On the eve of Matt Damon's explosive big screen return as unstoppable super-assassin Jason Bourne, we recap the classic original trilogy and recall those moments that had us tearing the armrest out of our seats. Cue the music, grab a rolled-up magazine and get ready for our retrospective on one of the greatest action trilogies of all time...
WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR IDENTITY, SUPREMACY AND ULTIMATUM
1. Bourne's beginning
This is how it all started in Doug Liman's 2002 sleeper hit The Bourne Identity: Jason fished out of the Mediterranean with bullet holes in his back and no idea how he got there. Automatically, we're hooked and hungry for answers.
2. A particular set of skills
Those who saw Identity on the big screen will no doubt remember the skepticism that greeted Good Will Hunting star Damon as an action hero. Well he swiftly put the beatdown on all the doubters in this brief but unforgettable moment as Jason unleashes a can of whoopass on two unsuspecting Swiss policeman, seemingly from nowhere. Yeah, this guy's got a past alright..
3. Searching for answers
What would you do if you had no memory of your past, yet were granted access to a Zurich safety deposit box containing multiple passports and a gun? It's further proof that the Bourne movies have genuinely gripping intrigue in their arsenal, as well as fast and furious action sequences.
4. Pen vs knife
Having teamed up with confidant (and eventual girlfriend) Marie (Franka Potente), Jason finds the trail leading to an apartment in Paris where a sudden and shocking fight ensues between our hero and a mystery assassin. It's our first glimpse of the kickass martial arts deployed by Damon throughout the series, a taster of the adrenaline-fuelled set-pieces to come and a reminder of Bourne's jaw-dropping ability to use ordinary household objects (in this case, a humble Biro) as deadly weapons. Plus, John Powell's thunderous and driving score is just epic.
5. Ready Steady Go!
There's no time to catch one's breath just yet. The first of the trilogy's epic trio of car chases gets underway as Jason puts Marie's Mini Cooper to the test on the crowded streets of Paris, all to the sounds of the Paul Oakenfold floor-filler. It's not the best chase in the series but it demonstrates the sort of riveting lo-fi thrills that helped redefine the 21st century action movie.
6. "Look at what they make you give"
A tense stand-off with ruthless asset The Professor (Clive Owen) leads to one of the trilogy's most affecting moments, one emphasising the emotional emptiness of your average super-assassin's existence. That the Bourne movies are able to mix genuine humanity with white-knuckle action is one of the many reasons they're so revered.
7. Jason learns the truth
It all comes flooding back during Identity's emotionally anguished finale as Jason finally learns his situation: a former member of Black Ops operation Treadstone, headed up by Conklin (Chris Cooper), his failure to complete an assassination was what led to his eventual amnesia. Damon and Cooper's terrific acting in this sequence elevates the movie beyond mere action into the realms of genuinely compelling drama.
8. Marie is shot
Paul Greengrass takes the directorial helm for 2004 sequel The Bourne Supremacy and his kinetic, hand-held style is immediately apparent during the shocking opening sequence when the love of Bourne's life is executed in Goa by assassin Kirill (Karl Urban). It's a dramatic and jaw-dropping way to usher in the next stage of Jason's journey, setting him on a path of vengeance that is relentlessly exciting.
9. Print is death
One of the series' most brutal and wince-inducing fights ensues when Bourne, on the search for answers, stops off in the Munich abode of former Treadstone operative Jarda (Martin Csokas). Their ensuing scrap is made all the more memorable for how Bourne utilises a rolled-up magazine as a deadly weapon, the lack of music and Greengrass' darting camerawork helping us to feel every punch as it lands.
10. Right next to you
We all love those moments where Bourne rings up his enemies to let them know he's watching and this little sequence is one of the best. Spying on the no-nonsense Pamela Landy (Joan Allen), who mistakenly believes Bourne to have murdered two of her operatives in Berlin, Jason delivers one of those killer lines that confirms him as one of action cinema's greatest badasses.
11. Interrogating Nicky
Tormented by fragmentary memories of a mission in Berlin, Bourne takes former associate Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) hostage in a subway station where she's lucky to escape with her life. Stiles' underrated and genuinely upsetting performance truly sells her character's terror whilst reiterating the genuine threat that Bourne poses.
