Film: The Bourne Series
aka: The Bourne Ultimatum
Jason Bourne. We think.
"I can tell you the license plate numbers of all six cars outside. I can tell you that our waitress is left-handed and the guy sitting up at the counter weighs two hundred and fifteen pounds and knows how to handle himself. I know the best place to look for a gun is the cab of the gray truck outside, and at this altitude, I can run flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking. Now why would I know that? How can I know that and not know who I am?"
— Jason Bourne, The Bourne Identity
of action films tenuously (pretty tenuously
) based on the Robert Ludlum books of the same name
and starring Matt Damon
. It revolutionized the spy genre for its simplicity as well as for having a smart protagonist, globetrotting (with virtually zero California Doubling
), well-crafted suspense and aggressive action sequences. Jason Bourne is an amnesiac who finds himself with super-assassin
skills and has to stay on the run from former employers and whoever else wants to manipulate him to evil ends. Each movie follows a slightly different story but retains some basic elements of Bourne eluding government custody, killing a fellow assassin with some household implement and going for an innovative and harrowing car chase.
So far, there are four films in the series:
- The Bourne Identity (2002): A man (Bourne) is fished out of the Mediterranean Sea riddled with bullet-holes and with no memory of who he is. He makes the surprising discovery that he knows how to speak several languages, has plenty of money and passports in a safety deposit box, and he knows how to kill anything that moves. Retracing his steps, he finds himself being hunted by the government and, with the help of a pretty German globetrotter, he goes in search of his identity.
- The Bourne Supremacy (2004): After a botched undercover mission, a CIA operations leader finds evidence that Bourne was responsible for killing their agents. He's not, but those who framed him also want to tie up loose ends and send an assassin played by Karl Urban to track him down and kill him. He survived their initial encounter but his girlfriend was killed in the process. Angry and wroth with revenge, Bourne comes out of hiding to find the people who killed her and bring them to justice, and to also start making amends for past wrongs. This brings him into direct conflict with the remnants of Treadstone.
- The Bourne Ultimatum (2007): Picking up where Supremacy left off, Bourne is on another mad chase - this time, it's to pick apart all of the loose ends about his identity and life, as he sets out to track down the source of the Government Conspiracy that made him into a weapon and caused all the trouble in the first place. This leads him through a series of individuals with the information he needs, and he picks up an unexpected ally in the computer specialist who had been in the background of the previous films. Cleverly retcons the second movie's final scene and thus takes place contemporaneously with part of Supremacy.
- The Bourne Legacy (2012): Matt Damon has refused to make another film without Paul Greengrass (director of Supremacy and Ultimatum) involved, and Greengrass has insisted that he's yet to find a story good enough to merit a continuation of the franchise. As a result, the studio have created the new character Aaron Cross, to be played by Jeremy Renner and directed by the writer of the first three movies, Tony Gilroy. Cross is a trained operative much like Bourne and has to deal with the fallout as the government eliminates any programs linked to Blackbriar, eventually joining up with a female scientist from the same program. Edward Norton plays an official involved with the deeper aspects of the program trying to cover up the fine details. The movie takes place immediately after the events of Supremacy and Ultimatum.
- A fifth movie has been announced, and is scheduled for release in 2016. The plot and title are currently unknown, but Matt Damon will be returning as Jason Bourne, and Paul Greengrass is rumored to be directing.
The success of the Matt Damon trilogy helped influence many films, including the direction of the rebooted James Bond
franchise with Casino Royale
open/close all folders
This series as a whole provides examples of:
- Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Several, including the dialogue with Professor in Identity, Bourne's apology to Irena Neski in Supremacy, and the conversation (rather monologue) with Nicky in Ultimatum.
- Anyone Can Die: Several important characters are surprisingly dispatched over the course of the series. In the first film, Conklin is anticlimactically murdered at the end. In Supremacy, Marie (a character who survived the entire book series) is suddenly killed during a chase sequence. Later, Danny Zorn, Conklin's right-hand man and one of the few surviving Treadstone agents, is murdered by Ward Abbot. Abbot is later exposed as a murderer and traitor and commits suicide. In Ultimatum, Simon Ross (played by notable actor Paddy Considine) is set up to be a main character, then efficiently dispatched by an assassin. Neal Daniels is set up to be the man who could answer Bourne's questions, but is blown up. In fact the only major characters to survive the series are Bourne, Nicky Parsons, and Pamela Landy.
- Arc Words: "Look at us. Look at what they make you give."
- Artifact Title: The Bourne Identity makes sense given the context of the movie. The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum... less so. And of course, the Bourne Legacy doesn't even have Bourne in it (though that's the Legacy part).
- Assassin Outclassin': The majority of action scenes are either chase scenes, Bourne beating up mooks, or confrontations with government "assets". If Bourne is the target, expect the asset to fail. If Bourne isn't the target, all bets are off.
- The Atoner: Bourne.
- Awesomeness by Analysis: Bourne is a master at this, calmly assessing a situation before acting.
