Ever heard of Jonathan Ryder and Michael Shepherd? How about Robert Ludlum, the former are his pseudonyms. Ludlum has sold an estimated 290-500 million books, but more so for me he is the creator of Jason Bourne.
Sadly, aged 73,Robert Ludlum died 12 March 2001 during the development stage of Bourne Identity and only saw the TV version that aired in 1988 starring ageing Richard Chamberlain and Jaclyn Smith. While it was closer to Ludlum’s novel it had it dated badly and his Jason Bourne character needed an update, allegedly the charismatic author acknowledged this and was complementary of the changes and style proposed for the Doug Liman’s Bourne.
The film would send ripples across the movie world and wake up producers and influenced moviemakers. As a result good old James Bond was given a make-over and action scenes would never be filmed the same again.
Below are my thoughts on the Bourne films, the legacy Ludlum left us...
The Bourne Identity (2002)
Thanks to Bourne, Bond was given that update make-over that was needed. Although a loose adaptation of Robert Ludlum's novel it's a far superior to closer rework The Bourne Identity (1988) TV movie starring Richard Chamberlain and 'Angel' Jaclyn Smith.
Matt Damon's does a surprisingly great job, not just as Jason Bourne the character but against type cast, convincing the viewer that he's a dangerous and physical spy. While the Bourne Identity is action packed with some fantastic fight choreography and car chases it feels realistically grounded as an effective espionage thriller.
The captivating screenplay by Tony Gilroy and W. Blake Herron gives the cast time to shine. Franka Potente Brian Cox and Chris Cooper are all on fine form and there's also a small, memorable role by Clive Owen as an assassin.
The films has a great look and benefits from the real life European locations, Doug Liman's direction is exceptional utilising a hand held style that has become common place in mainstream films since. The score is exciting and Moby's theme tune is captivating, for such a high concept film Bourne Identity is very convincing,- it avoids clichés, has some twists and exudes atmosphere.
The Bourne Identity is must see.
The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
In this action packed follow up Bourne is framed and is forced to take up his former life as an assassin to survive. The Bourne Supremacy is a gutsy squeal to The Bourne Identity (2002) using the character based on an adaptation of Robert Ludlum's best selling novel
Paul Greengrass takes over the directing reins for Supremacy, while previous director Doug Liman's takes a producer credit. Greengrass maybe a little over zealous with the hand-held camera work, but continues the series more than effectively, successfully injecting some more energy into proceedings. In some ways the story is more interesting and complex than the first, again Tony Gilroy 's amazing screenplay avoids the clichés, dishing-out plenty of surprises and a major plot turning in the first minutes.
Brian Cox reprises his role as Ward Abbott and his character goes though some changes as the predicament and pressure he's under increases. Like Identity there's some fantastic fight choreography notably when Bourne, again played fittingly by Matt Damon, goes head to head with Jarda played by the understated excellent actor Marton Csokas. Julia Stiles returns as Nicky and new comer to the Bourne series Joan Allen as Pamela Landy is convincing. The cast are all first-rate including, Karl Urban of Star Trek and The Two Towers fame, as the Russian killer Kirill.
The ending leaves an upbeat intrigue that few films of this genre manage to stir. The Bourne Supremacy has a great look and again benefits from the real on location feel coupled with a complimenting score by John Powell, which leaves you wanting more of the same.
It's intelligent and captivating, packed with car chases, assassins and political conspiracy. Damon again is Bourne this time deeper and more dangerous. The perfect sequel.
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
Director Paul Greengrass for this instalment Ultimatum picks up (before!) where he last on left off in Supremacy. It sharp, slick and entertaining rightly winning three Oscars.
Although loosely based on Robert Ludlum novels, close friends of his are convinced that he would have enjoyed these film as much as the viewers have had watching them. Again with great directing, fantastic gritty and atmospheric on location shooting, which includes a remarkably key sequence in London it doesn't fell like a third film. Bourne again has to evade, out-manoeuvre, and outsmart highly-trained agents and assassins, while it might sound like old ground, Ultimatum comes with plenty of new surprises.
Like it's predecessors it zips along at a fast pace with exceptional stunts and gripping dialogue. You know you're in good hands when the original writer Tony Gilroy is still on board and Matt Damon returns as Jason Bourne.
Albert Finney puts in a nice cameo appearance as Dr. Albert Hirsch who is partly responsible for origins of Treadstone and Bourne's training. Although Brian Cox as protagonist Ward Abbott is sorely, but rightly missing, there's enough unscrupulous officials played by seasoned actors Scott Glenn, Kramer, and David Strathairn who excellently portrays Noah Vosen to fill the gap. Julia Stiles returns as Nicky Parsons in a meatier role and Joan Allen once again superbly plays Pam Landy.
It's has a gripping final act and once again the ended is exhilarating and emotionally stirring. It's grounded, it's understated it's Bourne.