Jason Bourne




A minor character in the latest Bourne movie passionately argues “safety is freedom” – verbalising the textbook philosophical dilemma faced by Apple when asked to decrypt a user’s cell phone by the US government. The company defiantly refuses by arguing that doing so would infringe upon a person’s basic right to privacy. Providing the government with a magic porthole into private citizens’ lives would open a deluge of human rights violations that are just waiting to happen. The US may have a decent enough government, but what would happen when an authoritarian regime, like that of China or Russia or any African nation, asks for the same priviate.

But then governments aren’t referred to as necessary evils for nothing. They are necessary because, however capitalist a country is, however self-sustaining the economy may be, it would still need protection. And for governments to be able to keep their people safe, not just from foreign aggression, but from terrorists too, some amount of privacy may have to be sacrificed. The most problematic aspect of modern terrorism is that the aggressor doesn’t have a face and is almost unidentifiable from the victim. There was no way for a government, like that of France, to have been able to spot, and hinder, an extremist like the one that ran over 84 people in the streets of Nice with a cargo truck on Bastille Day. Not unless they ran a 24-hour surveillance on every Frenchman. Not unless they gave privacy, also known as freedom, the boot.

Of course, this isn’t what Jason Bourne is about. Just a minor, barely explored theme filmmakers squeeze in so that critics like me won’t complain where the point to a sequel, other than greed, lies. In fact, as ever, the latest installation still chiefly concerns a certain super former CIA assassin’s ever elusive memory.

A lot of things have happened since Bourne, a mysterious man with mysterious talents, was fished out of sea, fell in love and became conscientious. Within three movies, he wreaked havoc within the CIA as he tried to uncover who he is and where he came from. The last we heard of him was in the The Bourne Ultimatum, where he finally found out that he joined the CIA of his own will, meaning that everything that took place was largely his own fault. His trace goes cold afterwards. As this movie starts, he is hiding out somewhere in Greece, keeping his anonymity intact by living in out-of-the-way towns and doing odd jobs that pay in cash. Not a job really, but street fighting. That way, he could keep in shape, put his CIA training to good use and get paid in cash. That’s three birds with one stone.

A former friend, who Bourne trusts enough to let her know where he stays, contacts him. She reveals that she has found some more about his past, something involving his father. Furthermore, this former friend warns that the CIA is planning to green light a new operation (codenamed ‘Ironhand’) that bears too much resemblance to the immoralities of a previous operation that caused so many of Bourne’s pains. The rest is kike, as Michael Corleone lamented in The Godfather Part III, “just when I thought that I was out, they pull me back in.”

For a purely commercial movie, Jason Bourne has a fair amount of acting heavyweights, like Tommy Lee Jones and Vincent Cassel. Jones, like Morgan Freeman or Michael Caine, is one of those performers utterly incapable of giving a bad performance. Making it even sadder that he wastes his talent on a movie like this, however infinite his talents may be. And while Cassel is solid in a role that doesn’t ask much of him other than to look eternally grumpy, Matt Damon is effective as the ever reticent Bourne, as always. But if I was giving away medals, the gold would probably go to recent Oscar winner Alicia Vikander for her cold, detached performance as a career opportunist.

Many of these great actors probably wouldn’t have taken up parts if it wasn’t for the return of the two best liked Bourne films’ director, Paul Greengrass. Asides from his peculiar last name (as if there was grass that isn’t green!), he is a very competent filmmaker, with movies like United 93 to his credit. But if I ever met him, I would ask, “ever heard of a tripod; that filmmaking device that allows the camera to take smooth, steady shots?” It is rare to come out of a Greengrass movie without at least a minor migraine. If a character is just sitting on a chair, he would shoot the movie from several angles with handheld cameras, and cut the scene into several hundred shots, as if the movie was on cocaine. And Jason Bourne, being an action movie, doesn’t have that many characters sitting around, but rather an overdose of fight scenes and breakneck car chases full of horrific crashes. Thankfully, the movie is not in 3D.

The first three Bourne movies might have been entitled The Bourne Identity, Supremacy and Ultimatum, but they were all about Bourne trying to get back his memory, aka identity. They had a unifying topic, hence the term ‘trilogy’. And Jason Bourne is no different. I kind of hoped that Bourne would have moved on by now, and found a new puzzle to occupy his time, or at least maybe a different organisation other than the CIA to antagonise. This is a movie that is dying to imitate the success of the trilogy, and in commercial terms, it very well may. But if the filmmakers were at all concerned with plot and character progression, they would have made a prequel. Taking into account all that has been revealed about the character’s past, his pre-amnesia period seems far more eventful than this current sequel.

There is one other new release at our local mall (Edna Mall) besides Jason Bourne, a new incarnation of the famous fictional character, Tarzan, named The Legend of Tarzan. By contrast, the former is a far more defined and relevant movie than the latter, which is mostly about Tarzan’s abdominal muscles. But even so, and this is very typical of most 2016 releases, the film falls far short of the past trilogy’s inventiveness.

 



By CHRISTIAN TESFAYE
SPECIAL TO FORTUNE

Published on Aug 09,2016 [ Vol 17 ,No 849]


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