Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Bourne Ultimatum -- back to the beginning

Director: Paul Greenglass, 2007 (PG-13)

The Bourne Supremacy ended in New York with Bourne (Matt Damon) calling Pam Landry (Joan Allen) and telling her, “Get some rest, Pam. You look tired.” With this, we all thought the series was over. Bourne had found out who he was, or at least what he was. But Bourne is a product of Hollywood, and where there’s a cash cow there’s more gold to be milked. (Just as we thought that The Bourne Ultimatum was the end of the Bourne films, only to be surprised by this year’s The Bourne Legacy that does not even feature Jason Bourne!) So we get another Jason Bourne film that is similar to the middle installment but perhaps the best of the three.

To make this happen, returning director Greengrass sets the first two acts of this one before that earlier phone call and builds up to a radical reinterpretation of those closing lines.

After escaping from Moscow following the car chase, shown in Supremacy, Bourne comes to Paris to visit Marie’s surviving brother much like he visited a surviving orphan in Moscow. These scenes show his heart and compassion, but that is all we get for this film. After this, he is all focus.  That’s because he reads an article by an English reporter (Paddy Considine, Hot Fuzz) that focuses on Treadstone and Bourne.

Travelling to London, he asks Ross, “Who’s your source? What’s his name?” But CIA agents are on to Ross, triggered by the code name Treadstone. “Look, what’s going on? Why are these people after me?” Ross replies. “Because you found something. You talked to someone inside Treadstone, someone who was there at the beginning.”  It was Blackbriar, a Treadstone upgrade.

In the first film, The Bourne Identity, Bourne woke up without a memory. He needed to answer the question, “Who am I?” And he did. He discovered he was Jason Bourne, an American assassin. In Supremacy, still plagued by his pas, he wanted to answer the question, “Who was I?” And he did. He realized he was someone other than Jason Bourne, a David Webb. But he knows nothing of his life as Webb. Now, in this final film, he has to go back to the beginning, to answer, “How was I reborn?”

As before, the movie features full-on fights and fast-paced chases. Like before they are filmed with hand-held cameras to give a shaky, you-were-here feel. From Paris to London, from London to Madrid, from Madrid to Tangier, international locations abound. But we cut back and forth to New York to see the CIA heads who are pulling the puppet strings. Where Identity and Supremacy had two bad agents, Conklin and Abbott, here we get Noah Vosen (David Strathairn, Lincoln) and Director Kramer (Scott Glenn, The Silence of the Lambs). Returning are Pam Landry and Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), the only person other than Bourne who is in all three films.

The scooter chase in Tangier culminates in a foot chase across rooftops. If we think this is white knuckle stuff, improbable as it might be, the car chase in New York, which replicates the Moscow chase is a total thrill ride.

When we get to the conversation between Bourne and Landry, Bourne knows he will come face to face with his creator very soon. He will find out how he was remade as Bourne. And though the phone dialog matches that in Supremacy, it was actually reshot for this new film.

We, too, discovered who we are, in the post on Identity. We are God’s creation, made by him in his image. We looked at who we were, in the review of Supremacy. We are now enemies of God. But how did that happen? How were we twisted from our original image? And what can we do to be reborn?

To answer these questions, we have to go back to the beginning, not to Blackbrier the off-books op, but to Eden the in-book narrative. After God created mankind, Satan visited the original pair of humans in his black op undercover mission. Taking the form of a serpent, he twisted God’s words, giving misinformation to Eve, causing her to disobey God’s word and violate her mission (Gen. 3). Having tasted the forbidden fruit, she persuaded Adam to do likewise. These two joined the enemy’s team through this original sin. Cast out of Eden, God cursed all three. Where life existed, death now reigned. The image of God was marred, not totally destroyed. But marred enough that we no longer recognize God. David Webb was gone; Jason Bourne took his place.

In that original cursing, though, God offered a glimmer or hope: the so-called protoevangel. To the snake, he said: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Gen. 3:15). This is a foretelling of Eve’s offspring through Mary: Jesus. The son of God, the second person of the Trinity, he would one day leave the throne-room of heaven and come to earth as a human. His covert mission was to walk as one of us, live as one of us, and then die as one of us. But his death was not his alone; it was for us. He sacrificed himself on that cross, dying in our place for sins he did not commit (1 Pet. 2:22).

While he was alive, he told Nicodemus, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (Jn. 3:3). The only way we can be brought back into relationship with God is to be reborn. This can only occur by faith: “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (Jn. 1:12).

Like David Webb we can only take on this new identity voluntarily. It cannot be coerced. We must be re-Bourne!

Copyright ©2013, Martin Baggs

No comments:

Post a Comment