The Bourne Identity
Doug Liman, who helms the first installment, may be the trilogy’s best director. But The Bourne Identity doesn’t live up to its filmmaker. The script is consistently action packed — which Liman directs fluidly — but the characterizations are utterly lifeless. There’s something interesting about having a character who doesn’t know who he is, but a problem arises: if he doesn’t know who he is, is he anything? The answer in The Bourne Identity seems to be a resounding “no!” Bourne is characterless. In addition to a dreary protagonist, the roles for women (like many spy thrillers) are weak and hackneyed (secretaries, and love interests), but will these issues be corrected in the sequels? Released in 2002. Written by Tony Gilroy. Based on a novel by Robert Ludlum. Starring Matt Damon, Franka Potente. 118 minutes.
The Bourne Supremacy
Paul Greengrass directs the unexpected sequel, The Bourne Supremacy, which takes place two years after the first. The film (which has Tony Gilroy return to write an original script) corrects the problems of the first while still maintaining the invigorating action. Although Greengrass’ shaky effect looms over some scenes, the editing corrects any distractions, creating a gritty, anxious atmosphere perfect for the character. The true value of The Bourne Supremacy, however, lies in the addition of Joan Allen, who plays Deputy Director Pamela Landy in a layered, strong role. The Bourne Supremacy has its faults (the inciting incident is rushed and uninvolved, and the tawdry ending leaves you empty) but it’s the most lively and efficient of the trilogy. Released in 2004. 108 minutes.
The Bourne Ultimatum
The third installment is the most engaging of the three, but entirely due to its formulaic nature. Greengrass dials it back to deliver an engrossing action film full of the trilogy’s best fights and chases. But The Bourne Ultimatum becomes just like every other action film. Greengrass’s and Liman’s creativity are nowhere to be found in the construction of this edition. The tenacity and originality of the series are not entirely present. The Bourne Ultimatum is a footnote in an otherwise great series. Released 2007. Winner, three Academy Awards. 155 minutes.