Matt Damon and Julia Stiles reprise their 'Bourne' roles for the fourth time in Paul Greengrass' 'Jason Bourne.'
Almost two decades ago, a brilliant young soldier volunteered for an experimental special-ops program after he was told that terrorists killed his father. He was promised he could honor his family and country by evolving an already impressive intellect, deft agility and adaptable skill set into the unimaginable.
It was all a lie.
Subjected to brutal training he doesn’t remember by people he couldn’t then identify, the elite-trained assassin who came to be called Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) was molded into a $100 million human weapon who, according to his designers, malfunctioned.
When Bourne tracked his makers to learn their end game, they tried to erase him and took away the only woman he ever loved. Once he found revenge, learned his real identity and what he believed was the goal of his creators’ campaign, Bourne felt a semblance of peace and vanished…for what he hoped was forever.
Once a new program is activated—one developed by a global power structure more intricate and duplicitous than in the period of superpowers from which Bourne was created—he is flushed out of hiding by an instantly malleable network that is more dangerous than any individual government. The singular goal of this power nexus is to manipulate terror, technology and insurgency to fit its end game.
While his pursuers believe Bourne will come in for reconditioning if they deliver him what he most desires, the most elite weapon ever designed knows what his trackers cannot grasp: even broken soldiers defend the innocent from those with unchecked power.
Paul Greengrass returns to direct Jason Bourne which co-stars Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel, Riz Ahmed, Ato Essandoh, Scott Shepherd and Julia Stiles. Jason Bourne is the fifth film in the Bourne series. Damon and Stiles are back for the fourth time while Greengrass is back in the Bourne directing chair for the third time. The trio talked about revisiting the popular franchise.
On the enduring popularity of the character he brought to life, Matt Damon comments: “We love him just as much as everybody else, and we were leery of putting the cart before the horse and making another Bourne movie before we were ready with a good story—it was a case of waiting for the world to change a bit. Paul and I would talk constantly, and the one thing that I always said was that I’d do it if he would. We would talk about projects all the time, and we made another movie together in the interim. Every few months, it seemed like we would have a Bourne conversation, but we couldn’t seem to get anywhere until about 18 months ago.”
The obvious issue to tackle first was, “where has Bourne been all this time?” According to the time frame established in Ultimatum, the operative walked away at the end of 2004. “So what has he been doing for 12 years and what does his life look like?,” continues Damon. “That was the biggest question to answer and once we got a bead on that, everything started to fall into place.”
The filmmakers admit that it was the want-to-see of fans that played a large part in this latest installment. But they also admit to the popularity of both their lead actor and the character he so indelibly created. Greengrass notes, “it’s like a family, a Bourne movie. Everybody gets back. I love it. Most people didn’t think it would happen, but it did. It’s a bit like a rock band coming back together for a good-old tour—play some new tunes along with some of the classics.”
That ride has a great deal to do with who’s in the driver’s seat and Greengrass knows his way around the character and his world. It’s a fortuitous match of substance and style.
According to the director, “filmmaking is about being true to how you see the world. One of the things you have to do as a director is conduct the orchestra—bring them into some synthesis—and part of what you do as a conductor is to set the tempo, which is bi-fold.
There is the filming tempo, the tempo at which you shoot. Crews like it when it’s purposeful and things are cracking on and purposeful. There’s also the inner tempo of the movie—shot by shot, what’s the tempo there? Is everybody moving fast enough or are they moving too fast? Is the dynamic of the coordination of camera and sound and performance and scene—is that all delivering a tempo that’s about right? So watching that and getting it set early on is an important part of what you’re trying to do.”
Without a riveting storyline to plug the character into, however, Bourne would have remained off the grid, cinematically and otherwise.
Damon remarks, “the whole concept of this fourth arena of cyber warfare and what has happened with technology recently, that’s very much in the public consciousness—our digital life, our civil liberties, to what extent people are keeping tabs on us. Bourne finds himself in this new world.
At the end of the day, the number one reason that we made the movie was because people wanted to see it. Every airport I’m in, or every time I’m walking down the street and somebody stops me, that’s the first question: ‘Are you going to do another Bourne movie?’ So it’s exciting on one hand, but there’s also a lot of pressure on the other, because you want it to be of a piece with the other films. We’re all extremely proud of the previous three movies, and we want this to fit nicely with them. We’re excited and anxious and definitely feeling the pressure—but we feel like we know what it is that audiences like about these movies, and we are doing our best to deliver a good one.
I’m sure I’ll always be associated with this role, no matter what else I do—you do something four separate times in your career, and it’s going to follow you around. But I don’t mind being followed by this one, because I really like Jason Bourne.”
