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Thursday December 5th 2019

Jason Bourne | 2016

Jason Bourne filming location: Paddington Basin, Paddington, London W2
Jason Bourne location: Smith nervously waits for Bourne: Terrace, Paddington Basin, Paddington, London W2

A further chapter in the Bourne saga, with the breathtaking action sequences benefitting hugely from director Paul Greengrass’s background in documentaries.

The tormented Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), now remembering (almost) everything, lives off-grid in 'Greece', eking out a living while exorcising his mental conflicts with bouts of bareknuckle fighting.

When he’s contacted by Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), who’s hacked into the CIA network and discovered insights into his past and his father, Bourne/David Webb is drawn back into the fray.

Both the hackers’ ‘Reykjavik’ hideout, where Nicky accesses the CIA files, and the venue for the underground fight where she finds Bourne, were filmed in what was the old Kodak photographic company plant in Harrow, northwest London.

The first Kodak factory outside the USA, it was opened in 1891, on a huge triangular site alongside the rail line on Harrow View at Headstone Gardens, northwest of Harrow & Wealdstone Station.

The explosion of digital photography in the 2000s saw the print side of the industry declining and by 2016, the plant had closed. Since the filming of Bourne, the buildings have been demolished to make way for a housing development – although the landmark towering chimney has been retained.

There’s more location trickery when Parsons meets Bourne in ‘Athens’ and the first big action sequence sees the pair chased on a stolen bike through a horde of Molotov cocktail-hurling demonstrators.

The amount of red tape required to stage such a major set-piece in Athens resulted in a decision to film the entire sequence in Santa Cruz, Tenerife, with the city’s Plaza de Espana standing in for Athens’ ‘Syntagma Square’. The film does an astonishingly convincing job of adding the Greek Parliament Building to the background and dressing the city centre with Greek signage.

Bourne and Parsons push through the crowds and cross in front of Plaza de la Candelaria, splitting up at the corner of General Gutierrez and Plaza del Cabildo when Bourne realises they're being tailed.

Jason Bourne filming location: Av Tres de Mayo, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands
Jason Bourne location: Bourne steals a bike during the rioting in 'Athens': Avenida Tres de Mayo, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands | Photograph: Google Maps

It's several blocks to the southeast, at the junction of Avenida Tres de Mayo and Avenida la Salle where Bourne steals a motorbike.

Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands, a group of volcanic islands in the Atlantic Ocean. Although they’re off the west coast of Morocco, they’re officially a part of Spain and a popular holiday destination.

As it turned out, Tenerife proved to be spectacularly adaptable, also supplying the ‘Beirut’ streets for the flashbacks to Bourne’s father’s death as well as both ‘Reykjavik’ and ‘Athens’ airports.

As an aside, if you visit Tenerife and you're a film fan, you'll constantly be told by tour guides that the island's volcanic Mount Teide was used for filming everything from Planet of the Apes to Star Wars and The Ten Commandments. Well, they're fibbing. The spectacular landscape was, though, really used for Hammer Films' One Million Years BC back in 1966 and for the 2010 version of Clash of the Titans.

As ever, Parsons and now Bourne are being monitored by the CIA, under Director Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) along with his ambitious assistant Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander).

The CIA’s ‘Langley’ hub was recreated in the UK, inside Portland House, once headquarters of the Blue Circle cement company, in Aldermaston Park, near Reading in Berkshire.

Designed in the mid-Eighties by Richard Gilbert Scott, (son of the famous architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott), the building was prematurely closed down due to safety concerns and became, like the abandoned Kodak plant, conveniently vacant.

Dewey’s major concern is the agency’s newest operation, Ironhand, which involves harvesting personal info stored by global network Deep Dream (which in no way resembles Facebook or any similar entity).

The Deep Dream HQ in ‘Silicon Valley’, where founder Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed) is having second thoughts about this secret deal with the spooks, is in the USA but not in California. Since there was filming in the Washington DC area, other locations were found nearby.

‘Deep Dream’s inverted pyramid is in reality home to the Center for Innovative Technology, 2214 Rock Hill Road, Herndon, Virginia, between the city itself and Washington DC Dulles Airport.

