nicky explains her cover was an exchange student studying in Paris.
    • Bourne himself looks like he could be another offender, but Damon is just very slow aging. He is a very boyish looking 31-32 during filming of the first movie, which is actually appropriate for someone who is an experienced soldier who volunteers for a CIA black ops job.
  • Improvised Weapon: Bourne has used pens, magazines, hand towels, and bathrooms as lethal weapons. Yes, the whole bathroom. And a toaster. In bonus section it's revealed that he uses Filipino Kali, a practical martial art that emphasizes quick reflexes and subduing enemies while using improvised weapons.
  • Indy Ploy: Arguably, since Bourne is constantly forced to improvise some kind of escape.
  • In Name Only: The premise is mostly kept intact, but the film and book series diverge wildly in where they go from there. The movies are well-crafted and well-respected, having set a new standard for action flicks. They just, you know, don't follow Ludlum's plot.
    • The Bourne Legacy movie will be the most spectacular example of this. Not only it will not follow the novel, the eponymous Bourne himself will NOT appear!
  • I Surrender, Suckers: Used by Bourne once in Supremacy, when he intentionally lets himself be caught in USA consulate in Naples, and once in Ultimatum, surrendering to the NY police to hijack their car.
  • Jittercam: In the last two films. In the second one, especially, to the point that many theater-goers experienced headaches. Toned down for the third.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Pamela Landy.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Subverted in Identity with Wombosi's homeland. Because the characters never mention verbally where he's from, one is led to believe it's a typical Hollywood unnamed Banana Republic in Darkest Africa. However, when Bourne reads about his assassination in the newspaper, the caption notes that he was the ruler of Nigeria.
  • Leave Behind a Pistol: Bourne does this for Ward Abbott in Supremacy.
  • Le Parkour: Frequently used by Bourne to escape his pursuers. Helped popularize the art.
  • Love Redeems: Bourne refrains from killing for Marie's sake.
  • MacGyvering
  • Mad Lib Thriller Title: The Bourne...
  • Magical Database: The CIA's database. And granted, there's a CD containing various project personnel...
  • The Man Behind the Man: Layers and layers of it, but then again this IS a spy drama.
  • Master of Disguise: Bourne's character was influenced by 20th-century assassin Carlos "The Jackal", who was infamous for his ability to blend in and elude the authorities. Carlos himself appears as an antagonist in the novels.
  • Meaningful Echo: "Look at us. Look at what they make you give."
  • Monster Sob Story: The Professor's dying monologue. Despite trying to kill Bourne seconds earlier, both our hero and the audience are horrified as we realize he's another Treadstone agent, and thinks he was deliberately sent out to be killed. He doesn't even seem to take it personally.

Look at us. Look at what they make you give.

  • Mook Face Turn: Paz just before the end of Ultimatum.
  • Moscow / The New Russia: The second main setting of Supremacy and at the beginning of Ultimatum. Bourne's unofficial first mission consisted in the assassination of a progressive Russian politician.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Guess who.
  • Mugging the Monster: In Identity, a couple cops try to arrest Bourne for sleeping on a park bench. It ends badly.
  • National Rail
  • Never Found the Body: At the very end of Ultimatum. This is how Nicky knows that Bourne is still alive.
    • Subverted earlier in the movie. Bourne is able to kill Desh before he can kill him or Nicky, and tells Nicky to report that they are dead. Vosen then sends men to find their bodies and confirm it.
  • New Skills as the Plot Demands: Justified in the first film; Bourne has a ton of skills that help him disappear, beat people up and kill. He doesn't know about most of them until he has to use them; best demonstrated when a couple cops try to arrest him for sleeping on a park bench. A few seconds later they're both disabled and he is standing over them with one of their service pistols, a look of utter bewilderment on his face.
  • Oh Crap: Vosen has two moments: when he realizes that Bourne is in Vosen's office, and that Landy has faxed away all of the Blackbriar files.
  • Perpetual Frowner: Most of the cast, including Bourne (especially in the second and third movie). Nicky is perhaps the best example, which makes her warm knowing smile seen at the end of Ultimatum all the more awesome.
