Bourne Again

I was writing about this film after seeing it for the second time the other night, and thought I remembered writing about it before. Sure enough, I discovered some notes I made after seeing it in the theater in August of 2007. I’ll paste those notes below and follow them with a few new thoughts.

Notes from: September, 2007

I’m a little unsure what motivates the choices of some of these characters. 

Twice, someone asked Bourne why he was doing what he was doing. And the answer was: “To know.” There was hidden knowledge that needed to be revealed.

Motivation: Bourne asked both female characters in this film why they were doing what they were doing.  Pamela Landy, the CIA director, was compassionate, but her character was a little too thin. When Bourne asks the younger agent, Nicky Parsons, why she was helping him, she gave an enigmatic answer that hinted at attraction and possibly a previous forgotten relationship (given Bourne’s amnesia). (“It was hard for me with you,” or something like that) She must have only had about 5 lines of dialogue in the whole movie. Furtive glances were a substitute for meaning or character development. There seems to be no reason for her to be there except maybe to be a damsel in distress or to be a blank listening ear so that Bourne has someone to interact with.

I think Bourne only killed the one “asset” and that was it. He was done with killing.

The plot was the king of this film. The government officials magically figured out what Bourne’s next step would be at convenient moments in order to keep the plot moving. I got the sense that the room full of computer screens was becoming kind of cliche. They are able to find out what they need right when they need it. Whenever Bourne went somewhere else, the next scene would involve the government discovering where he was so that there would be another showdown.

What was the motivation of the main bad guy (CIA Deputy Director, Noah Vosen) Closing up the mess. Killing everyone involved. Why? Even a hint of his humanity – an illuminating detail – would have helped to create more meaningful tension between he and Pamela Landy. As it was, they just had a disagreement about how to handle the situation – power games and control issues. I was never really sure who was in charge when and why.

Were there too many rooftop scenes in this movie? There were a lot of them. The “final” scene is on a rooftop.

But it was exciting. Some nerve-wracking scenes. A number of moments where the camera was too shaky to see the action.

They found a character in Bourne that is a compelling one: a character that was once a cold machine but is now given a chance to redeem himself – lots of irony. Bourne uses the governments’ own weapon (himself) against them. They trained him so well that he is able to beat them at their own game. There is a lot of satisfaction in watching Bourne dupe his makers, so much so, that exacting revenge by taking their lives would be irrelevant.  The satisfaction for Bourne (and for the viewer of the film) is in the revelation that he is after, not in the killing of those responsible.

Bourne has become the amalgamation–The convergence–of several characters. There is the pre-Bourne guy (with the name “Adam,” if I remember right), the cold killer Jason Bourne, and then the amnesiac we know and love. They all come together in the end. Jason finds out that he made a choice to become who he was (although it is a choice made after he was tortured, which makes him a bit more sympathetic.) He is able, in the same room where Bourne was created, to make a more sober choice than the last time. The “real” present, amnesiac Bourne–the Bourne who finally knows and remembers everything–is the one deciding who he will be, which doesn’t include killing anymore.

Notes from: September, 2008

So, in my second viewing of this film, one year after its release, I was interested in the humanity of Bourne’s character and the effect it has had on the legacy that these Bourne movies have created (The Bourne Legacy?…sorry).  In the first two films, he is largely a victim of his past, and his character is fairly flat as he grows into the person he is becoming after the amnesia has hidden large portions of who he has been.

This film promises to reaveal much of what has been hidden through the series–enough to satisfy us, and bring some things full circle. It reemphasizes some of Bourne’s culpability in the ruthless person he became, and gives him the chance, if not to redeem himself, at least to be able to grow into someone different.  He shows considerable restrain in this movie, as if to hold back the machinery of Bourne-the-killer, who is able to act violently without regret or remorse.  He is both capable of violence, and capable of choice, and it is fascinating to watch the intersection of these dual impulses.

Interestingly, this is the opposite track from what Daniel Craig’s James Bond has taken in that other gadget-laden, previously comic-action series.   I’ve read a lot about how the Bourne films have influenced similar action/spy flicks, and the Bond series is an interesting one to consider.  It seems that not all spies have emerged in a post-Bourne world with their moral compasses intact.  Craig’s bond turns up the testosterone (and the disregard for human life) so that the redeemed Jason Bourne seems like a saint in comparison.  The Bond series had to do something different after the Bourne movies came along and made Bond seem more trivial, overblown, irrelevant, and cartoonish than ever (if that were possible).   Bourne has made his mark, and it will be interesting to see how he continues to change the action movie landscape.  How many other filmmakers and film studios will be able (or utterly unable) to thrill audiences with action films that also carry the hint of a conscience about what it is they are doing?


3 thoughts on “Bourne Again

  1. In 2007, I was burdened with the rave reviews about this film, which were all the more exuberant given the fact that this was one of the first trilogies of any film genre that had remained thrilling and compelling from the first to the last. Not even The Godfather series could pull it off.This year, I was able to approach this film with less baggage, and so was able to see a little more for what it was. An exciting, fun and interesting action movie that culminates this trend-setting series nicely.


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