Celeb Sightings: The baddies of the Bourne franchise
When Jason Bourne came out a few weeks ago, I wasn't totally amazed. I don't really think the film made a true case for its own existence (and here's my full review for Chesapeake Family), but while watching it, I was impressed by the great supporting cast they pulled together: Tommy Lee Jones! Alicia Vikander! Vincent Cassel! And truly, that is one respectable thing the Bourne franchise has done for the past decade-plus: assembling legitimate character actors dedicated to playing villains in these twisty-turny spy games.
Over the five Bourne films, a stacked array of actors has popped up in this universe. And if you've put in the time to see these baddies battling Bourne, you should check them out in what I consider their best roles to date, too.
So here, the first entry in my Celeb Sightings feature -- let's explore the baddies of the Bourne franchise.
THE BOURNE IDENTITY
Chris Cooper as Alexander Conklin, the head of Treadstone, trying to kill Bourne
Cooper is almost always playing a jerk, so it's hard to narrow down his MOST JERKIEST performance. But if I had to pick one, it would be in Syriana, where he plays Jimmy Pope, an evil oil guy. Fun fact: Matt Damon is in that movie, too! 2005, you crazy.
Clive Owen as the Professor, trying to kill Bourne
Owen's career confuses me, because there were so many years when he was bouncing around doing crap like Words and Pictures and Killer Elite. Now he's doing great work again on The Knick, but things were tenuous there for a while! Which is why you should seek out, or hopefully rewatch, Children of Men. Owen's performance as protagonist Theo is just so damn good, a transformation of world-weary cynicism to begrudging hopefulness in Alfonso Cuarón's film about a near-future where everyone is infertile. Hot take: Children of Men is a better film than Gravity, and it wouldn't have worked without Owen.
THE BOURNE SUPREMACY
Karl Urban as Russian assassin Kirill, trying to kill Bourne
Urban's career is actually CRAZY. How many franchises is this dude IN? Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, and he's soon to enter the Marvel universe with a role in Thor: Ragnarok -- impressive.
But you should rewatch his supporting role as Vaako in The Chronicles of Riddick. Vin Diesel's commitment to the Riddick character is hilarious and admirable, and The Chronicles of Riddick is the most bizarre of the sci-fi franchise, with an expansive backstory for the Necromongers villains. As the ambitious Vaako, Urban can work a glower and some eyeliner like nobody's business -- plus, the way he looks at Thandie Newton as his Lady Macbeth-like wife is believably admiring and fearful.
Their chemistry is both weirdly sexy and somewhat feral, and I remain into it.
Joan Allen as Pamela Landy, deputy director of the CIA, kind of trying to kill Bourne
Allen's Landy was kind of a fluid character in the Bourne films, starting out against Bourne and then eventually sharing with him his real name, David Webb, and she certainly didn't take any shit from anybody. Aside from Bourne, Allen has a good history of playing hard-nosed, somewhat unyielding characters, and if you don't believe me, go pay attention to her role in The Notebook. I AM NOT KIDDING. As the mother to Rachel McAdams's Allie, immediately dismissive of her relationship with Ryan Gosling's Noah, Allen is judgmental, snobby, and truly quite cruel. But that one moment when she admits to Allie that she loved a working-class man before marrying Allie's wealthy father, and THEN you find out the man was played by DAN SCOTT FROM ONE TREE HILL?! WHAT A TWIST.
Marton Csokas as Jarda, Treadstone operative, trying to kill Bourne
Csokas has a kind of threatening, otherworldly handsomeness that helps him get cast in roles as varied as Celeborn the elf king in Lord of the Rings and the Russian enforcer Teddy in The Equalizer remake. Dude can stare like a motherfucker! And he puts that to good use in 2010's The Debt, where he plays a Mossad agent hunting down a Nazi war criminal with Jessica Chastain and Sam Worthington. He's so slippery, and he's so morally problematic, and he's so good.
Brian Cox as Ward Abbott, CIA section chief, trying to kill Bourne
William Stryker in the very underrated X-Men 2. Wolverine's creator and his most essential adversary! That's all I have to say -- or need to say.
THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM
Scott Glenn as CIA director Ezra Kramer, trying to kill Bourne
Zack Snyder is really not the best, but his 2011 film Sucker Punch really isn't that bad! And for the Wise Man role, he couldn't have made a better casting choice than Scott Glenn, who exudes, well, wisdom. This is the same man who coached Clarice Starling back in The Silence of the Lambs, providing a good daddy figure for her in contrast to Hannibal Lecter's evil one. But it's the composed bad-assness that he brings to Sucker Punch that makes this the role to watch.
Édgar Ramírez as Blackbriar assassin Paz, trying to kill Bourne
HELLO, ÉDGAR, YOU FINE-AS-HELL MAN. Please observe his fine-as-hellness in Carlos, the three-part miniseries from Olivier Assayas. As real-life Venezuelan terrorist Carlos the Jackal, a Marxist responsible for a bunch of deaths, Ramírez is magnetic, captivating, and sometimes totally crazy. I own it on Blu-ray. You need to watch it. And no, you can't borrow mine, because how do I know you're going to give it back?!
David Strathairn as CIA deputy director Noah Vosen, trying to kill Bourne
First, I think it's important to note that "David Strathairn" has way too many damn vowels, and I cannot keep spelling out this name. I just can't! Also, you would THINK I am going to suggest his performance in Good Night, and Good Luck. -- but no. That is the obvious (but also excellent) choice! Instead, check out his performance in The Whistleblower as Peter Ward, an ally to Rachel Weisz's character as she tries to leak information about a sex-trafficking ring ignored by the United Nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It's a really brutal, hard-hitting film, and no one saw it, and you should.
Albert Finney as Dr. Albert Hirsch, designer of "behavior modification," trained Bourne to kill
Finney is one of those actors who has been working forever and I've seen him in tons of stuff, but there is one scene I won't ever forget: His face when Julia Roberts, in Erin Brockovich, mutters to him, "Ed, have a fucking cup of coffee." Roberts is a force of nature in that film, for which she rightfully won an Oscar, but look at Finney's reaction shots throughout, when he holds his tongue and when he explains to Erin what's what. His interactions with her are gold.
THE BOURNE LEGACY
Oscar Isaac as Outcome operative Number Three, not really caring about Bourne
What do you need me to say about my future husband Oscar Isaac? That you should go watch him in Ex Machina immediately? OK, yeah, do that.
Stacy Keach as Outcome official Mark Turso, not really caring about Bourne
You want to FULLY HATE someone? Watch Stacy Keach in American History X. He would probably be a Trump voter, so, keep that in mind in November.
Edward Norton as retired Air Force colonel Eric Byer, not really caring about Bourne
Is 25th Hour Spike Lee's best film? It's in the conversation, and Norton's performance is integral. He's angry, resigned, desperate, and forlorn as a drug dealer spending his final night with his childhood friends before going to prison. All of the hallmarks of great Norton performances are there.
Tommy Lee Jones as CIA director Robert Dewey, trying to kill Bourne
Steven Spielberg is in the part of his career where he's making respectable movies that no one seems to talk about, but revisit Jones's performance in Lincoln, as Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, fully on the right side of history with his opposition to his slavery and his support for African-American rights. Jones is practically a professional grump, but at his best, he adds layers of emotional nuance to his performances, and he does that in Lincoln especially. (ALSO, THAT HAIR THOUGH.)
Alicia Vikander as CIA cyber ops chief Heather Lee, trying to turn Bourne
Nobody saw Guy Ritchie's The Man From U.N.C.L.E., but they should have, because Vikander is fascinating in it. As a car mechanic who becomes entangled in an unlikely alliance betwen British and Soviet spies, Vikander is slick, intelligent, and manipulative, and her chemistry with Armie Hammer is impressive indeed. A scene that begins with them fighting and almost ends in them making out is unforgettable because of Vikander's particular mix of vulnerability and sensuality.
Vincent Cassel as the Asset, trying to kill Bourne
Eastern Promises, for this hairdo/leather trench combo alone. You're welcome.