- Badass: Bourne, totally. Same goes for every Treadstone, Blackbriar, Outcome, or LARX asset, whose levels of skill and determination nearly or equally rival Bourne's.
- Being Watched: Jason can plot the location and arc sweeps of multiple surveillance cameras at a glance and guide others through them as well as himself.
- Bigger Bad: The guy who shot Bourne in the Mediterranean. All the problems both protagonists and antagonists of this series are caused by his shooting at Bourne.
- Black Shirt: Noah Vosen.
- California Doubling: Spectacularly averted for the most part, with only a few minor exceptions:
- Scenes from Zürich and the French countryside in Identity were filmed in the Czech Republic (in and around Prague), The skyline of and scene taking place in Amsterdam in Supremacy are probably filmed there as well and the very brief re-appearance of Moscow in Ultimatum was filmed around old GDR era buildings in Berlin.
- In Ultimatum they filmed a scene set at the Waterloo train station on location, but there was no way they could get the location shut down for filming, so they just worked around the crowd. It generally worked alright as they put up signs to please ignore the film crew.
- Calgary, Alberta served as Alaska, but that doesn't mean Jeremy Renner didn't actually get into glacier water with little protection.
- Car Fu: Used by both Bourne and the hitmen sent to eliminate him during the car chases in the second and third movie. LARX-3 constantly crashes cars and at one point a bus in an effort to kill Cross in Legacy.
- Central Theme: Identity.
- Charles Atlas Superpower: Subverted, ultimately; Jason Bourne manages some exceptional, apparently superhuman feats, but the fourth movie shows that Treadstone's personnel, along with several other project's agents, were actually altered by retroviral engineering to be stronger, smarter, and faster than ordinary humans.
- Chekhov's Gunman: In Identity Wombosi's children are mentioned and seen briefly before a flashback reveals they're the reason Bourne couldn't kill Wombosi on the boat.
- Combat Pragmatist: Bourne gets the job done, whatever it takes. Cross too.
- Contract on the Hitman: The various hitmen hired to kill Bourne. And, indeed, Bourne himself.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Ward Abbott, who first betrayed his superiors to form a black ops squad with Conklin, then betrayed his black ops squad to use it for personal gain and finally betrayed Conklin as well.
- Cursed with Awesome
- Deadly Doctor: Albert Hirsch, the mastermind.
- Deadpan Snarker: A lot of the characters, especially the employees of the CIA.
- Determinator: Insert whoever belongs to the superhuman projects here.
- Did You Actually Believe?
- The Dragon: Conklin to a number of Big Bads in Identity; Vosen to Hirsch and Kramer in Ultimatum, Byer to Kramer in Legacy.
- Drives Like Crazy: The chases, natch. Mostly justified in Legacy, since drivers on the streets across the Philippines actually drive like that.
- Elite Mooks: Treadstone/Blackbriar operatives.
- In Legacy, there is the utterly frightening LARX agent, arguably the most elite of these mooks, almost Terminator-like in ruthless efficiency.
- Easy Amnesia: Averted. Bourne took a damn bullet to the back, and drifted in the sea without any protective gear.
- Escort Mission:
- In Ultimatum, Bourne guides reporter Simon Ross (carrying important information about Black Briar) through Waterloo Station evading agents out to get Ross, mostly through instructions via cell phone. A potentially awesome escape is averted when Ross deviates from Bourne's instructions and in a panic, rushes into the open, prompting a headshot from an awaiting sniper.
- In Legacy, Aaron Cross has to take Marta to Manila to obtain the medication. She was already being tracked by the CIA/Outcome operatives.
- Mr. Fanservice: Guess who.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Treadstone is supposed to have transformed Bourne into the ultimate assassin, but he can't bring himself to kill a father while his kids are watching. Since his plan necessitated a lack of witnesses, meaning if he had killed Wombosi, said children would have been next.
- Every Car Is a Pinto: Avoided, but played straight once in Identity.
- Evil Mentor: Dr. Albert Hirsch
- Film Noir: Some of the stylistic elements of the series (e. g. Bourne is a loner on the run investigating the convoluted secrets behind his past, most of the action in Europe takes place during the snowy winter months, adding to the gloomy atmosphere, etc.).
- The Film of the Book
- Flat "What.": Marie evokes this trope in the first movie.
- Follow the Leader: You can see a lot of influence these films have had on similar genres, both in movies and television, including James Bond / Casino Royale, Taken, Burn Notice and Leverage.
- Gay Paree: Averted. Paris is portrayed realistically (and pretty dirty) most of the time. There are no "postcard shots" emphasising the location (though some famous sights do make an appearance).
- Genius Bruiser:
- Bourne is what you get if you combine Bond and Batman.
- Same for Aaron Cross, as the alterations specifically allowed him to have a sharper thinking process and increased strength.