12. Berlin pursuit
On the search for answers at the Hotel Brecker, Bourne finally gets to the root of those memories that have been plaguing him, remembering that on his very first mission he executed politician Vladimir Neski and his wife (setting up a climactic act of compassion that's genuinely moving). However there's little time to pause for breath as the police close in, leading to a breathless pursuit across the Berlin streets to the insistently urgent strains of John Powell's fantastic score.
13. Moscow showdown
Supremacy concludes with what is inarguably one of the greatest car chase sequences in blockbuster cinema, a spectacular demolition derby of mayhem through the Russian capital that flings us into the final battle between Bourne and his nemesis, Kirill. Once again, Greengrass' raw, shaky-cam realism, combined with the shots of Damon at the wheel, help pull us into the action like few other action movies do.
14. Waterloo cat and mouse
Incredibly, 2007 threequel Ultimatum manages to up the stakes even further, featuring some of the greatest action filmmaking ever put on screen. By this stage, Bourne is bringing the fight to his enemy's doorstep only this time has a slippery new antagonist in the form of special ops Blackbriar chief Noah Vosen (David Strathairn), who will stop at nothing to eliminate the threat once and for all. This sequence in which Bourne guides journalist Simon Ross (Paddy Considine) beneath the invasive CCTV cameras of one of London's busiest stations takes some beating as far as immersive and nail-biting thrills are concerned.
15. Past relationship
Having teamed up with former ally turned enemy turned ally again Nicky Parsons, Bourne is forced to confront the possibility that they once had a relationship. The subtle yet piercing facial expressions shared by Damon and Julia Stiles in this sequence say more than any dialogue ever could.
16. Tangiers chase
Prepare to book in another fingernail transplant op as one of the trilogy's most spectacular and dazzling set-pieces gets underway, a blistering pursuit through the crowded streets, medinas and rooftops of Tangiers as Bourne looks to save Nicky from unstoppable asset Desh (Joey Ansah). If you want more proof as to why Bourne threatened to put James Bond out of commission altogether, look no further than here.
17. Man to man
Amazingly one-upping the fight sequences from the previous two films, this jaw-dropping scrap between Bourne and Desh feels so real and visceral that it practically invokes flinching, our two killing machines throwing themselves into cabinets and tables as they fight to the death. And this being Bourne, gadgets are made redundant when you can kill with the aid of a hardback book and a towel. The fight's awesomely percussive build-up courtesy of composer Powell is also truly awesome.
18. Face to face
Realising that the final puzzle-pieces to his identity reside in New York, Bourne relocates to the Big Apple where he creates hell for Vosen and his Blackbriar team. This moment where he rings up to crack into the villain's safe is one of the greatest moments in the franchise, one that gets us to revel in Jason's unstoppable ingenuity.
19. Bourne vs. Paz
It's time for yet another glass-shattering onslaught of vehicular carnage as Bourne takes to the Manhattan streets with asset Paz (Edgar Ramirez) in hot pursuit. Understandably shorter than the other car chases in the series (it sure ain't easy closing down New York for filming) but no less spectacular for that, it concludes with a neat throwback to the conclusion of Supremacy's chase sequence.
Confronting Treadstone mastermind Dr. Albert Hirsch (Albert Finney), Jason learns the shocking truth: he in fact volunteered for the Treadstone programme and determined his own fate, as a series of intense flashbacks make clear. Bourne's pursuit of himself is over for the time being as Damon's career-defining performance brings us to an epic conclusion, wrung-out and smiling.
21. Yet to be discovered...
But of course, the real end to the movie comes when Jason ends up plunging into the East River's depths, a mirror image of how the series began. As Nicky sits watching the news and slyly smiles to the strains of Moby's 'Extreme Ways', we know that Bourne will be back, our suspicions confirmed as he swims off into the darkness. Over and out.
Don't forget that Matt Damon is back on our screens from this Friday so click here to book your tickets for Jason Bourne. And if you can't wait to share your own highlights from the series with us, drop us a tweet @Cineworld.