Clive Owen as “The Professor” in The Bourne Identity

Clive Owen as "The Professor" in The Bourne Identity (2002).

Clive Owen as “The Professor” in The Bourne Identity (2002).

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Clive Owen as “The Professor”, English sleeper assassin for the CIA

Paris, Winter 2002

Film: The Bourne Identity
Release Date: June 14, 2002
Director: Doug Liman
Costume Designer: Pierre-Yves Gayraud

Background

A hallmark of the Bourne series is the dogged adversary, usually a fellow government assassin who always manages to stay one step ahead of our protagonist, even when the agency itself can’t quite manage to do the same. The first major example of this adversary is “The Professor”, the otherwise unnamed hitman played by Clive Owen in The Bourne Identity.

After being called up from his sleeper life as a piano teacher in Barcelona, the taciturn and ruthlessly efficient killer packs up his raincoat, sniper rifle, and the latest in 2002 technology (a Motorola flip phone) to go after his first target…

I work alone, like you. We always work alone.

What’d He Wear?

“The Professor” wisely chooses attire that will help him blend in whether in the city or the countryside. The staple of his costume, a long brown raincoat, manages this task ably in both the rural and urban environments.

The Professor strikes his favorite pose.

The Professor strikes his favorite pose.

The Professor’s raincoat is single-breasted with a shirt-style collar and four brown plastic buttons down the front that close under a hidden fly, although he always wears his coat open. There are open slash side pockets on each side and a long rear single vent. Each cuff has a short squared strap that closes on a single button.

Oh, and spoiler alert - things don't turn out so well for The Professor. That's why it's not called The Professor Identity.

Oh, and spoiler alert – things don’t turn out so well for The Professor. That’s why it’s not called The Professor Identity.

Underneath his raincoat, Owen’s clothing varies, but he typically wears a darker brown zip-front jacket as his “assault gear”. This jacket has a crossover pocket on the left chest that, like the front, closes with a zipper.

To provide an additional layer of warmth during the chilly Parisian winter, Owen’s character also sports a black mock neck ribbed jumper that is similar to the blue sweater worn by Bourne in the latter half of the film.

The Professor packs up after another job well done.

The Professor packs up after another job well done.

The film focuses on his abilities as a sniper, and thus tends to ignore his lower half. Despite this, he still does wear pants; they appear to be a pair of dark brown flat front trousers with a slim leg and plain-hemmed bottoms. He sports a pair of dark – probably black – lace-up combat boots.

To ensure that the audience knows that this sinister gunman is a bad guy, The Professor also wears a pair of black leather gloves. The gloves are fingerless and close with a velcro strap over the front of the wrist.

These aren't the sort of gloves to invest in if you're worried about leaving fingerprints, though.

These aren’t the sort of gloves to invest in if you’re worried about leaving fingerprints, though.

Much of The Professor’s professorial (hey, that’s a word!) look derives from his slim, steel-framed eyeglasses. Though he is a master sniper for CIA, his complaints of headaches and need to wear eyeglasses may explain why he botches the Bourne assignment. Of course, it could also be that Bourne is just that damn good.

You couldn't ask for a better photo of The Professor's glasses (unless you wanted one of both lenses, of course).

You couldn’t ask for a better photo of The Professor’s glasses (unless you wanted one of both lenses, of course).

When not in assassination mode, The Professor nicely captures the banal look of a bored early 2000s businessman with a wrinkled tan dress shirt and a wide black loosened necktie with a small dot motif. He also appears to be wearing a light gray crew neck t-shirt underneath.

The Professor shows off his many expressions.

The Professor shows off his many expressions.

When we first meet The Professor in the middle of one of his piano lessons in Barcelona, he wears a dark gray flannel single-breasted sport coat with notch lapels over a dark brown dress shirt.

Thanks to Bourne, this kid will never learn anything more advanced than "Hot Cross Buns".

Thanks to Bourne, this kid will never learn anything more advanced than “Hot Cross Buns”.

How to Get the Look

The Professor dresses to fit in both in urban and rural environments with multiple layers to adjust to the climate or the situation. While you’re likely – and hopefully – not an assassin following a target through urban and rural areas of varying climates, it’s wise to travel in diverse and removable layers like this.

BIProf-crop

  • Brown waterproof single-breasted raincoat with shirt-style collar, 4-button fly front, slash side pockets, 1- button cuff straps, and single rear vent
  • Dark brown zip-front jacket with crossover zip breast pocket
  • Black ribbed mock neck jumper/sweater
  • Dark brown flat front trousers with plain-hemmed bottoms
  • Black lace-up combat boots
  • Steel-framed eyeglasses
  • Black leather fingerless gloves with velcro front strap

The Gun

Each of the Treadstone assassins we meet appears to have a specialty. Castel, whom Bourne confronts in his Paris apartment, is a brash attack man who packs an assault carbine. Manheim, the withdrawn German featured in the finale, prefers a silent, up-close killing with a handgun. The Professor is the sniper of the bunch, using a SIG SG 550 Sniper as his weapon of choice.

The Professor does what he does best.

The Professor does what he does best.

