The Mystery of The Women of Jason Bourne

By  · Published on July 28th, 2016

It’s possible you’ve forgotten a few of them.

The Jason Bourne franchise has always been a vehicle for Matt Damon. His character’s name is attached to every entry in the series and the focus is justifiably on him. Most of the plot relies on finding out his past ‐ after he lost his memory in the events that open The Bourne Identity. Firmly in the background are the female characters portrayed by Franka Potente, Joan Allen, and Julia Stiles.

The women of Bourne are mostly used as plot devices to advance the story, rather than given anything resembling character development. They are relegated to cutting their hair and being victims of the situation around them, having little to no power to change those circumstances. Each of the major female characters has to rely on Bourne to solve their problems, whether it is gaining a future, uncovering secret files, or escaping from predators. In case you’ve forgotten, the significance of each woman is detailed below:

When we are first introduced to Marie, her life is in shambles. Apparently she has been having a rough time with the consulate office. That means no address, no phone, no money, no time. She needs something to go right for her soon or she is going to be on the street. Luck would have it, that Jason Bourne desperately needs a ride. Although she says she’s not running a car service, let’s face it, she is basically running a car service.

Marie isn’t really given much to do in her brief time in the Bourne movies. Her major purpose is to be a proxy for the viewer, in the story of Jason Bourne. She is given one sequence where her common sense surpasses Bourne’s strategic planning. Bourne gives her directions and an escape plan should she have issues getting a receipt from a hotel, but she simply asks for the receipt with no issue. It’s a funny sequence, but outside of that she’s just someone that needs protection.

Countless times throughout The Bourne Identity, Marie is given the opportunity to leave. She routinely chooses to stay, probably because she has nothing better to return to. Perhaps she becomes attracted to Bourne for no other reason than she has experienced PTSD and believes in the security he can provide her. This is the type of romance that is glorified in Hollywood. Even when Marie finally makes an escape to hopefully put the events behind her, Bourne arrives to try to make a life with her only to lead to her demise.

Deputy Director Pamela Landy is a central piece in discovering the treason happening within the CIA. In The Bourne Supremacy, Landy is trying to discover the whereabouts of $20 million dollars stolen seven years earlier. Those funds disappeared during a wire transfer through Moscow. A Russian politician, Vladimir Neski, claimed the CIA had a leak and they had been ripped off. Neski was then killed before the CIA could gain any credible information.

The actual heavy lifting of the plot comes from conversations with Pamela. Through conversations with other CIA members, she details how Bourne is involved with the cover up behind the murder of Neski. The failure of Treadstone is brought up once again and the late Alexander Conklin is discovered to be behind many more mysteries.

As Pamela learns more about Bourne’s motives in The Bourne Ultimatum, she learns that he isn’t a threat to the CIA and that he just hasn’t found what he is looking for. In a sequence early on in the film, she seemingly has the greatest intellect in a board room full of men and that is where her character is given the most gravitas. When she gets to stand up to her superiors is where she shines, even if these sequences are short lived. She always seems to play second fiddle to the operation chiefs and seems conveniently out of the loop when it comes to secret CIA operations. Although when she finally discovers what is going on, she is the first one who reveals Jason Bourne’s real name and realizes that she needs to get out the CIA.

Nicolette Parsons plays a major role in the three main Jason Bourne stories. When she is introduced in The Bourne Identity, she is an employee at the Treadstone Paris safe house. Her job is to monitor the mental health of the agents in the field, which includes Jason Bourne. When Bourne confronts Parsons, he briefly stares at her signaling there may be more to her story. Thankfully, because her role here is nothing more than that of a glorified secretary.

The importance of her character isn’t fully realized until The Bourne Supremacy, where she gets promoted to vague Jason Bourne love interest. The writers of the Bourne series decided that after Marie left the series, Bourne needed another female to protect. There is a scene in The Bourne Ultimatum where she mirrors the same sequence of coloring her black and cutting it short, just as Marie did in The Bourne Identity.

Also hinted throughout the series, it would seem that Nicky and Bourne had some kind of relationship before he started with Treadstone. It is never fully revealed, but there’s enough there to make the connection between the two of them. So Nicky is portrayed in the same vein as Marie was, a love interested and someone for Bourne save. Never mind that Nicky is a CIA agent, hopefully trained in some sort of self-defense, and smart enough to fend for herself.

With the newest entry in the Bourne franchise, Jason Bourne, hitting theaters there is hope for a more developed female character. Julia Stiles is making her return to the series as Nicky and Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander is joining the cast as Heather Lee, who Vikander describes as a prodigy hacker. She has been hired by the CIA in their cyber research department to use abilities for cyber warfare.

Certainly a recent Oscar winner would be given a little bit more to do in a Bourne film right? Well not according to LAist writer Peter Labuza who describes Vikander’s role as “[she] gets little to do beyond strenuously stare at computer screens, deliver exposition in droll monotones without a hint of curiosity or excitement underneath that British accent. She gets to wear black eyeshadow with a gray-red lipstick and a clip tightening her hair back into an awkward bun all while sporting a series of dark blue pantsuits.” Doesn’t look like the role of females has evolved in the Bourne series as much as the warfare has.

The Bourne series is much beloved (outside of The Bourne Legacy, which seems to have been forgotten) for its action, espionage, and intrigue. The women not being the focal point of the series doesn’t deter from the enjoyment of the series, but the actresses and the characters they portray deserve a lot better than what they’ve been given. Other spy thrillers have enabled a female characters to shine, sadly The Bourne Franchise couldn’t find something worthwhile for their women.

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News Writer/Columnist for Film School Rejects. It’s the Pictures Co-host. Bylines Playboy, ZAM, Paste Magazine and more.