- The Government: The movies take a very unsympathetic view about American government. More specifically, they portray the government as made up by ethically bankrupt officials busy conducting illegal assassination projects, and when those projects are exposed, they choose to kill their fellow countrymen rather than face trial. This is most notable in Legacy, where no one officials question the illegality of murdering fellow Americans. In fact, all of them appear to regard their targets as terrorists.
- Heel-Face Turn:
- Bourne's semi-voluntary defection to the side of niceness.
- Also, in Ultimatum: Pamela Landy's switch from hunting Bourne to helping him and blowing the whistle on Operation Blackbriar.
- Nicky also switches sides for Bourne.
- Hero Antagonist: Pamela Landy in Supremacy and Ultimatum, until she blows the whistle on Operation Blackbriar in the latter film.
- Heroes Want Redheads
- Hidden Supplies: Bourne's only clue to his identity was a safety deposit box in Switzerland, with cash, fake ID's for multiple countries and a gun. Aaron had a car parked in an unknown location with similar items hidden inside one of the doors.
- Hot Pursuit
- Hitman with a Heart: Bourne, sort of.
- Legacy also showed that the Scientists were beginning to find this a problem in both Treadstone and Outcome agents, thus developed LARX agents to be more efficient.
- Hyper Awareness: In the books and movies, but much more noticeable in the books, where Bourne can sense he's being trailed.
- I Can See You:
- When Bourne calls Pamela Landy at her office, he lets her know he's within line of sight.
Bourne: Get some rest, Pam. You look tired. *click*
- A similar example: Bourne requests a meeting with Nicky. He is asked what if they can't find her.
Bourne: That's easy. She's standing right next to you.
- An inversion happens during Bourne's phone conversation with Vosen later on.
Bourne: If you were in your office, we'd be having this conversation face to face.
- Immune to Drugs: What fact could make Supremacy's final chase scene even more awesome? Both Bourne and Kirill will have been WASTED while it was going on.
- Impossible Mission Collapse
- Improbable Age:
- Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) is one of Bourne's field handlers on an extremely sensitive mission and apparently has beyond Top Secret clearance given what she is involved in (monitoring all of the Treadstone field agents). In other words, significantly more dangerous to the Agency than Bourne is if she screws up, or if something was missed in her vetting and she is less than 100% loyal. When the movie was filmed, Julia Stiles was a very young looking twenty-one. There's an attempted Lampshade in Supremacy when Nicky explains her cover was an exchange student studying in Paris.
- Bourne himself looks like he could be another offender, but Damon is just very slow aging. He is a very boyish looking 31-32 during filming of the first movie, which is actually appropriate for someone who is an experienced soldier who volunteers for a CIA black ops job.
- Improvised Weapon: Bourne has used pens, magazines, hand towels, and bathrooms as lethal weapons. Yes, the whole bathroom. And a toaster. In bonus section it's revealed that he uses Filipino Kali, a practical martial art that emphasizes quick reflexes and subduing enemies while using improvised weapons.
- Indy Ploy: Arguably, since Bourne is constantly forced to improvise some kind of escape.
- In Name Only:
- The premise is mostly kept intact, but the film and book series diverge wildly in where they go from there. The movies are well-crafted and well-respected, having set a new standard for action flicks. They just, you know, don't follow Ludlum's plot.
- The Bourne Legacy is the most spectacular example of this. Not only does it not follow the novel, the eponymous Bourne himself does not appear in person.
- I Surrender, Suckers: Used by Bourne in Supremacy, when he intentionally lets himself be caught in USA consulate in Naples, and again in Ultimatum, surrendering to the NY police to hijack their car.
- Jitter Cam: In the last two films. In the second one, especially, to the point that many theater-goers experienced headaches. Toned down for the third. Legacy featured a new director and thus was removed almost entirely.
- Just a Stupid Accent: Largely averted. Foreign characters are usually shown speaking in their native tongue.
- Knight in Sour Armor: Pamela Landy.
- Le Parkour:
- Frequently used by Bourne to escape his pursuers. Helped popularize the art.
- Also used by Aaron Cross as short cuts to the second floor of Marta's house, and all over the roofs of Manila.
- Long Runner Tech Marches On: Very subtly done. In The Bourne Identity, all the mobile phones are late-90s basic phones and we see PCs with massive CRT monitors. By The Bourne Supremacy, we start seeing early smartphones and PDAs, such as the HP iPaq used to ID Bourne's (faked) fingerprint, and flatscreen monitors.
- Love Redeems: Bourne refrains from killing for Marie's sake.
- Mad Lib Thriller Title: The Bourne...
- Make It Look Like an Accident:
- In Supremacy, Jason expected Vladimir Neski to be alone, but realizing his wife was with him, he killed them both, and made it look like a murder-suicide by Neski's wife.
- In Legacy, the Outcome agents are poisoned so their deaths appear from natural causes. The scientists are killed by a colleague going crazy in yet another workplace shooting incident, with the Sole Survivor meant to have committed suicide. A news report mentions that Hersh died of a 'heart attack' while under protective custody before he had a chance to testify. Only the two Outcome agents miles from civilization are slated to be killed directly.
