Jason Bourne’s Origin Story Explained

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The Jason Bourne movies only reveal Jason Bourne’s origin story in small details throughout the franchise, making this mysterious backstory tough to track down. The Jason Bourne series begins with 2002’s The Bourne Identity, wherein Matt Damon plays the amnesiac spy Jason Bourne. At the beginning of the franchise, Bourne has no idea who he is or what happened to him in the past and his attempts to uncover the truth—and evade the CIA—make up the bulk of the action in The Bourne Identity and its sequels. By the third movie in the series, Bourne is finally starting to piece together his story, but viewers may need a refresher on the plot.

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Jason Bourne’s backstory is revealed in full in Damon’s least favorite sequel, The Bourne Ultimatum. Even though the actor wasn’t a fan of this franchise outing, most critics and viewers agreed that The Bourne Ultimatum was a triumph and arguably even the strongest movie in the franchise. The Bourne Ultimatum sees Jason Bourne confront his old employers and, in the process, learn his real birth name and his true identity. It turns out that Bourne’s story with the CIA goes back over a generation, and his memory loss was an attempt to keep him from learning the truth and exposing the CIA’s crimes to the world.

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Jason Bourne Was Born As David Webb

Matt Damon as Jason Bourne

Jason Bourne was born David Webb in 1971, the son of a CIA analyst named Richard Webb. Richard Webb worked on a project known as Treadstone before his mysterious death. Before his memory loss, Bourne joined the US Special Forces and then the Delta Force. Within the Delta Force, Bourne earned the rank of Captain. After that, he began work at the CIA in January 1997. It was after a short while working in the CIA that Bourne was offered an opportunity to join Treadstone, which is where Bourne’s story takes a tragic turn.

David Webb Was A Member Of The US Special Forces

Jason Bourne Treadstone

While Jason Bourne’s origin story saw him persuaded to join Treadstone when his father was supposedly killed by terrorists, the truth was a lot more complicated and conspiratorial than that convenient explanation. It turns out that it was David Webb’s father Richard who created Treadstone years earlier. Richard Webb threatened to expose the program when it became clear that the CIA wanted his son to join Treadstone, as he didn’t want David to become an assassin. Since the CIA couldn’t have Webb telling the world about their illegal hitman ring, Richard was then assassinated by the CIA. It was this decision that ultimately set the wheels in motion for David’s transformation into Jason Bourne.

Why Jason Bourne Joined Treadstone

Jason Bourne and Treadstone TV Show

The CIA staged Richard’s assassination to make it look like terrorists had killed him, thus ironically compelling David to join their program. There, David was trained to become an almost-unstoppable spy and assassin. This is how David Webb became Jason Bourne, with extreme behavior modification techniques remolding the army Captain into a killing machine. However, despite his mental conditioning, David’s eventually morality got the better of him, leading to him failing a mission. This, in turn, led the CIA to hunt him down, as they could not afford to have Bourne telling the world the truth about Treadstone.

While Bourne’s TV spinoff Treadstone went into more detail about the activities of Treadstone, viewers can gauge a lot about the program from the original movie trilogy alone. Treadstone was set up after assassinations were banned by a Congressional Act, with this organization within the CIA pulling off secret killings. Richard Webb was instrumental in setting up the program but Treadstone was shut down shortly after its final graduate, Jason Bourne went rogue. The later Bourne sequels reveal that Blackbriar, another mysterious program that Bourne receives cryptic warnings about, was the rebranded follow-up to Treadstone that came into existence after his escape.

What Happened Before The Bourne Identity

Matt damon jason bourne bourne identity bourne supremacy ultimatum

After Webb became Bourne, the spy spent a few years working as an assassin for the CIA before his conscience got the better of him. This explains when Jason Bourne learned martial arts, a skill that comes in handy when he survives as a street fighter after the ending of The Bourne Ultimatum. Bourne’s first assassination was the killing of a Russian politician who had intended to uncover a money-laundering plot between the CIA and a Russian oligarch. Fortunately for the CIA, the Treadstone program’s success meant that Bourne didn’t question the morality of murdering a whistleblower who intended to uncover corruption.

However, this uneasy alliance didn’t last. As Bourne continued to work as an assassin in Europe, based in Paris, his conscience starts to gnaw at him. It was during this time that the spy established Bourne’s relationship with Nicky Parsons. While Nicky and Bourne were never canonically confirmed to be a couple, Nicky did act as Bourne’s handler during this period. She harbored secret feelings for the assassin, which was why she later helped him when the CIA went after Bourne. This occurred when he was assigned to kill the former warlord Nykwana Wombosi.

How Jason Bourne Lost His Memory

The Bourne Identity fight scene pic

Bourne was assigned to assassinate Wombosi, the former dictator of an African nation when Wombosi began blackmailing the CIA. Wombosi threatened to reveal numerous CIA agents unless the organization staged a coup to put him back in power and the CIA, aware of the expense and effort this would require, opted to kill Wombosi instead. Bourne got the assignment but, when it came time to kill Wombosi, he balked as the warlord was surrounded by his children. Bourne attempted to simply leave the job unfinished but, when he tried to escape Wombosi’s boat, he was shot in the head twice by an unseen assailant.

Bourne then woke up days later with no recollection of who he was, setting up the events of the Jason Bourne movies. Jason Bourne’s missing memories gradually came back to him throughout the first three movies as he evaded the CIA and simultaneously attempted to uncover the crimes of the organization. By the time The Bourne Ultimatum ended, Bourne was free to live in anonymity after exposing the existence of Treadstone to the world, although the assassin was still haunted by the crimes that he committed before the Jason Bourne movies began (and the killings he committed in self-defense throughout the trilogy).

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