Good as Bourne?
June 26, 2012 1:14 AM   Subscribe

Films of the Bourne Triloy genre?

I loved the Bourne trilogy. What equally non-BS, intelligent, tech-smart covert operation films would I enjoy?
posted by watercarrier to Media & Arts (35 answers total) 62 users marked this as a favorite
If you're open to something smart but a little lighter, Sneakers is one of my favourite films. Terrific cast, too: Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier, Ben Kingsley, Mary McDonnell, River Phoenix, etc.
posted by Georgina at 1:32 AM on June 26, 2012 [13 favorites]

posted by caek at 1:36 AM on June 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

The Daniel Craig Bond films are pretty great.

I really enjoyed Hanna as well. Very Bourne-ish, with a twist.
posted by GamblingBlues at 1:44 AM on June 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

I'm always looking for this too! Not enough really good action films around. Salt, with Angelina Jolie, was pretty good I reckon.
posted by jojobobo at 2:07 AM on June 26, 2012

A bit dumb, but I enjoyed Spy Game. Not tech-smart, but does the insight into covert operations thing reasonably well (by well, I mean fun, not accurate).

Cypher is a Sci-Fi / corporate espionage movie. Really enjoyed that!

I love these types of movies, but I've drawn a blank. I'll post more if I think of them!
posted by man down under at 2:14 AM on June 26, 2012

Stretching the genre a bit:

No Way Out
Nikita (the French original)
Knight and Day
The 39 Steps (the 1935 version)
Gorky Park
Black Book (i.e. the Dutch movie)

... and for early sightings of Anthony Edwards and Linda Fiorentino, some pure 80s kitsch: Gotcha!. If you like your kitsch more postmodern: Grosse Point Blank.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:03 AM on June 26, 2012

David Mamet's Spartan is a really enjoyable watch.
posted by hydatius at 3:45 AM on June 26, 2012

+1 for the Daniel Craig Bond films, especially Casino Royale. Quantum of Solace is a bit of an acquired taste due to the Writer's Strike at the time.
November's "Skyfall" looks to be a return to form.

I can envision the producers watching Matt Damon running around and kicking ass and having existential problems and saying "That! We want our new James Bond to do THAT!"

And he does.
posted by THAT William Mize at 4:11 AM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Body of Lies
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:29 AM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Any of the Jack Ryan films. The Hunt for Red October is the best.

On the somewhat fluffier side, the Mission: Impossible series. The last one (Ghost Protocol) is the best.
posted by mkultra at 5:31 AM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Not sure if a bit too 'Cold School' for you but Le Carre's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy. Either the Tomas Alfredson 2011 movie version or perhaps the original BBC TV Series.
posted by numberstation at 5:32 AM on June 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

Possibly the entire James Bond 007 catalog (even though the 60's "tech smart" is kind of cheesy compared to today's standards, it's still fairly entertaining to watch movies that pretty much pioneered the techy spy genre)

There was also a 1960's television series called "The Prisoner" which has the same level of tech quality as early bond films that might be worth looking into. The modern day Bourne film owes a lot to these old gems in my opinion.
posted by samsara at 5:59 AM on June 26, 2012

The Italian Job
posted by Sassyfras at 6:34 AM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Man, I really liked Spartan in the same way I liked the Bourne movies. They're kind of- mournful, in the same way.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 7:16 AM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Three Days of the Condor and The Amateur are my favorites in the sub genre of an average guy caught up in the world of espionage. Lots of more modern films already mentioned here, maybe i'd add The International.
posted by th3ph17 at 7:29 AM on June 26, 2012

The Ocean's Eleven remake in 2001 is very tech-heavy and intelligent underneath all the good-looking stars and snappy banter. It's a fun film, but not very many explosions.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:35 AM on June 26, 2012

Not as directly in-genre, but you might like Franke Potente in Run Lola Run. Grosse Pointe Blank hits a lot of similar "smart, action, good acting, emotional resonance" buttons for me, with added romance. The first Iron Man did the same.

I love the Bourne movies, and I'm hoping that the upcoming one with Jeremy Renner will live up to the high standards set by the earlier ones.
posted by PussKillian at 7:45 AM on June 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

Safe House. Not as good as the Bournes, but what is?
posted by Thug at 8:13 AM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Haywire is Soderberg doing his art thing on a Bourne template. It is good.
posted by The Whelk at 8:44 AM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

No Way Out is surprisingly good, considering the actors in the lead roles. The tech is actually within shouting distance of what what possible for the mid 1980s.