Dewey’s Colonial-style mansion is east of Herndon toward DC in Maclean, Virginia.

In DC itself, the restaurant in which Kalloor airs his doubts to Dewey is the branch of upscale dining chain Capital Grille, 601 Pennsylvania Avenue NW at 6th Street.

With – spoiler! – Nicky suddenly out of the picture, Bourne needs a way to access those downloaded CIA files on her locked memory stick.

For this task, he needs to journey from 'Athens' to Berlin in order to contact Nicky’s sometime tech collaborator, Christian Dassault (Vinzenz Kiefer).

As a quick aside, ‘Athens Station’ is Woolwich Arsenal Station on the Docklands Light Railway in southeast London.

But that is the real Berlin as Bourne arrives at Berlin Hauptbahnhof, the city’s main rail terminus. The modern steel and glass structure opened in 2006 on the site of the old Lehrter Bahnhof, demolished after severe damage during WWII. You can see the station again at the end of Liam Neeson thriller Unknown.

Bourne supposedly heads for ‘Prenzlauer Berg’ in the north of the city to find Dassault, but what we see is Kreuzberg, southeast Berlin.

Dassault’s loft hideaway is Falckensteinstraße 47, beneath the curve of the elevated railway at the southern end of Oberbaumbrücke. If you’ve seen Tom Tykwer’s inventive 1999 thriller Run Lola Run (Lola Rennt), you might remember Lola (Franka Potente – who was Marie in The Bourne Identity) sprinting past the same spot. The turreted road-rail bridge is seen in The Bourne Ultimatum, Spooks: The Greater Good and it’s also the bridge from which Liam Neeson’s cab plunges in Unknown.

By the way, if you're a rock fan and you're visiting the area, the loft is just across from the Ramones Museum.

Don’t be fooled by these set-up shots. We’re soon back in the UK. The loft interior is the Photographic Studio of the old Croydon School of Art in Segas West House, Croydon, South London, and so is the exterior view of the windows, as the CIA keeps tabs on the fight between Bourne and Dassault.

Before the CIA (which installed tracking malware onto Nicky’s drive) can shut down the system, Bourne gets the name of the former surveillance guy for the Treadstone Operation, who seems likely to know details of Bourne’s recruitment and of his father’s death.

Jason Bourne filming location: Sonic Digital, Praed Street, Paddington, London W2
Jason Bourne location: Jason Bourne stocks up on supplies: Sonic Digital, Praed Street, Paddington, London W2

This former agent, Malcolm Smith (Bill Camp), is now working for a private security firm in the UK, so London finally gets to appear as itself as Bourne picks up a few useful gizmos from phone store Sonic Digital, 71 Praed Street, Paddington, W2, east of Paddington Station.

He’s in Paddington because Smith works in the nearby Paddington Basin complex. If you’re a casual visitor, you could easily miss this arm of the Grand Union Canal which runs south from Little Venice to terminate in a large dock hidden away behind the stores of South Wharf Road. This is where barges once loaded and unloaded goods from the Midlands.

Opened in 1801, the Basin had been long disused but in 2001 was massively redeveloped as an inner-city marina surrounded by a jumble of smart new waterfront office-apartment buildings.

Jason Bourne filming location: Sheldon Square, Paddington Basin, Paddington, London W2
Jason Bourne location: Bourne spies on Smith at work: Sheldon Square, Paddington Basin, Paddington, London W2

There are two separate sections and Bourne heads to the northwestern stretch, Paddington Central (which stands on the site of Paddington Station’s old goods yards), where he spies on Smith working in the 10-story glass office block at 2 Kingdom Street.

Bourne phones Smith with instructions to meet him at ‘Paddington Plaza’ (not a real name), which turns out to be the further end of the eastern section and involves Smith negotiating the whole length of the Basin, while pursued by hitmen as all sides betray and deceive each other.

Jason Bourne filming location: Paddington Basin, Paddington, London W2
Jason Bourne location: The Asset follows the hitmen following Smith: Footpath, Paddington Basin, Paddington, London W2

I have to pause here to mention the Basin’s star features, two gimmicky new bridges. They were intended to open up to allow canal traffic but, to be honest, they’re extravagant follies.

