Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne is the anti-Bond of Hollywood action cinema. He’s almost emotionless when he clicks into gear and lets his training take over, like a killing machine suddenly switched on.
Doug Liman directs The Bourne Identity (2002), an adaptation of Robert Ludlum’s novel (previously made as a TV movie with Richard Chamberlain) about an amnesiac human weapon trying to discover his true identity while the CIA hunts him down. Damon delivers a performance of pure focus, as if all the vulnerability of his human self is taken off-line and replaced by instinct and programming whenever he’s in the line of fire. Franka Potente is the tourist who stumbles into his path and becomes his unlikely partner, Chris Cooper the CIA handler determined to erase his mistake, and Clive Owen a particular ruthless eraser.
Paul Greengrass directs the sequels, which are more rough and ready and explosive, throwing the audience into the middle of the action. The Bourne Supremacy (2004) picks up where Identity, with Bourne “dropped off the grid” to start a new life but his fantasy of a peaceful afterlife is shattered when he’s framed for murder and targeted by a rival assassin who makes one mistake: he lets Bourne survive. Bourne takes the fight back to the CIA in globe-hopping hunt that pits him against the sharp, incorruptible Agent Landy (Joan Allen) and Bourne’s old nemesis, the secretive Abbott (Brian Cox), who is determined to see Bourne dead.
Greengrass’ style is closer to The French Connection than to the unreal spectacles of modern special effects thrillers, and his overdrive pacing never misses a beat. Shooting almost exclusively with a handheld camera that peers in to every scene like a fascinated eavesdropper and picks up every telling detail, he directs it all up close and intimate. Whether it’s a conversation, an armed stand-off, or a careening car chase, he brings a visceral immediacy to every scene. You can almost feel every blow that Bourne endures. It can make it hard to follow the action, but it brings a visceral immediacy to every scene while giving us the adrenaline-powered hyper-drive of Bourne’s perspective.
Streaming for a limted time on Netflic and HBO Max:
The Bourne Identity (Netflix through April only and HBO Max)
The Bourne Supremacy (Netflix through April only and HBO Max)
Also on Blu-ray and DVD and on SVOD through Amazon Video (The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy), iTunes, GooglePlay, Fandango, Vudu and/or other services. Availability may vary by service.
The Bourne Identity [Blu-ray]
The Bourne Identity [DVD]
The Bourne Identity [4K Ultra HD]
The Bourne Supremacy [Blu-ray]
The Bourne Supremacy [DVD]
The Bourne Supremacy [4K Ultra HD]
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