SIG-Sauer weapons are abundant in the Bourne franchise, with Jason carrying a different variant in each film. Even his spiritual successor, Aaron Cross, handles a SIG P229 handgun in The Bourne Legacy. It is a reasonable inclusion, as the Swiss-originated and German-manufactured SIG-Sauer has been providing arms to militaries and police forces for the better part of the last century, especially in the European regions featured in The Bourne Identity.

The SIG SG 550 rifle was first produced in 1986 after nearly a decade of development for a new Swiss Army battle rifle. The selective-fire SG 550 assault rifle was finally introduced with a gas-actuated, piston-driven, long stroke operating system and chambered for the popular 5.56×45 mm NATO round. The rounds are carried in distinctively lightweight translucent polymer magazines – typically holding 20 but some are made to hold 5 or 30 – that can snap together for “jungle-style” magazines (as seen with Lee Marvin’s Grease Gun in The Dirty Dozen).

A SIG SG 550 Sniper as carried by "The Professor" in The Bourne Identity. (Photo from IMFDb).

A SIG SG 550 Sniper as carried by “The Professor” in The Bourne Identity. (Photo from IMFDb).

An accurized variant, the SG 550 Sniper, was developed for sharpshooters with a two-stage reduced-pull trigger and a heavy 650 mm barrel (nearly five inches longer than the standard SG 550) to be used exclusively with telescopic sights. The folding stock reduces the rifle’s overall length from 44.5 inches to 35.6 inches. The Sniper variant also has a slightly faster muzzle velocity, increased to 940 meters per second from the standard model’s 911 m/s.

The Professor uses his SIG SG 550 Sniper all throughout France, first using it to kill Wombosi in Paris before he takes it into the countryside to search for Bourne and Marie. According to IMFDb, the “suppressor” he attaches onto his rifle is actually a Hogue OverMolded™ free-floating handguard for the AR15/M16 rifle. IMFDb further notes that: “Even if the suppressor was functional, it would have to be attached to the end of the barrel in order to actually suppress the report of the weapon. Simply sliding it over the barrel would do absolutely nothing to the sound of the round being discharged. Also note that there are no provisions on the SIG 550 shown (IE; a threaded muzzle or some sort of mount attached to the barrel) to attach the ‘suppressor’ depicted.”

Although the gunshots sound suppressed in the film, the attachment to his barrel would actually be very useless here.

Although the gunshots sound suppressed in the film, the attachment to his barrel would actually be very useless here.

When Bourne finally gets the upper hand, The Professor is sent sprawling for his carry piece. He draws his Walther P5 Compact out of his carry bag, but Bourne kicks it out of his hand with force… so much force, in fact, that it becomes a very different CZ-100 in the next shot!

The Professor chambers a Walther P5 Compact (left) that becomes a CZ-100 in the next shot (right). As Bill O'Reilly would say, YOU CAN'T EXPLAIN THAT!

The Professor chambers a Walther P5 Compact (left) that becomes a CZ-100 in the next shot (right). As Bill O’Reilly would say, YOU CAN’T EXPLAIN THAT!

When Bourne arms himself with it for the climax in Paris, though, it is once again the P5 Compact.

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Buy the movie.

The Quote

Look at us. Look at what they make you give.

Footnotes

Thank you to commenter “divermarv” for the suggestion! As Marv and others have noted, the Bourne series is full of well-attired characters other than just the main protagonist. Expect to see more of Bourne’s sharply-dressed adversaries in the months to come.

(Also, for any still wondering, I’m still in concussion mode and limiting myself to no more than thirty minutes of blogging/screen-looking at a time. Once I’m fully recovered, I’ll be back to my usual verbose style of longwinded posts and e-mail/comment replies. Thanks for being awesome in the interim!)

12 comments

  1. Mohammed

    Can someone explain to me what the free-floating handguard does? I assumed it was to guard the hand from the heat of the barrel but The Professor’s hand is miles away from the handguard. Also, what is “free-floating”?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Roman

      It’s an aftermarket handguard for M16-pattern rifles. It could be used for better handling than your regular fixed handguards, as if you change your body position while aiming your rifle, you wouldn’t have to bend your wrist or regrab your handguard – it just rotates ’round the barrel, accomodating for your wrist twist. Here, it is used as a stand-in for silencer, because it looks like one.

      Like

      • James

        Yes, this is why. Pressure on the barrel, even if its just touching something slightly, can change each shot slightly. Doesn’t mean an assault rifle has to have a free floated barrel, some popular bullpups like the TAR21 and AUG don’t. Typically a 1/2MOA shift in point of impact (that would be about .5″ at 100 yards ) isn’t a huge concern, but when shooting out several hundred yards it makes even more of a difference.

        Like

  2. RM

    You want suggestions? You want assassins? You want stylish badasses? How about the Jackal from The Day of the Jackal as played by Edward Fox?

    Like

  3. William Starr

    Just thought I’d note here that the Professor’s quote, “Look at us. Look at what they make you give,” was echoed by Bourne himself very close to the end of the the third movie of the trilogy, “The Bourne Identity,” as he’s speaking to a CIA assassin who wants to know why Bourne spared him earlier in the movie. It was a very well-done callback, showing the effect that the Professor’s words had had on Bourne.

    Like

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