Saturday, October 27, 2007

Such a Long Time

I have quickly found this semester that the life of a college student consists of few things: school, work, and homework. You may possibly eat once a day and then I've heard of a concept called sleep but am not sure what it is. Do to my schedule, I'm sorry to say I've not had time to write anything interesting. So, I'll post one of my assignments from English Composition. Hopefully you won't find the topic too boring. Let me just say that the research for this project was really hard. Check out the new polling feature on the right and let me know your thoughts.

Just Tell Me Who I Am

A man who does not know who he is, corruption in the government, deception, and an effort to catch a project gone bad is just the start of the Bourne story. Just as there are romantic “chick flicks,” there are “action flicks;” however the Bourne movies seem to rise above into a category of their own. The story of Jason Bourne is told in three installments, The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, and The Bourne Ultimatum. The Bourne series uses a thrilling plot, dynamic cast, unique filming locations, breathtaking stunts, and underlying morals to twist together an interesting action movie with few drawbacks.
The original story of Jason Bourne was written by Robert Ludlum in the 1980s. Some viewers may be disappointed that the movies do not follow the same plot as the books do and that Jason Bourne seems like two completely different people. This was done intentionally by executive producer Frank Marshall and producer Patrick Crowley. When looking at writing the screenplay for the Identity, Crowley put together a story line then approached Tony Gilroy to write the screenplay from the storyline without reading the book itself. Crowley kept the same ideas as he approached the Supremacy but allowed Gilroy to read the book before writing the screenplay. Either way they were written, all three movies have been a great success. Since their releases in 2002 and 2004, a combined total of eight awards and twelve nominations were received for the Identity and Supremacy while the Ultimatum has already received one nomination since its release in August 2007.
Even though the plot of the movies has been changed from the books, the tale of Jason Bourne can totally engross a viewer through numerous twists, turns, and unexpected events. First time watchers may need to keep a cheat sheet of major characters and where they are being directed throughout Europe. One must watch the movies numerous times before they can fully understand each piece of government corruption as layer upon layer of organizations are revealed until they reach Bourne’s original program and as overseas under-the-table relationships are revealed. The hardest transition between movies is figuring out where each new set of “bad guys” come from. An example is that the Ultimatum revolves around Operation Blackbriar, which seems to come out of the blue but was actually introduced in passing during the Identity. The fast paced, grainy, journalism-like filming style of the producers gives the series a realistic feel that helps the viewer care about the outcome of the characters.
Having the right cast has helped the good plot turn into excellent movies. Although the role was initially offered to Brat Pitt, the character of Jason Bourne was finally given to Matt Damon who is also well known for roles in Saving Private Ryan; Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen; and Syriana. Damon comes across as an average guy next door who might not make it as a model but has something special about him. In the Identity there are moments before Bourne realizes who he truly was that there is an almost boyish charm about him as he rediscovers the world. Overall, Damon brings an incredible edge and energy to the movie as the viewer watches his expressive eyes. Damon seems like a natural as he analyzes and prepares for each character’s move down to the second and seamlessly goes from shooting a gun, to martial arts, then to driving in a car chase. It leaves the viewer dumbfounded at the skills of Jason Bourne. It also helps that Damon is surrounded by a great supporting cast including Cris Cooper, Julia Stiles, and Joan Allen. Each supporting character enhances Damon’s performance and adapts effortlessly through each step of the constantly changing adventure.
One of the most distinctive aspects of the three films is the locations they were shot at throughout Europe. The viewer starts in the Mediterranean Sea and then is whisked through France, Switzerland, Germany, Russia, Greece, India, Morocco, England, Virginia, and New York City over the three movies. The fast paced travel may confuse several movie goers, but the producers help them keep up by labeling each new location. The Bourne movies were the first American movies to shoot extensively in Eastern European cities such as Berlin, Germany; Moscow, Russia; and St. Petersburg, Russia. Unlike movies such as the Italian Job which built most of their major scenes in studios (excluding their filming in Venice), producers of the Bourne movies strove to keep the story real and alive by filming everything on location. This meant dealing with producing teams in numerous different cities for each film and crossing many cultural barriers. In the Identity, the scene in the U.S. Embassy was shot at the actual Zurich, France embassy using U.S. Marines in their own uniforms and with their own official procedures for dealing with such a security breach. At the Grand Station in London, producers were unable to close it down to shoot scenes for the Ultimatum, so they worked around regular travelers instead of extras. These unique filming locations provided great grounds for some amazing stunts.
Throughout all three movies, producers attempted to achieve all stunts practically, which enhances the realism of the movie. Most other popular action movies, such as Shooter, use computer graphics to fill in explosions, fights, and car chases. When a house explodes in the Supremacy, they used an actual condo and had one try to get it right. However, there are a few flaws with the stunt work. It seems that Bourne is never effected by getting shot or being in horrific car crashes. He always manages to limp away. For the car chase in New York City, during the Ultimatum, some of the collisions look slightly unrealistic. The reason behind this is that police department limited their speed to thirty-five miles per hour for safety reasons. This may explain how Bourne was able to survive it all by just holding onto a seatbelt. Stunts do not dominate the movie but only enhance the building of the characters and their stories.
Values such as justice, forgiveness, and truth are often missed in adventure movies where the only moral you may find is “get out alive.” There are many positive situations and even role models to be found in the Bourne movies. Parents may be hesitant to let their youth watch these movies because of the violent content that includes death tolls of eight to nine people per movie. This is a drawback to many but can also be used as a learning experience as families look at Bourne’s true character. Bourne thinks he is a good person until he discovers the skills he possesses and remembers more of his past job for the government and what they required them to do. Bourne cringes each time he encounters a gun, and in numerous cases he will defend someone then dismantle the gun and toss it in the trash. Each death caused by Bourne is either out of self-defense or during flash backs when he was ordered to do an assassination. Bourne’s greatest struggle is dealing with being the cause of so much death and hardship. He reaches the daughter of a couple he has assassinated to tell her the truth about her parents’ death and apologize in attempts to make up for some of his actions. Others may be concerned about the sexual content. Bourne and the first person to help him in his journey, Marie, share several kisses and then live together during the time between the Identity and the Supremacy. Unfortunately, because of his circumstances, Bourne is unable to marry Marie but his desire to honor her and his commitment to her is evident. There are several nights were they are forced to share a room and he quickly declares that he will take the floor. At one point when he has to keep running, he sends Marie away with her brother-in-law declaring, “I’m just trying to do the right thing.” The greatest role model for many is Pamela Landy played by Joan Allen. Landy is one of the intelligence personal searching for Bourne. She puts her job and her life on the line to search for the truth about Bourne’s life and unveil the corruption she found all around her.
Overall the Bourne Identity, Bourne Supremacy, and Bourne Ultimatum tell an incredible, gripping story that can be enjoyed for more than just an action adventure flick. Viewers are exposed to great acting, new geography, cool stunts, and moral truths. The taglines “They should have left him alone” and “They stole his identity. Now he wants it back,” are well known among viewers of all ages. Some people struggle with their identity, but Jason Bourne just wants to discover the truth of who he is.