- The Man Behind the Man: Layers and layers of it are added in each film, but then again this IS a spy drama.
- Master of Disguise: Bourne's character was influenced by 20th-century assassin Carlos "The Jackal", who was infamous for his ability to blend in and elude the authorities. Carlos himself appears as an antagonist in the novels.
- Moscow/The New Russia: The second main setting of Supremacy and at the beginning of Ultimatum. Bourne's unofficial first mission consisted in the assassination of a progressive Russian politician.
- Myth Arc: the overarching storyline across all movies is about illegal superhuman assassin projects that are controlled by ethically bankrupt American government officials.
- Never Forgotten Skill: Jason Bourne is introduced with having amnesia. However, his memory loss does not affect his combat skills in the slightest.
- New Skills as the Plot Demands: Justified in the first film; Bourne has a ton of skills that help him disappear, beat people up and kill. He doesn't know about most of them until he has to use them; best demonstrated when a couple cops try to arrest him for sleeping on a park bench. A few seconds later they're both disabled and he is standing over them with one of their service pistols, a look of utter bewilderment on his face.
- Omniglot: One of the first things Jason Bourne learns about himself after his amnesia is he can speak several different languages including Italian, French and German.
- Omniscient Database: The CIA's database. And granted, there's a CD containing various project personnel...
- One-Man Army: Bourne, and indeed any of the Treadstone/Blackbriar operatives.
- Paranoia Fuel: in-universe. The American government is depicted to be controlled by ethically bankrupt spies who are capable and willing to assassinate anyone (even their fellow Americans) anywhere for self-serving interests. The worst part? Divine intervention aside, they will always get away with it. This is best shown in the scene where CIA-sent therapists try to kill Marta and make it look like suicide.
- Perpetual Frowner: Most of the cast, including Bourne (especially in the second and third movie). Nicky is perhaps the best example, which makes her warm knowing smile seen at the end of Ultimatum all the more awesome.
- Positive Discrimination:
- There are no evil female characters in the first three movies. Either they are sympathetic to begin with, or if antagonistic toward Bourne, are established as being misinformed and at once turn good after learning the truth.
- Does not hold true for Legacy, where the leader of the team sent to kill Marta is a female, as is a prominent member of Byer's team.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: Overall opinion is that they're great movies. The books were written in the 80's, with the Cold War going on. This topic just doesn't carry the same impact now. Plus, the real-life terrorist at the center of the book series, Carlos the Jackal, had been in prison years before the movies were ever made.
- The Precarious Ledge: Jason Bourne escapes the American Embassy by navigating a ledge.
- Reality Ensues:
- At the end of Ultimatum, Landy faxes classified documents about CIA black operations to the public. This makes her a subject to a criminal investigation in Legacy, because, after all, those documents are classified.
- Chemically enhanced while he is, LARX-3 dies when he crashes head-on on a concrete pillar. Similarly, Cross slips out of consciousness after taking a bullet earlier.
- Replacement Love Interest: Nicky Parsons, almost.
- Revealing Coverup: The whole point of Treadstone is to avoid this trope, as all of Bourne's kills are supposed to look like internal rivalries or murder/suicides. As Bourne's handler puts it: "I don't send you to kill; I send you because you don't exist!"
- Retcon: All sequels fill in Bourne's backstory in ways that color the previous film(s), and introduce increasingly higher-ranked government officials who were really in charge of the Treadstone/Blackbriar program. But the prime example is how Ultimatum reuses the final scene of Supremacy halfway through its runtime, recontextualizing the dialog and turning the Crowning Moment of Heartwarming of Supremacy into a Crowning Moment of Awesome in Ultimatum.
- The plot of Legacy happens parallel to the closing events of Ultimatum and twists the outcome of Landy's actions.
- Roof Hopping: Happens in Ultimatum and Legacy.
- Rule of Symbolism: Water symbolizes death. In Identity, Jason was discovered in the middle of the ocean after having been shot by Wombosi's men. In Supremacy, Marie gets shot while driving, taking their jeep off the bridge to the water below, and his first assignment in Treadstone took place on a rainy night. And in Ultimatum, it's shown in flashbacks that, as David Webb, he was waterboarded into becoming Jason Bourne when he first joined Treadstone, and in the end, he falls into the water after apparently being shot, mirroring his first appearance.
- Serial Escalation: The first movie concerns about an amnesiac man wanting to quit his job as a contract killer. Fast forward to the fourth movie, and we have ever-growing superhuman projects engineered by ethically bankrupt officials in charge of American spy agencies.
- Significant Monogram: Jason Bourne shares more than just his occupation with James Bond. Also Jack Bauer. Another badass agent.
- Sinister Surveillance: The US Government, during operations, has hijacked cameras nearly everywhere, and still can't catch Bourne. Granted, they trained him to avoid it, but...
- Not only cameras, but satellites as well, as shown in Legacy.