  • Positive Discrimination: There are no evil female characters. Either they are sympathetic to begin with, or if antagonistic toward Bourne, are established as being misinformed and at once turn good after learning the truth.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Overall opinion is that they're great movies. The books were written in the 80's, with the Cold War going on. This topic just doesn't carry the same impact now. Plus, the real-life terrorist at the center of the book series, Carlos the Jackal, had been in prison years before the movies were ever made.
  • Replacement Love Interest: Nicky Parsons, almost.
  • Retcon: Both sequels fill in Bourne's backstory in ways that color the previous film(s), and introduce increasingly higher-ranked government officials who were really in charge of the Treadstone/Blackbriar program. But the prime example is how Ultimatum reuses the final scene of Supremacy halfway through its runtime, recontextualizing the dialog and turning the Crowning Moment of Heartwarming of Supremacy into a Crowning Moment of Awesome in Ultimatum.
  • Revealing Coverup: The whole point of Treadstone is to avoid this trope, as all of Bourne's kills are supposed to look like internal rivalries or murder/suicides. As Bourne's handler puts it: "I don't send you to kill; I send you because you don't exist!"
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The Bourne Supremacy, albeit so cold and machine-like it seems he's lost his humanity until he refuses to kill Ward Abbott and again when he speaks to Irina Neski.
    • One might argue though that Bourne wasn't so much out for revenge in Supremacy, but simply trying to get to the source of the threat after he realized that the past wasn't going to leave him alone. Revenge was just a side dish.
  • Sherlock Scan: Demonstrated in the diner discussion with Marie, in Identity.
  • Significant Monogram: Jason Bourne shares more than just his occupation with James Bond. Also Jack Bauer. Another badass agent.
  • Sinister Surveillance: The US Government, during operations, has hijacked cameras nearly everywhere, and still can't catch Bourne. Granted, they trained him to avoid it, but...
  • Soft Water: In Ultimatum, Borne survives falling from a 10 story building into water after possibly being shot. He was however shown floating lifelessly for a few seconds, indicating he was stunned.
  • Something They Would Never Say: Subverted.
  • Spiritual Successor: Green Zone is from the same director as the last two films, has the same leading man, is loosely based on a book, involves a possible cover-up, and was even described by Greengrass as "a look inside a privileged world few people see", except it's the military instead of spycraft.
  • The Spook: Bourne was trained to become one of these, and it shows what happens when one of these turns back on its creators.
  • Stairwell Chase: Played with. And how !
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Marie.
  • Super Window Jump: The very end of Ultimatum - in a variation, Bourne jumps off the roof.
  • Swiss Bank Account: In The Bourne Identity, the only clue he has to his identity in the beginning is the details of a Swiss numbered bank account.
  • Techno Babble: Prevalent throughout Jason Bourne - "Use SQL to corrupt the databases." Other crimes against technology and sense includes hacking a laptop by using a nearby phone and remotely shutting down a building located in Iceland.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Simon Ross, the Guardian reporter who got in way over his head, and despite Bourne's repeated warnings, panicked and decided that it would be a good idea to try and escape a security trap on his own.
  • Train Escape: In the second film after Bourne is identified at a hotel.
  • Trying to Catch Me Fighting Dirty: Bourne. A lot.
  • Walking the Earth: Justified by Bourne being on the run. The first half of Identity even has a certain Road Movie charm to it.
  • We Have the Keys: In Identity, Bourne plans out a complex plot to get information from a hotel information desk. When he doesn't get the phone call from Marie, he assumes that she's bailed on the plan. She then appears right behind him. "I just asked them for it." "...Asked them?" "What? You didn't think of that?"
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Treadstone Asset Manheim, seen several times throughout The Bourne Identity, just up and vanishes. In Supremacy, Bourne confronts an Asset named Jarda who says they are the last two agents. It could be assumed they simply decided to replace Manheim with Jarda, since his name was never mentioned in Identity and neither is Jarda's in Supremacy, but they are played by two different actors.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: The reason for Bourne's botched mission in Identity. After having his gun trained point-blank on Wombosi's head, he sees Wombosi's children in his lap and sleeping about the room and aborts the mission at that point, leading to his shooting and subsequent fall from the yacht.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Bourne's bait-and-switch ploy to get the information on the Blackbriar project in Ultimatum.
    • Xanatos Speed Chess: Bourne is the master of this trope. The CIA operatives try hard to Out Gambit him in every movie. They always fail miserably...
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: The death of his Love Interest in the beginning of the second film.