In the film, you’ll barely notice the first of these, the Rolling Bridge, as Smith hurries across it to his appointment. In real-life, chances are you won’t notice it either.

It’s an anonymous little footbridge crossing a small offshoot of the main canal but if you look closely, you’ll see it consists of eight hinged sections. Instead of rising up, like the mechanism of Tower Bridge, it’s intended to curl up into a circle like a frightened caterpillar. Well, it did – but no more. I don’t know why (I can only assume maintenance costs must have been a nightmare), but it no longer performs its spectacular party trick.

Happily, its companion, the Fan Bridge, crossing the main Basin, still does its stuff. You can spot it as The Asset (Vincent Cassel) chases frantically across the canal and again in the background as the increasingly panicky Smith waits for Bourne.

This bridge does open up like half of Tower bridge but – wait for it – in five separate slices like the opening of a Japanese fan. It’s absurdly impractical but spectacular fun (a couple of times a day). If this were a Fast And Furious movie, I’m sure it would have been incorporated into some eye-popping stunt, but since this is a serious Bourne film, it stays quietly horizontal throughout.

Jason Bourne filming location: Paddington Basin, Paddington, London W2
Jason Bourne location: Smith nervously waits for Bourne: Terrace, Paddington Basin, Paddington, London W2

‘Paddington Plaza’, which the ever-resourceful Bourne floods with office workers by simultaneously setting off fire alarms in every building, is the spacious terrace in front of the BrewDog pub at the eastern end of Merchant Square and the Basin proper.

The Basin, an open stretch of water at the time of filming, is now largely taken up by a floating grassy garden, with paths and benches providing a welcome respite for deskbound toilers.

In the chaos, Bourne is able to spirit Smith away and they head to the Basin’s western end where, after a confrontation with The Asset, both Bourne and Smith plunge from a rooftop to the canal’s western footpath.

You won’t be surprised to learn that one of them (I won’t say which) survives and disappears into the crowd.

Jason Bourne filming location: Praed Street, Paddington, London W2
Jason Bourne location: Bourne commandeers Heather Lee's van: Terrace, Praed Street, Paddington, London W2

Lee, realising that Dewey’s intent is not to bring in but to terminate the rogue agent, heads in to rescue Bourne. He’s a step ahead of her and commandeers her van on Praed Street in front of Greek restaurant Fantasia Palace, 28 Praed Street, just across the street from the electronics store.

The apparently sympathetic Lee, now pissed off with Dewey, reveals that Kalloor is heading to a major convention in Las Vegas and intending to blow the whistle publicly on his company’s deal with the agency.

So, all parties head out to Vegas for the last act.

The convention, ‘Exocon 2015’, where both Kalloor and Dewey are guests at a public symposium on the complexities of “Policing a free Internet”, is held in Aria, 3730 Las Vegas Boulevard South.

Aria, which opened in 2009, was previously featured in 2013’s Las Vegas, with Robert de Niro and Morgan Freeman, and in Louis Leterrier's surprise hit Now You See Me.

With a minimum of CGI (used largely just to paint out ramps and other technical devices), the hair-raising chase was filmed for real on the famous Vegas Strip.

At those speeds, the chase along the Strip would have come to an end in a couple of minutes, but the movie’s version of the Strip seems to run for miles. The carnage finally climaxes with the SWAT truck crashing through the entrance of the old Riviera Casino and onto its gaming floor.

Vegas is constantly renewing itself and there’s always one landmark building on the verge of demolition which is allowed to end its days in a blaze of on-screen glory.

Here it’s the turn of the Riviera, which was one of the few remaining old-school establishments from the days before high-concept themes became the norm.

The casino had already been gutted and, ironically, needed to be restored to its pristine state only to be destroyed all over again.

The Riviera in its heyday was seen in Doug Liman’s calling card, Go, and became the fictional ‘Tangier’ for Martin Scorsese’s epic Casino.

There’s one last cinematic deception as the action continues into the flood channels ‘beneath Vegas’. In fact, this is the underground car park of the old Dixons HQ on Maylands Avenue in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire in the UK.