Jason Bourne, James Bond and Daniel Craig 

The 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 by Robert 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. The 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 means 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 little 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.

An eventual 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 guess; 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, perhaps, Jack Bauer may well have played a part in the direction of Bond 22.
- Michael Cooper

c 2006 Alternative 007