- Out-of-Character Alert: Subverted.
- Spiritual Successor: Green Zone is from the same director as the last two films, has the same leading man, is loosely based on a book, involves a possible cover-up, and was even described by Greengrass as "a look inside a privileged world few people see", except it's the military instead of spycraft.
- The Spook:
- Bourne was trained to become one of these, and it shows what happens when one of these turns back on its creators.
- The Bourne Legacy showed that there was several series of similar programs, which trained at least nine more operatives, including Aaron Cross.
- Stairwell Chase: Played with. And how !
- Tomato in the Mirror: The Reveal in Identity. After spending most of the film running away from the CIA, in addition to murdering two CIA assassins to survive, Bourne eventually discovers that he is, in fact, a CIA assassin himself.
- Trying to Catch Me Fighting Dirty: Bourne. A lot.
- Trilogy Creep: The third film tied things up nicely, though leaving them open ended should Matt Damon decide to reprise his role. So far he hasn't wanted to, but that hasn't kept the studio from dishing out a new film with a new lead in his place.
- Too Dumb to Live: Simon Ross, the Guardian reporter who got in way over his head, and despite Bourne's repeated warnings, panicked and decided that it would be a good idea to try and escape a security trap on his own.
- Walking the Earth: Justified by Bourne being on the run. The first half of Identity even has a certain Road Trip Plot charm to it.
- We All Live in America: It appears the CIA can do almost anything they want in any European country while the local authorities dutifully assist them, or at least don't do anything to hinder them. That the local authorities might refuse to help the CIA based of the fact that an American organization has no jurisdiction in their countries never seems to have crossed the writers' minds.
- Weapon of Choice: Many of the assassins use weapons manufactured by Sig-Sauer, Glock and Beretta
- Xanatos Speed Chess: Bourne is the master of this trope. The CIA operatives try hard to Out Gambit him in every movie. They always fail miserably...
The Bourne Identity
The Bourne Identity provides examples of:
The Bourne Supremacy
The Bourne Supremacy provides examples of:
- Badass Normal: Kirill, despite being a FSB operative without the same training and brainwashing Treadstone agents have undergone, is more than a match for Bourne.
- Berlin: One of the primary settings of the second movie.
- Batman Gambit: Bourne deliberately gets himself detained at Naples, anticipating that the right people would pick up on it. When they do, Bourne taps their phone conversations and learns their identities and probable locations, making tracking them easier.
- Burn Baby Burn: Bourne burns Marie's passport and photographs after her death, except for one.
- Deceased Fall-Guy Gambit: Abbott tries to pin the Berlin assassination and the money theft on Conklin, who'd died in Identity, and Bourne, who was to be killed before the CIA could find him.
- Have You Told Anyone Else?: Danny Zorn preemptively fulfills this trope by explaining to his soon-to-be murderer Ward Abbott that he has yet to share the damaging information he's found.
- Improv Fu: Jason Bourne can beat the shit out of you with a rolled up newspaper and blow up a condo with it when he's done killing you. It should be noted that this example isn't theoretical or exaggerated; it's something Bourne actually does.
- Info Dump: Landy looking through Treadstone files helps explain the aftermath of Identity to new viewers.
- Inspector Javert: Pamela Landy.
- It Works Better with Bullets: Bourne found Jarda's gun and emptied its bullets. Jarda noted how the gun felt light.
- Leave Behind a Pistol: Bourne does this for Ward Abbott.
- Posthumous Character: Everything that happens traces back to the assassination of Vladimir Neski, who'd been killed before revealing that Yuri Gretkov was using stolen CIA funds to buy up Russian oil leases. Jason soon uncovers that he was the one that killed Neski, in his very first Treadstone assignment.
- Precision F-Strike: Bourne himself delivers a powerful one at the end of an intense interrogation he uses on Nicky Parsons. Considering how calm and stoic Bourne usually is in the second and third movies, it really signifies his emotional turmoil and hate for the CIA after losing Marie, the one person he came to really care for, all because Ward Abbott refused to leave him alone and sent an assassin to take him down, but ended up killing her instead by accident.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The whole movie, albeit so cold and machine-like it seems he's lost his humanity until he refuses to kill Ward Abbott and again when he speaks to Irina Neski.
- Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Marie, Danny Zorn and Ward Abbott.
- These Hands Have Killed: On the DVD commentary, Bourne's reaction after killing Jarda is described as a man that's fallen off the wagon.
- Train Escape: After Bourne is identified at a hotel.
- Trapped in a Sinking Car: Bourne's car goes careening off a pier due to the assassin that is trying to kill them. He escapes, but his girlfriend got fatally shot in the process.
- The Worf Effect: Bourne is incredibly cautiously when he faces Jarda, with good reason. He's a particularly brutal fighter.
- Yank the Dog's Chain: The death of Marie in the beginning of the film.