Doubling up on Hanna. Very good film.

The Third Man turns on "realistic" technology in the 1950s for its plot too. You don't get better than Harry Lime.

The American is a lesser Clooney picture, but takes place in the same geography and time as the Bourne films.

Salt is Angelina Jolie's some-what successful attempt, even to the ending.
posted by bonehead at 8:56 AM on June 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Hah, I should have thought of Salt. I had just left my job at the location that stood in for the White House and other office areas. I left, and Angelina Jolie moved in. Anyway, I second that nomination - Salt isn't completely coherent and doesn't nail the emotional resonance as much, but it's fun and has some solid action sequences.
posted by PussKillian at 9:07 AM on June 26, 2012

I see I forgot the Constant Gardener. It's a Le Carré adaptation, so not as much action as Bourne, but a lot of spycraft. Like Bourne, it's very personal and maintains the suspense well. Apparently there's a lot of reality in the tale. Le Carré apparently toned down the accounts on which the book was based.
posted by bonehead at 9:29 AM on June 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

I really like this genre too. Strongly second Nikita (the French original) and The Italian Job.

Some other suggestions:
- Red was better than I expected
- The Assignment - not sure why this movie didn't do better; I quite liked it. A much better version of The Jackal story than the Bruce Willis/Richard Gere film
- The Long Kiss Goodbye - OK movie, but made me think a lot about the long-term impact of training for spydom
posted by widdershins at 11:03 AM on June 26, 2012

Not so techy, but for "innocent guy on the run from shadowy forces", I don't think you can do much better than Marathon Man
posted by hwestiii at 11:17 AM on June 26, 2012

The Transporter trilogy doesn't have much BS (cf. Spam).

Also, the Harry Palmer movies: The Ipcress File, Funeral in Berlin, and The Billion Dollar Brain.
posted by rhizome at 11:23 AM on June 26, 2012

Thanks everyone!
posted by watercarrier at 11:38 AM on June 26, 2012

Not a film, but the Showtime series Homeland is excellent, if less action-oriented and more cerebral. I especially like how it presents a very nuanced exploration of the methods and motivations of both "terrorists" and the enemy within, which is about as different as you can get from the xenophobic jingoism of 24.
posted by wutangclan at 1:43 PM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing Ronin & Spartan.

Both badass, and both portray a serious feel of verisimilitude for spycraft/special ops, action and hard men.
posted by lalochezia at 2:34 PM on June 26, 2012

Though Jason Bourne was among the best of Robert Ludlum's superagents, they were not all CIA-built killing machines.. but then, neither was the original Jason Bourne, a Vietnam vet whose family was killed by VC and dedicated himself to the clandestine services, ultimately ending in a complicated deep-cover operation designed to flush out Carlos, aka The Jackal.

This is the Filmography of Robert Ludlum-based films and you'll find that Ludlum's heroes tend to be relatively ordinary guys with military training who get invited, one way or another, into extraordinary situations. Keep in mind that Ludlum's books tend to span from WWII to the 70s and little further, so Cryptonazis, European terrorists, and miscellaneous new Palestinian groups crop up here and there, to say nothing of powerful Cabals and secret agencies within the US.
posted by Sunburnt at 2:56 PM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, Hitchcock, anyone? North by Northwest, at least?
posted by Sunburnt at 3:05 PM on June 26, 2012

"Spooks," the BBC TV series
"The Company," a 6-hour TV miniseries that fictionalizes the major events of the Cold War through the lens of a handful of CIA agents. Terrific casting on this.

"The Fourth Protocol" (based on a Forsyth novel) features Michael Caine as a British Agent trying to foil a Russian plot to create a nuclear catastrophe in Britain. Pierce Brosnan as the Russian.

And after you watch all those, be sure to enjoy the antidote, the still-quite-funny "Spies Like Us."
posted by Sunburnt at 3:14 PM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's not nearly in Bourne's league, but you might enjoy the t.v. show Covert Affairs.
posted by callmejay at 6:59 AM on June 27, 2012


"What's the color of the boathouse at Hereford?"
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:02 PM on June 27, 2012

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