14 August 2007

The Bourne Ultimatum

I enjoyed the hell out of this movie. Not the most amazing action flick I've ever seen, but a kick in the pants all the same. My one real beef with the film was Julia Stiles, who looks more and more like a pug dog every day and has one of the worst dye-jobs I've ever seen in my life. How in the hell are you gonna be a covert CIA agent when you're sporting a hairstyle that makes everyone within 20 feet of you gag? Not to mention, when you're obviously a bumbling, pouting idiot? When she's attempting to elude an assassin by weaving through crowded marketplaces, it's all you can do not to jump out of your seat and scream "SHOOT THE BITCH ALREADY!"

There's also the ridiculous globe-trotting factor, which for some reason I found inordinately amusing. There's something so brazenly ridiculous about it, I dunno. It's like a paean to globalization or something. The world is at our fingertips! We can go anywhere! There's one moment late in the film where Bourne has been given a numeric code indicating a location, and the team follows him first attempts to decipher it by locating the indicated latitude/longitude, placing it in Cameroon. Unfortunately, they dismiss it as unlikely, but I really would have appreciated a random segueway to a crack team of snipers busting down some random doors in Cameroon. This, incidentally, does point to the lurking power dynamic in our supposed world-era, namely, the way that some places are implicitly seen as important, locations where "things happen", and the rest of the world is just kinda filler. Jason Bourne never goes to, say Tulsa. But anyhow.

The action sequences are sweet as hell. Matt Damon is a raging badass. Not only can he kick the crap out of whoever in the hell he wants, but he's crafty. Part of the joy of the film is watching him work his way out of sticky situations with the precision of a killbot while everyone else runs around like beheaded chickens.

What follows is heavily dependent on spoilers, so if you haven't seen the movie yet, and by some miracle HAVEN'T figured out Jason Bourne's mysterious story, stop reading now.

So in this film, we finally find out how Jason Bourne became Jason Bourne. The answer is so mindblowingly simple and obvious that it's a wonder it took 3 movies to get it out. How did it happen? HE VOLUNTEERED. Yeah. Astounding, eh? Basically, for reasons the film doesn't go into, Bourne, formerly known as David Webb, volunteered to become a government killing machine. He knew exactly what this would involve; that he would lose his former identity, probably not even remember it at all, and that he would basically be a tool of the government, killing whoever they wanted without even knowing why. So what happened? Well, I guess something went wrong in his programming, because it seems he woke up one morning like, "whoa whoa whoa! wtf? killing people is wrong! did i really do that? who am i? am i an evil person? holy craptown! what in the holy hell is going on?" And now suddenly, he thinks the government must be evil and corrupt to have created people like him. Typical shifting of blame, eh?

This raises some interesting points though.

One, the problem of the contract killer. Basically, the question is whether governments need people like (the original) Jason Bourne. Somebody who will go kill somebody that the government has deemed an appropriate target without asking questions or having guilt issues. Is it necessary to violate the rule of law in order to preserve the law itself? A pressing question in our current times, n'est ce pas? The movie ends up trying to claim something like, well sure, there are some people that need to be killed, but there ought to be a WHOLE LOT of oversight and double checking to make sure the right people are getting capped. Also, maybe the people doing the killing shouldn't be trained killing machines who won't feel guilt or, you know, have identities. At one scene at the end, Bourne/Webb looks at the dude aiming a gun at him and says (something like): "Look at what they're making you do. Do you even know why you're supposed to kill me?" Does the film really intend to suggest it would be a preferable state of affairs if government assassins were fully informed about their missions and had the opportunity to evaluate whether it was _really_ a good idea? Because, um, that doesn't seem like a very good idea to me...

Secondly, the problem of action versus identity. Are we what we do, or do we have some kind of essential core of identity that is separate from, albeit occasionally reflected in, action? And of course, how much can a person really change? (a question handled far more brilliantly in the incredible History of Violence, by the way) In other words, is our poor tormented hero a bad guy, just because he's done a lot of things that he now thinks of as awfully bad? Does that fact that he was programmed to do them make a difference? Does the fact that he volunteered to be programmed to do them make a difference? The movie doesn't have much to say about that, though I suppose the idea is that Bourne is redeemed by blowing the whistle on the bad guys. Whether or not it'll turn out that he just can't help but kill people when he gets pissed off remains to be seen.

All in all, a fun little movie.

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