In fact, that decision is much in keeping with the theme of all four of the Bourne movies, one of the classiest franchises Hollywood has ever devised. And children are a motif that develops that theme in its flagship picture. Bourne’s amnesia is the result of his near-drowning in the Mediterranean when he fails to carry through the assassination of a former African dictator (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) on his yacht, a mission Bourne was sent on by the black-ops CIA program called Treadstone that trained him. When a passing fishing vessel rescues him, comatose, its doctor removes a chip from his hip that contains the number of a Swiss bank account, and since when he comes to he can’t remember who he is or how he got in the drink, his only choice is to go to Zurich. There, in a safe-deposit box, he finds a load of cash in different currencies and half a dozen passports in difference names. Moreover, he has the kind of physical strength, agility, and survival instincts that only a high-level secret agent could possibly have acquired.
|Matt Damon as Jason Bourne|
Shearing becomes involved with Cross in the course of Legacy, but only Identity has elements of romantic comedy sifted among the spy-thriller conventions. Marie is a young, hapless drifter with punkish, red-streaked hair to whom Bourne offers twenty thousand dollars to drive him from Zurich to Paris; when they fall in love the feelings she stirs in him deepen his need to find out who he is (and his despair as the darkness of his past reveals itself), while her association with him puts her in as much danger as he’s already in. The movie is The Manchurian Candidate crossed with The 39 Steps. The interaction of Damon and Potente, who are terrific together, supplies most of the movie’s humor. Liman isn’t really a high-tech action director, and the fact that scenes like a car chase through Paris are paced at a comparatively leisurely speed seems right for the genre mix; it takes you back to a less frantic, less flamboyant era of thrillers – the Charade era.
|Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon|
|John Travolta in Brian de Palma's Blow Out|
The problem with Supremacy is that, entertaining as it is, only twice does it come close to that degree of feeling again. In one, Bourne tries to mine information out of a terrified Parsons. In the other (just before the end), Jason, having learned that on his first Treadstone mission he assassinated a liberal Russian politician and his wife (collateral damage) and rigged the scene to make it look like a murder-suicide, travels to Moscow to confront their daughter (Oksana Akinshina), now college-age, and tell her the truth about how her parents died. By contrast, Ultimatum, in which the storyline overlaps ingeniously with the last act of Supremacy, is pretty much pure excitement, and though it lacks the emotional resonance of the best parts of the previous picture, leaves you breathless and quite happy. I can’t think of anyone besides De Palma who could match the first set piece, in London’s Waterloo Station, where Bourne tries to protect a journalist (Paddy Considine) from Vosen’s thugs, or the one where Nicky, who has a major role in the third film, realizes an operative she’s handled now has orders to go after her, and she and Jason have to outrun him through the Tangier streets. (You can spot several influences in the surveillance scenes: not just Blow Out but also Coppola’s The Conversation and Altman’s Secret Honor and Tanner ’88.)
|Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross|
|Rachel Weisz and Jeremy Renner|
The Rational Mind is objective, analytical, and empirical; it makes itself up only by considering facts; it pursues truth by experimentation; it is uncorrupted by preconception, received authority, religious belief, or feeling. Its ideal products are the proven fact, the accurate prediction, and the “informed decision” . . .
The Sympathetic Mind differs from the Rational Mind, not by being unreasonable, but by refusing to limit knowledge or reality to the scope of reason and factuality or experimentation, and by making reason the servant of things it considers precedent and higher.
The Rational Mind is motivated by the fear of being misled, of being wrong. Its purpose is to exclude everything that cannot empirically or experimentally be proven to be a fact.
The Sympathetic Mind is motivated by fear of error of a very different king: the error of carelessness, of being unloving. Its purpose is to be considerate of whatever is present, to leave nothing out.
The Rational Mind is exclusive; the Sympathetic Mind, however failingly, wishes to be inclusive.
The movie, you might say, is about the difference between these two minds. Treadstone is an outgrowth of the Rational Mind, but Cross and Shearing, like Bourne and Nicky Parsons before them, throw a monkey wrench into the works by operating according to the dictates of the Sympathetic Mind.
|Jeremy Renner and Ed Norton|
The last section of the movie is a long chase scene introducing a new plot element that – though it’s probably a set-up for the next sequel – feels excessive: the agent Byer dispatches to murder Cross and Shearing is a result of the latest, top top secret, assassin training program, and he’s such an inhuman killing machine that he seems to have stepped out of The Terminator. The chase is fun, but the movie would be better without it; the point’s been made. But The Bourne Legacy is a worthy successor to the trilogy built around Jason Bourne. The idea at the heart of it – of all four Bourne pictures – owes a clear debt to John Le Carré’s Cold War thrillers, the first explorations of espionage that suggested that it might have moral problems. The Bourne movies have taken Le Carré into the twenty-first century and Americanized him, and the modification plays like gangbusters.