Posted on Friday, July 29th, 2016 by Jacob Hall
It’s been almost a decade since the saga of Matt Damon‘s amnesiac super-spy Jason Bourne came to an apparent end. In fact, the door was so firmly closed on this story that Universal tried to spin off another character to keep the series going with The Bourne Legacy. That didn’t work as planned and now the original Bourne is back, with director Paul Greengrass back at the helm.
And let’s face it: there’s a whole lot going on in these movies, it’s been a long time since they were in theaters, and you may be a little rusty with the details as you prepare to settle in for Jason Bourne this weekend. We’ve got you covered. Here’s everything you need to remember from the original Bourne movies.
The Body in the Ocean
It all begins with one very simple image: a body floating in the stormy ocean off the coast of France. The crew of a fishing vessel rescues the unconscious and injured Jason Bourne from the ocean, remove the two bullets from his back, and quickly learn that he has amnesia. He doesn’t know his name, where he came from, or how he ended up in the ocean. What we do know is that he hasn’t forgotten his skills or his instincts. Lost memory or not, he can scan rooms, wield weapons, and take down enemies in brutal brawls without breaking a sweat.
As he begins to find his footing, Jason Bourne’s personality begins to take shape. More specifically, his lack of personality begins to take shape. With all knowledge of his past self wiped clean, Bourne quickly evolved into a man of few words. After a certain point, he doesn’t talk unless it serves his purpose and he’s too tortured, too remorseful of his past as an assassin, to have anything resembling a proper social life or a hobby. He’s very much a man of action – he can’t shake the demons he accumulated, even if he can’t remember their names, so he ultimately dedicates himself to exposing the secret government program that created him to atone for his sins.
And that secret government program was known as Treadstone, which sounds like a some kind of private club for bankers but was actually a sinister operation built to transform individual men into perfect assassins. As we learn over the course of the original movies, these agents were subjected to physical and mental torture to reprogram their personalities, resulting in unstoppable killing machines…who were also deeply unstable and frequently showed physical and mental signs of trauma. They are even forced to abandon their real names and reinvent their personalities under pseudonyms.
Bourne’s Real Name (and His Volunteerism)
Before he joins Treadstone, Jason Bourne was Captain David Webb, a reveal that means about as much to us as it does to him (i.e., not much). More shocking than his real name is the revelation in The Bourne Ultimatum that Webb wasn’t coerced into joining Treadstone: he volunteered and was well aware of what lay ahead – he simply wanted to help “save American lives.” We still don’t know the finer points of who Dave Webb was, but he’s long gone now. So is the man he became after training. The current Jason Bourne is a new man and a blank slate.
Job One, Job Two
To earn admittance into Treadstone in the first place, David Webb must execute a man he has never met and whose crimes (if any) are unknown. This decision weighs heavily on Webb’s soul and it is step one to him becoming Jason Bourne. Following training (during which we are shown him suffering all kinds of physical torments), Bourne is taken to Berlin to execute a Russian politician named Vladimir Neski. When his wife arrives at the same time, Bourne kills her too, staging the scene as a murder/suicide. Neski was about to reveal the name of the American agent involved in stealing $20 million in CIA funds, a detail that will become important down the road.
The Yacht Job
After infiltrating the yacht of exiled African dictator Nykwana Wombosi with every intention of killing him, Bourne pauses when he sees his target’s children sleeping nearby. His crisis of conscience keeps him from pulling the trigger, but it does not keep him from getting shot by Wombosi’s guards, leading to him leaping overboard and forgetting everything about himself in the process.
Important Name #1: Alexander Conklin
Alexander Conklin (Chris Cooper) is the CIA agent in direct charge of Treadstone operatives, running the day-to-day activities of the various assassins stationed around the world. When Bourne re-emerges following the failed mission that put two bullets in his back and purged him of his memories, Conklin sets out to have his newly rogue asset killed by any means necessary. His plan ultimately backfires as Bourne proves hard to kill, with the amnesiac agent ultimately cornering his own boss, successfully grilling him about Treadstone, and announcing his retirement from the spy game. Bourne leaves Conklin alive, but he is soon executed by one of his own assassins, who has been charged with cleaning up the entire situation. Treadstone is then disbanded.