The movies I watch over and over and over — Jason Bourne — and why

By Caitlin Kelly


A great post from Slate about why we love Jason Bourne:

Why do we love Jason Bourne? Why does this brooding nobody command our immediate allegiance? Because his mission is not to take down a cartel, destroy an undersea fear factory, or cripple a billion-dollar interstellar weapons system. It’s not even to save a beautiful woman. His mission is the essential human mission—to find out who the hell he is.

Plucked nameless from the Mediterranean, a floating corpse, by the crew of an Italian fishing boat (water: mother-element in the Bourne movies); rebirthed on the wet deck, his twitching hand eliciting gasps of atavistic wonder; tended to—healed—with gruff inexhaustible charity by the ship’s doctor (“I’m a friend!” insists this heroic man, as a panicked Bourne rears up and starts choking him. “I am your friend!”); recuperating on board, at sea, strengthening, doing chin-ups, tying fancy seaman’s knots and asking himself who he is in French and German—indications of hidden skill sets, strange aptitudes and attainments …

Here’s the Wkipedia entry explaining Bourne and his backstory.

I’ve watched these films so many times now, I know scenes, dialogue and the theme song off by heart.

Why, exactly, are the adventures of a desperate black ops asset of such compelling interest?

I can shoot a Glock 9mm quite nicely, thanks to my weapons training while researching my first book, about American women and guns. But I’ve never been chased across the rooftops of Tangier or had to throttle someone on a kitchen floor or evade very determined and well-paid bad guys across multiple continents…

I have stayed in some really cheap and seedy hotel rooms, in Granada and Copenhagen, as Bourne often does.

I have had to fling myself into stranger’s lives for succor, as I did when rescued by Gudrun in Barcelona, dizzy and sweat-drenched when I arrived at her home after a train ride from Venice.

I have been alone, ill and afraid in foreign countries — Turkey, Portugal, Italy, Denmark — where only my wits, cash and passport kept me safe and sound. That theme, repeated in every Bourne movie, also resonates deeply for me.


As Bourne does, I’ve also had some spontaneous romantic encounters in far-flung spots — Carlo in Sicily, Zoran in Paris, Pierre in Montreal; you’re never more open to such possibilities as when you’re single, traveling solo far from home and with no ties restraining you.

But you never see Jason Bourne having the sort of normal life most of us lead most of the time: waiting at the carousel for his luggage, (he never seems to carry any!); ordering another mimosa at brunch, (Bourne definitely doesn’t do brunch) or even waiting, really, for anything — beyond the arrival of the latest asset with orders to terminate him.

His life is one of urgency, forever using his lethal skills to save himself and whichever woman he’s with. He bristles with competence, switching passports and languages, finding whatever he needs as he rustles, injured and bleeding, through a Russian medicine cabinet or distract the Moroccan cops chasing him by tossing a can of hairspray into a brazier so it explodes.

“Real” life doesn’t exist for him.

I suspect all of us are, in some measure, running fast and away from something: a fear, a hope, an unrealized goal, an unrequited love, or racing toward a future we can’t quite see, but which we hope lies on the other side of a border we haven’t yet reached — whether the Greek island where Bourne re-finds his love, Marie  — or something closer to home.

Here’s a terrific movie-focused blog, organized by decade. This blog, Cinema Style, explores how films reflect, or lead, design and fashion.

I admit — I watched the Oscars last night, all the way to the end. I cheered for Cate Blanchett winning Best Actress, for her searing role in Blue Jasmine, a part that required her to be sweaty, disheveled and frenzied, on the verge of madness.

Is there a film hero or heroine with whom you somehow identify?

27 thoughts on “The movies I watch over and over and over — Jason Bourne — and why

  1. Not so much film as TV: I’ve always loved Lelouch from the anime Code Geass (I love antihero characters) and the Doctor from Doctor Who (I’m a huge fanboy). But if I had to pick a film whose hero or heroine I really identified with, it’d be Carrie White as played by Chloe Grace Moretz in the most recent adaptation of the novel.

      1. I don’t know. I think it’s because I was bullied when I was a kid, and I wished for some sort of power to get back at the bullies (later I realized that writing and scaring are my powers).
        I also have an easier time writing female characters and include them more as protagonists than male characters. I think we can blame the influence Sailor Moon had on me as a child for that.

  2. Erin Brockovitch … It’s her against the world. A survivor finding her place against all odds and making a difference in the process. Love it! … Jason Bourne is great too. 🙂

  3. great post, caitlin and i think that is our universal struggle. to discover our real selves and to do our best to just make it through each day without dying. i love the storyline too, and as for who i identify with, i am more like the tv character of liz lemon from ’30 rock.’ she makes things happen and enjoys life, and says what she thinks, and counsels many, but stumbles a bit along the way, never giving up.

  4. Reblogged this on randomandrhyme and commented:
    Really enjoying Caitlin Kelly’s Blog – “I suspect all of us are, in some measure, running fast and away from something: a fear, a hope, an unrealized goal, an unrequited love, or racing toward a future we can’t quite see, but which we hope lies on the other side of a border we haven’t yet reached — whether the Greek island where Bourne re-finds his love, Marie — or something closer to home.”