The Bourne Ultimatum
The Bourne Ultimatum provides examples of:
The Bourne Legacy
The Bourne Legacy provides examples of:
- Action Survivor: Marta. She may be The Load initially, but she's considerably better at surviving and helping out than the typical action movie love interest, and chooses to stay by Aaron's side despite opportunities to get away safely.
- Adorkable: The brainwashed scientist has one scene before he gets brainwashed, in which he asks Marta for approval on a study and she agrees. His giddy reaction to said approval helps demonstrate just how robotic the brainwashing has made him.
- Always a Bigger Fish: The Outcome agents for Bourne, and the LARX-3 agent for Aaron.
- Anti-Climax: Despite being built up as the latest and greatest of the Super Soldier line, LARX-3 doesn't engage in an epic hand-to-hand battle with Cross, despite Bourne having done that in pretty much every film. Instead, he ends up pursuing Cross and Marta in a relatively tame car/bike chase, and gets taken out when Marta makes him crash into a pillar.
- Applied Phlebotinum: The blue and green pills, or "chems", which serve to increase the subject's intelligence and strength. Also enables the CIA to maintain a hold on their agents: if not taken on a regular basis, the enhancements will stop working.
- Asshole Victim: If it's possible for an animal to be this, it's the wolf that is pursuing Aaron relentlessly. For its trouble, it gets caught in a snare, then force-fed his homing beacon so it gets blown up by a predator drone. "You should have left me alone," remarks Aaron.
- Banister Slide: Aaron Cross does this on a motorcycle during the final chase scene, because the stairway is blocked by pedestrians.
- Bavarian Fire Drill: Used by Aaron and Marta to infiltrate the Manila pharmaceutical factory.
Aaron: (to Marta) Remember, we belong here.
- Bilingual Bonus: The second half of the movie has scenes with (untranslated) dialogue that would make sense to someone with a working knowledge of Tagalog.
- Bio-Augmentation: Through retroviral engineering to enhance human mental and physical abilities.
- Big Damn Heroes: Aaron does this a few times.
- Bittersweet Ending: Despite Aaron and Shearing managing to escape the CIA's reach, the ending implies that Landy will be used as a scapegoat for Treadstone and Blackbriar while the actual villains get away clean to try again.
- Brainwashed and Crazy: When Operation Blackbriar and the Treadstone Project is exposed to the public, Byer engineers the deaths of the Outcome scientists by chemically brainwashing one of them into killing the rest of his colleagues and commit suicide. However, they didn't account for the one survivor. The implacable Larx agent, Larx-03, could also count as this.
- Shearing implies that the stuff she was working with involved the capacity for brainwashing at a chemical level, tied in with the education and training of new agents. Exactly how this works is not explained, but it could be implied that it allows brainwashing at an accelerated level than a more normal way.
- Can't Stop the Signal: Aaron tells Marta that if she leaves him, her only chance for survival is to go public. As Landy found out, this doesn't work so well against the government.
Aaron: But you better ask yourself this: Could you ever say it loud enough, fast enough, that they'd leave you alone?
- Chekhov's Gun:
- When Byer and his investigators were first going through the CIA investigations files at the start of the movie, the camera sweeps over the file names - Treadstone, Blackbriar, Outcome, and a forth yet unmentioned in the series program called LARX. It would soon be revealed that this is the newest and most advanced offshoot of all four programs.
- Aaron swipes a gold watch off the factory manager at the Manila manufacturing plant. This is used to pay off a boat captain later.
- Clock King: Aaron seems like a heroic version of one, specially while rescuing Dr. Shearing.
- Come with Me If You Want to Live: Aaron to Marta after he saves her from a government hit squad.
- Crazy-Prepared: In a deleted scene, when making the trip to Maryland Aaron is pulled over by a cop suspiciously (he was going the proper speed limit). The cop started asking him specific questions and Aaron had a detailed response about being a divorcee going to see his kid play in a soccer game. When asked to look at his trunk he had a variety of sporting equipment.
- When he knocks out the plant supervisor in Manila, Aaron makes sure to steal his watch so he can use it to bribe another man in the future.
- Darker and Edgier: this is by far the darkest entry in Bourne universe. Unlike Jason Bourne, Cross and Shearing are complete innocents who never intend to get out, let alone expose the project, and yet they are marked for death anyway.
- Deadpan Snarker: Cross.
- Deadly Nose Bleed: The only physical symptom of the poison given the Outcome agents is a nosebleed right before death.
- Death from Above: A missile-armed Predator UAV is sent after the two Outcome agents on survival exercise.
- Elites Are More Glamorous: Despite working for a CIA Special Ops unit, Aaron was recruited from a Tanker unit.
- Establishing Character Moment: Weisz's character, Dr. Shearing, manages to escape a shooting in her lab by hiding herself in a cold storage room (with very thick walls and glass) and kept the door sealed by wrapping her jacket around the inside plunger to prevent the latch from opening. This resulted in her being the only survivor and shows she won't be The Load even though she can't match anyone on a physical level.
