How To Be A Bit More Like Jason Bourne
Mr Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Identity, 2002. Photograph by Alamy
As Mr Matt Damon resumes his role as the almost-normal action hero, we consider the qualities every modern man needs.
“Jesus Christ, it’s Jason Bourne,” shouts a suited spook in the bowels of the CIA. Come on, is he really that surprised?
Forget the hot weather, this summer, after four long years, the seems-nice-enough lethal guy with the dodgy memory is back in our cinemas, killing all sorts of hapless Treadstone colleagues with all manner of innocent-looking household appliances, and pretending that that thing with Mr Jeremy Renner and Ms Rachel Weisz was just a bad dream. Sorry Jason, we don’t all have amnesia.
The Jason Bourne character dates back to the 1980s. First appearing as the protagonist of Mr Robert Ludlum's series of best-selling novels, in 1988, in a made-for-TV movie, Jason Bourne came to our screens for the first time. Here, in the original The Bourne Identity, he was played by an aging Mr Richard Chamberlain, wearing a leather jacket stolen from Starsky and/or Hutch and a pair of glasses from Mr Dennis Taylor’s collection. (We’re guessing the powers that be want us to conveniently forget about that, too.)
The Bourne Identity in its Hollywood blockbuster form came out in 2002, pairing Mr Matt Damon with director Mr Doug Liman, before the British former news journalist Mr Paul Greengrass took over to direct the subsequent films. The franchise became the blueprint for the modern action movie; no more did an action man stride around with a rocket launcher in one hand and an AK in the other – this guy could kill you with a side of A4. And so, in that understated, unimposing way, Mr Bourne is the ultimate modern man. Here’s how to pretend to be just like him, at least for that next Tinder date.
Embrace the normcore in you
“I remember everything,” he keeps saying, but does he remember how to get dressed? Jason Bourne just looks so damn normal in those boot-cut jeans and that white tee and faux Harrington jacket, as if his colour-blind mum has dragged him to the sales while worrying about the weather. No penguin suit for this guy. The smartest he gets is a black overcoat.
But this laidback sartorial approach means he can blend in. He doesn’t look out of place in a hotel foyer, or in the queue to get his passport renewed; but he can then evaporate into a crowd or down into the subterranean quarry of a city when the Swat team gear up. He can kill another Treadstone colleague with whatever everyday object is at hand, or scale the exterior of a high-rise, without a slim-fit blazer and brogues cramping his style or limiting his movement. Take it from Jason: forget intricate aspirational menswear when you’re on a mission, and keep it simple.
Mr Matt Damon filming Jason Bourne, 2016. Photograph courtesy of Universal Pictures
Take up boxing
Throwing a few punches is a great stress-reliever after a long day in the office. Or, in Jason’s case, a way to pummel out any tension after discovering the global intergovernmental conspiracy behind your chronic forgetfulness. It’s also a great way to get in shape – to replace that lumpen, hunched, desk-side posture with latissimus dorsi that look like tectonic plates. And, if every intelligence agency in the world is looking for you, it’s a great shady underworld to hide in. In his latest outing, Jason Bourne has taken up the white-knuckle life, sorting out all manner of tattooed bruisers with a clean left hook to the head, before relaxing in his hotel room by staring at the ceiling and unwinding his wraps. There’s loads of hip boxing gyms hidden away around cities such as London and New York, so you can try your hand at the sport a little closer to home, although they usually make you wear a headguard and 16oz gloves.
Mr Matt Damon in The Bourne Ultimatum, 2007. Photograph by The Ronald Grant Archive
Not just for Channel 4 promotions and thieving teenagers, the ability to climb and jump over a city’s rooftops is absolutely essential for the modern Jason Bourne wannabe. (It’s also a pretty decent way to find those hidden and exclusive high-rise bars as well, we imagine.) Remember that Tangiers scene in The Bourne Ultimatum? The spooks track down a rogue agent on the run with all their secrets, and send out Desh, another Treadstone super-human, to take him out. But Bourne’s there as well.
It remains a masterful fight-sequence. As Desh moves silently through the labyrinthine streets of Tangiers, flitting in and out of the shadows with his gun out, the silencer on, Bourne is on the rooftops, leaping from one terrifying height to the next, as if he’s skipping over stepping stones. Just as Desh finds his target, Bourne jumps from the building across the street and crashes through a window and right into the unsuspecting hitman. The resulting fight includes a candlestick, a book and finally, a towel. It’s been copied countless times in action franchises ever since and proves how resourceful the modern man ought to be.
It’s tempting to pursue success by constantly trying to apply order and control, rigour and routine in your life. Bourne, however, sorts stuff out by actively creating mayhem around him, and then acting on pure instinct, relying on his ability to react quicker, more decisively and with more purpose in these situations than those around him. Maybe there’s a wider lesson here: that we don’t always have to be shaken, not stirred. That it’s OK to forget things sometimes. Perhaps it’s the best way to live a little, and to find out who we really are. And for this lesson, Mr Bourne, and all of the above, we thank you.
Jason Bourne is in cinemas now (UK) and from 29 July (US)