The success of 2002’s The Bourne Identity led, in typical Hollywood fashion, to 2004’s The Bourne Supremacy and 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum, with this first trio of films initially coming to be considered a proper trilogy by the creators. And though the movie series would, obviously, continue on past this point, and though the subsequent chapters would largely continue their predecessors’ penchant for having overlapping stories and timeframes, this trilogy can still be regarded as a separate narrative unit with its own beginning, middle, and end, telling the story of Jason Bourne’s genesis.
And “genesis” is the correct term to use here. After a highly successful run as a black-ops hitman for the Central Intelligence Agency, in which he becomes the poster child of a top-secret program called Operation Treadstone, Jason Bourne’s conscience eventually gets the better of him, and this deep-laden guilt abruptly explodes in the foreground when he’s sent to assassinate an exiled African dictator whose young family would have gotten caught in the crossfire. Bourne gets two bullets in the back for his moral qualms and is left for dead in the Mediterranean Sea.
Instead of dying, however, the CIA operative ends up with a case of amnesia, which allows him to fully develop a new personality that’s completely devoid of bureaucratic brainwashing and Treadstone behavioral modification (though the superspy training and ability to speak several languages fluently remain). It is eventually revealed throughout the course of the trilogy that Jason Bourne originally entered life as David Webb, and that in order to be inducted into the experimental Agency project, this old identity had to be broken down and replaced with the new, amoral one of Bourne. In this way, then, the events of Identity, Supremacy, and Ultimatum are the character reclaiming his self-identity – and his destiny – replete with the new desire to not kill at all (unless in self-defense, of course) and to live a life free from the corruption and control of the intelligence community.
Once The Bourne Ultimatum released to strong box office, it didn’t take Universal Pictures long to order up yet another installment – and it wasn’t at all deterred when it became clear that neither Matt Damon, the franchise’s star, nor Paul Greengrass, the main director, was willing to return. The central writer behind the initial trilogy was brought back and promoted to director himself, and he was tasked with fashioning a brand-new character to continue the life-or-death adventures in Jason Bourne’s shady world.