- When we first see Dr Shearing, she is on first name terms with security guards, on great terms with her co-workers... and barely looks at 6, the guy she's about to perform intensive medical checks on. It's a pretty graphic example of how depersonalised the experimental subjects are to her.
- The first 20 minutes of the film shows Aaron navigating the Alaskan wilderness with unflinching focus, but it isn't until he shoots down the attack drone trying to kill him that you see just how good he is. This is commented upon by the guys controlling it. "What kind of weapons system is he using?" "He's probably got a rifle." (blank stare) "It's a high-powered rifle."
- Fake Static: Aaron rubs the radio on his sleeve while giving a "status update" to the final member of a hit squad sent after Marta, using the distorted sound and his knowledge of radio protocols to pretend to be the dead guy he took the radio off of, so nobody will realize anything's gone wrong until after he and Marta are gone.
- Faking the Dead: It was revealed that Aaron's original identity was presumed killed in Iraq; he survived with significant injuries and was presumably placed into the Outcome program soon after.
- Flowers for Algernon Syndrome: Cross stated his IQ was 12 points below the Army recruitment minimum; when given the intelligence enhancing pills it made the threat of losing those enhancements significantly more scary for him.
- For Science!
Marta: I was there for the science. We were all there for science!
- Government Agency of Fiction: National Research Assay Group.
- Hero of Another Story: Jason Bourne has the big story of taking Treadstone public, while Aaron's story is just about surviving.
- Also Outcome Three, the contact in Alaska, who apparently is there as punishment for misbehavior in the field (implied to be Iran).
- Hero Stole My Bike: Cross does this with a plane in Alaska and a motorcycle in Manila. The Larx agent also steals two motorcycles, though his methods involve violently removing the current rider.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Australians and foreign cinema buffs from elsewhere will recognise Shane Jacobson as Mackie.
- Hot Scientist: Dr Marta Shearing, as played by Rachel Weisz.
- IKEA Weaponry: Aaron continuously assembles and disassembles his Nemesis Arms Vanquish rifle throughout his trek across Alaska.
- Implacable Man: The LARX agent could give The Terminator a run for his money. Car crash? Gets out, hijacks a motorcycle and continues. Getting shot twice then a bad motorcycle wreck? Gets right back up and keeps coming. It takes being forced to crash head on into a concrete pillar at top speed to finally kill him. On top of that, he's neurochemically programmed to be absolutely remorseless and have zero empathy, and he noticeably is far more ruthless than any previous agent.
- Irony: Cross using Filipino Martial Arts to beat up non-martial artsy Filipino security guards and police officers.
- Improvised Weapon: A Bourne staple; Cross rigs what is effectively a nail gun with an air piston and a fire extinguisher.
- It Works Better with Bullets: Marta, still understandably freaked out by the whole attempted murder thing, tries to shoot Cross when he first tries to gain her trust. Cross then points out she emptied her gun during her first escape.
- Nebulous Criminal Conspiracy: The superhuman projects in the Bourne universe are controlled by a conspiracy involving rogue spy chiefs, pharmaceutical executives, and defense contractors.
- Necessary Evil: Byer describes both himself and Cross as this in a flashback, explaining to the latter that it's their job to do these distasteful things so everyone else can keep their hands clean.
- Neck Snap: Cross does a few.
- Never Trust a Trailer:
- For The Bourne Legacy trailer, their editing indicated that Aaron Cross was superior to Jason Bourne, calling him "Treadstone without the inconsistency". The Film shows that it was actually referring to a new Treadstone offshoot that was active without most people knowing about it. They called it "Outcome without the emotions".
- Some of the trailer dialogue also didn't appear in the cinematic release: "Well, I'm not just a science project, Doc."
- The TV spot has Aaron cross muttering "You should have left me alone," to a handphone on the plane, hinting that he made contact with Eric Byer. In the film Byer wasn't even aware that Aaron Cross was alive and helping Dr. Shearing until the pair reached Manila.
- Don't trust the poster, either. Joan Allen and Albert Finney get their name on the poster in big letters. Pamela Landy is in only one scene and Albert Finney is only briefly shown in a Youtube video for less than a minute.
- The scene in the trailers of Marta screaming for Aaron when she's cornered in a narrow alley and being promptly rescued is misleadingly cut from two different scenes: one where she screams for him to run, endangering herself to give him a chance to get away, and another several minutes later when she is cornered and about to surrender, only for Aaron to jump down to rescue her.
- No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Landy, who spent all of Supremacy and Ultimatum trying to expose the corruption within the CIA and simply trying to do the right thing, is rewarded with becoming the scapegoat for said corruption within the CIA.
- Not That Kind of Doctor: Shearing's doctorate is in biochemistry. However, biochemistry is a major component of medicine, so she isn't completely ignorant about what medications and whatnot Aaron might need.
- Oh, Crap: Byer has a big one when his team finally manages to identify the mystery person helping Shearing escape their view, the Outcome agent (Aaron) they thought they had just killed.