    This really resonated with me, but more from the struggle to either lull into my current life and accept the job, the daily tasks and relax or to risk to create the life that I think I really want for myself.

      1. yes – accepting where you are and enjoying it as it is vs. those feelings that there is a better path.
        And then the upheaval to take the new path and the risk or fear of risk to make the change, especially when it goes against the crazy (I think this is an american thing) engrained striving to improve, do more, be more, be better……… ( I think you had a recent blog about that too – that I enjoyed)

      2. Thanks…It’s a constant existential question (and I agree that Americans feel pressured to do it BEST all the time): is this my best life? What if it isn’t?

  5. Steve

    I like the Jason Bourne films also but I guess I always best relate to the old westerns. Outlaw Josey Wales with Clint Eastwood or anything by John Wayne. I guess probably it takes me back to a simpler time when the good guy had always had principles worth living by and the good guy always won. I admit I don’t watch too many “newer” films and even less TV, except sports. Not too many in the Hollywood club I care to give my hard earned dollars to these days.

    You learned how to shoot? That’s interesting. Does that mean you actually believe you have a God given right to defend your own life and those you care about or just to identify with a character in a book or article? You never cease to amaze me. Now if I can only convince you that Your property, both physical and intellectual is YOURS and NOT the governments we would really have something. Yours is still my favorite blog even if I don’t get the chance to chime in. Even though we often disagree you have never resorted to name calling and accusation. Hope all is well. Steve

    1. Heyyyy, you’re back! Jose and I were wondering where you had been…have been missing your voice here.

      I loved Casablanca for the same reason — cynical old Rick does the right thing. Sigh.

      I did indeed learn to shoot, at multiple venues, including the Smith & Wesson School in Springfield, Mass. which normally trains law enforcement from around the world. I even trained one afternoon at Quantico (coolest day of my life.) Like many women (statistically speaking), I’m a good shot, too.

      I wanted to understand how it looks, feels and smells to fire a gun before interviewing 104 people nationwide about it, so I shot everything from a .22 rifle to a .357 magnum to an AR-15. I thought it irresponsible to speak to gun-owners without a clear idea what their choice is like, emotionally and physically. I hated the .45 and really liked (if that is the word) the Glock 9mm; I have large, strong hands (for a girl!) and it just felt the best.

      You might be surprised, or not, that in my book I actually vociferously defend a woman’s right to own a gun BUT I also warn my readers to be very, very thoughtful about when, where and why to shoot in self-defense; I also examined sentencing records and found that women who killed in self-defense (almost of them, their husbands or male partners) got very heavy sentences. It is not a decision to make lightly, and I doubt many women do.

      Good to know you return — and find surprises! 🙂

      1. Steve

        I wasn’t necessarily speaking about women defending themselves against their male partners, although a gun certainly does even the playing field when confronted by a more powerful adversary. I meant anyone having a right to defend them self against a threat. The taking of a human life should ALWAYS be done cautiously and as a last resort. The point I was try into make is that here are many of those on the left that would like to remove my right to protect myself when threatened. I love to shoot and. Actually load my own ammunition . Incidentally, I don’t care much for the .45 either, I prefer my Glock in .40 caliber. I find it much easier to control. I taught my wife to shoot and she is actually a pretty good shot as well.

  6. Pingback: The movies I watch over and over and over — Jason Bourne — and why | Broadside | AZVHV

  7. There are only a small number of movies I will watch over and over, most of which fall into the movie classics category.

    Streetcar Named Desire, To Kill a Mockingbird, Rear Window, and Rebecca are some of my favorites along with Joel and Ethan Coen’s thrilling first movie, Blood Simple.

    Shawshank Redemption, Shawdowlands, and Sophie’s Choice are up there too, although in more limited amounts due to the emotional energy I tend to expend when watching.

    It is not lost on me that my favorite over the last five years has been a series, Lost in Austen that I discovered on DVD after moving to England and I usually watch the four episodes back to back so it feels like a movie.

    It’s a British television series (2008) that sees a modern day woman stepping through a portal in her bathroom wall back in time and into the home of Elizabeth Bennet. It’s loosely based on Pride and Prejudice and I love it! I can watch it over and over and still enjoy it as if it’s the first time.

    As one does with movie favorites, I can quote bits of it. One of my favorite moments is when Darcy says, ” I would harrow hell to be with you! ”

    Although I own a copy, the entire series is surprisingly on Youtube.

    While I love a good spy thriller adventure chase as much as the next leather weathering, globetrotting, ex-military sharpshooter, I generally tend not to watch them a second time.

    I will confess that that reruns of Jason Bourne movies make me pause for a look when I stumble cross them while channel flipping.

    Interesting post, Caitlin and thought provoking in a pleasant ” know thyself kind of way.”

  8. The Bourne trilogy, is my go to entertainment when I’m in the mood for a movie. The whole premise of a guy who volunteers for something and then finds out it has changed him into something he does not like seems the perfect combination of conflicts to keep the viewer entranced. Regardless of how many times I see them, I enjoy them EVERY time.

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