Greengrass expands on the theme. “The truth is, we didn’t know what the title was going to be when we started it. It was Untitled Bourne Project when we began writing. Then the studio said, ‘What about calling it Jason Bourne?’ I just thought it was a fantastic idea, because it was classic, but fresh.”
In the time Bourne’s been off the grid, he’s changed a great deal. Greengrass says, “we find Bourne on the Greek/Macedonian border, and he’s conflicted, restless, and we don’t know why. So, what’s happened to Bourne in the last 10 years and why has he not found any peace? Our story will follow what he needs to do in order to try and find it.”
Damon further explains, “what we come to find out is that he did gain his freedom. He did liberate himself from this Jason Bourne identity, but that hasn’t brought him any peace. He’s an incredibly tortured soul, and you find him in a very dark place at the beginning of the movie.”
It is one of the constants in his fragmented life, fellow operative Nicky Parsons, who is a possible light at the end of Bourne’s dark tunnel. Having also remained underground in the ensuing years since their last meeting, Parsons unexpectedly appears in a crowd and hands Jason a note directing him to meet up with her. She has hacked into the CIA and secured Black Ops files that go back 30 years. One of the few Bourne ever trusted, the operative specifically analyzed his classified files during the hack.
Parsons is once again played by the returning Julia Stiles, who relates something many don’t know about her character: “Originally, Nicky, at the very end of The Bourne Identity, was thrown up against a wall, breaking her neck. But, luckily for me, they re-cut it and 15 years later, here I am.
When I got cast, I remember thinking—but I didn’t say this out loud—‘I’m too young to be in the CIA.’ I was 19 at the time,” shares Stiles. “So, in my mind, Nicky was initially very eager, almost a very good, dutiful assistant. The natural progression over time is that she became more and more jaded, particularly through her personal connection to Jason. She cares about him as an individual and knows what the program has done to his psyche and his life.
When we leave her in Ultimatum, she has to go into hiding as well. That has changed her life drastically. I’m excited, with this incarnation, to be able to make Nicky rebellious, fearless, and angry about the whole agency. She has nothing and is sick of running. There is freedom that comes from having nothing to lose. So, she sets out to expose what the organization has been doing, no matter what the cost—because this will also expose her, and she’ll have to come out of hiding.”
Alicia Vikander and Tommy Lee Jones are some of the new additions in this Bourne outing and Damon was thrilled to welcome them aboard. “Alicia brought this whole element of youth to the story and Tommy Lee is just a legend. Essentially, these stories are all about the prodigal son returning in rage and frustration and facing his father. If you look at the trilogy, they follow that narrative arc. It’s now revealed that there’s a very deep connection between Tommy Lee’s character and mine. There’s a history that shakes Bourne to his core and there’s a reckoning that needs to take place.”
When a film has an award-winning cast, audiences might be inclined to think they can instantaneously step into their roles. Greengrass is quick to dismiss this notion. “These roles look quite easy from an acting standpoint, but they’re not. They’re an immense 360-degree performance challenge. These franchise movies are worlds and moviegoers love the world of Bourne. Characters that come in have got to play their part in giving the audience this privileged view. So an actor in this film has to find his or her character and nail it and then hone that relationship with Bourne. Because, in the end, everybody is chasing Jason Bourne. Layered on top of that is an amount backstory, along with the physicality of the acting. Amidst all of that, you have to land it in the sweet spot or it doesn’t play. It’s a huge challenge and this cast were all up for it.”
Bonus features on 4k Ultra HDTM, Blu-ray™, DVD
• Bringing Back Bourne – Matt Damon and Director Paul Greengrass discuss how they brought a beloved character back to the big screen.
• Bourne to Fight – A behind-the-scenes look at the fight sequences in Jason Bourne.
*Bare-Knuckle Boxing – Matt Damon discusses his love for boxing and how he prepared for the bare-knuckle fight sequences.
*Close Quarters – A behind-the-scenes look at the brutal fight between Jason Bourne and Christian Dassault.
*Underground Rumble – Matt Damon, Vincent Cassel and fight coordinator Roger Yuan discuss how they staged Bourne’s final showdown with The Asset.
• The Athens Escape – Matt Damon, stunt coordinator Gary Powell and second unit director Simon Crane discuss the challenges of shooting a chase sequence through cramped city streets.
• Las Vegas Showdown – For the final act of Jason Bourne, filmmakers wanted something bigger and bolder than ever before. Here’s an inside look at how they pulled it off.
*Convention Chaos – Join the cast and crew on location in Las Vegas as they film the final act of Jason Bourne.
*Shutting Down the Strip – A behind-the-scenes look at one of the wildest car chases in Bourne history.