Bourne, James Bond and Daniel Craig
Bourne Identity, released without fanfare and starring the modestly
talented Matt Damon, not only became something of a sleeper hit - it
also began to figure strongly in discussions on the future of the James
Bond series. While Pierce Brosnan was waiting for a phone-call that
would never arrive, Eon hq looked at the latest upstart pretender to
Bond's crown and presumably noticed the same thing that 007 fans did.
Chiefly: a lower budget spy flick had proved to be tougher,
leaner, more exciting, and frankly, more coherent and better made than
the last batch of James Bond films.
Based on a novel
Ludlum, The Bourne Identity spins a simple set-up into an effective and
inventive film. Amnesiac spy Jason Bourne has to unravel his own
identity on the streets of Europe as a number of people try to kill
him. Damon's blank screen presence is tailor made for the role. Bourne
is an everyman. Trained to kill, but not someone who will stand out.
fight scenes and car chases put recent Bond films to shame. The moment
when all the agents were activated split-screen style, with the express
purpose of eliminating Bourne, was a moment of invention that you wish
someone could have brought to Bond recently. While this stripped-down
sleeper was in the early stages of planning, Purvis and Wade were
penning a script that featured ice-palaces and a North Korean villain
who disguised himself as a ginger British tycoon.
Bourne is by no
perfect. A tad overlong and not completely exempt from slight forays
into silliness - the staircase jump a case in point - but it is a solid
actioner nonetheless. It and its sequel were just tighter and cooler
than recent Bonds. Bigger isn't always better. Watch the two films and
you'll see a good case for a lower budget Bond with a leaner script. So
have Eon copied Bourne?
First off Bond
is not Bourne.
The Bond of Casino Royale, whilst different to previous Bonds, is still
going to have enough traits to distinguish himself. Bourne fights
against the system. Bond is very much loyal to Queen and Country. The
dandy of previous Bond films is a world away from Casino Royale's Bond,
and it is here that Eon have taken a cue from Bourne. The metrosexual,
GQ man, modern Bourne is not a world away from Craig as he is from
Pierce Brosnan for instance. An early rumour floated around a few years
ago suggested that Eon wanted a British Matt Damon to make a stripped
down Bond film. Physically Craig isn't that far off Damon. How stripped
down or exotically escapist Casino Royale will be remains to be seen.
The emphasis is on the new Bond being a killer, particularly in the
fight scenes. I think Bourne has played a part in the genesis of the
new film. When Martin Campbell spoke of hand-held camera work, the
spectre of Jack Bauer appeared too.
reboot of Bond
was inevitable. I believed they would do it by casting a radically
younger James Bond actor and throwing the formula up in the air in
favour of a modern approach. I believe Christian Bale may have been the
man they originally thought of; he was certainly the man I had in mind
a few years ago. Whether Bale was ever on Eon's radar is anyone's
but Batman put paid to that. It was Daniel Craig who was eventually
targeted for the reboot. I'm neither excited about Craig or completely
against the whole idea. Everyone (including individuals on this
website) has their own views. The big worry I have for Casino Royale
is the choice of director. The last Bourne benefited from Paul
Greengrass who is versatile and inventive. Martin Campbell is - to put
it kindly - the journeyman's journeyman. Goldeneye, which is a very
over-rated film in my opinion, forms most of the basis for any hope
Bond fans have in him, unless you discount those desperate enough to
bring up Edge Of Darkness, a BBC drama Campbell directed about
forty-seven years ago.
I think there
will be enough
differences between Casino Royale and the Bourne films to distinguish
Bond from his newest rival; but the influence of Bourne and,
Jack Bauer may well have played a part in the direction of Bond 22.