- The Oner: Cross crawls out from a basement window, smoothly climbs three stories on the side of a house and enters an upstairs window to shoot a person climbing the stairs. All in one take.
- There's a Lens Flare as he climbs onto the roof, presumably covering for a cut.
- P.O.V. Sequel: It takes place at the same time as the events of The Bourne Ultimatum, even showing some of the same news broadcasts.
- Properly Paranoid:
- Practically enforced, a Deleted Scene showed that all Outcome Agents showed signs of paranoia, including stockpiling their chems in case they need to go off the grid. Aaron's behavior wasn't unusual and ultimately vital to his survival.
- Byer, too. His methods may be brutal to the point of monstrous, but he accurately predicted that the CIA would lose control of the situation and planned accordingly.
- The Purge: When Bourne's story really starts heating up, all Treadstone/Blackbriar operatives are killed systematically. Operation Outcome was completely unrelated but a single video online created a connection that could be traced, so all operatives and civilian personnel were terminated. Aaron and Shearing are the only survivors.
- Reassigned to Antarctica: The other Outcome agent in Alaska is implied to have screwed up somehow, thus why he's doing the job as opposed to a normal employee.
- Roof Hopping: Aaron Cross engages in an entire chase scene over the roofs in Manila.
- Savage Wolves: A pack of wolves constantly harass Aaron during his training in the snowy mountain region. The pack leader even tries to take him head on when he's on the run from the flying drone trying to kill him. It's hinted by the other agent that the wolves attack him because he's no longer human.
- The Scapegoat: Pamela Landy is shown to be taking the heat for Jason Bourne still being at large, deemed as guilty of treason for aiding and abetting a wanted felon.
- Sequel Hook: The senate hearing Bourne got going in Ultimatum isn't going well for Landy, and there is a new program already in play that very few are aware of.
- Sequel Reset: The senate hearing from the end of Ultimatum isn't going well, Pamela Landy is the scapegoat and more projects spawning even more extreme agents and methods to use on the agents are going on with barely anyone the wiser.
- Shell-Shock Silence: When the UAV missile explodes the cabin.
- Shirtless Scene: Quite a number for Jeremy Renner.
- Super Soldier: Put on full display for this film, as the Treadstone-style agents, which include Blackbriar, Outcome and LARX, were actually chemically enhanced to be faster, stronger and smarter than average humans. Byer has a discussion with a military general over the positive effects of fielding these precise agents into places that normal people would not survive in. Behind the scenes they even refer to the individuals as super soldiers.
- Surrounded by Idiots: When one of his underlings mentions LARX as a solution to the Cross problem, when until now the LARX program was believed to be in the concept stages, Byer gives him a look that just screams "are you kidding me?" Even worse, the guy doesn't take the hint and just keeps talking, forcing Byer to admit that the program's already running.
- Token Romance: It's actually left rather subtle. There is a growing appreciation between Cross and Shearing and they sometimes engage in affectionate mannerisms with each other (Cross grasps her hand when she injects him with the retrovirus, Shearing holds him when he is suffering from the symptoms of that virus) but by the end it is left vague if they are going to actually pursue a relationship.
- Tracking Device: All Outcome agents have one planted into their body, which is regulated by body temperature. The Big Bad uses it to kill one agent with a drone strike. Aaron manages to escape by extracting his and planting it on a wolf.
- Trailers Always Spoil: For The Bourne Legacy, those who watched the trailer would already know that Marta's friendly lab colleague would be shooting at her ten minutes later. Also, as soon as the various Outcome operatives showed up, trailers already showed them to be dead agents walking.
- The Unfought: Unlike the previous films, where Bourne ended up confronting at least some of his pursuers, there is only one scene featuring both Cross and Byer, and it's in a flashback where Byer lectures him on being a Necessary Evil. In the present, it's debatable if Cross is even aware Byer is the one running the show.
- Wham Line: The revelation of LARX, the newest Treadstone-style incarnation, hidden from the current media hooplah and so secretive even those who know all about Treadstone and Blackbriar didn't know they had active agents already.
- Worf Had the Flu: Done almost literally. Aaron is injected with a virus designed to permanently keep his mental acuity without the need for blue pills, but he is suffering the effects of the virus for the rest of the film. The worst of it passes by overnight, but he's clearly suffering from more than a gunshot wound near the end of the chase.
- Worst Aid: The agency therapist visiting Marta after the shootout was horrible at her job, first implying that she might have survivors guilt because Marta had been spared (she very nearly wasn't), then eventually resorting to screaming at Dr Shearing to make her sit down. Justified, because she's just trying to distract Marta long enough for her partner to find Marta's gun so they can kill her and make it look like a suicide.
- You Are Number Six: The Scientists in charge sees the outcome agents as only numbers. Dr Shearing had known Aaron Cross for four years as only "five". He doesn't take this well.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Once the supersoldier projects leak out to the media, the project supervisors decide to wipe out all scientists and soldiers involved to prevent them from being witnesses.