Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Bourne Legacy

By definition everything that’s modern is more advanced than what preceded it. Thus the latest movie adaptation of the Robert Ludlum thriller series, The Bourne Legacy, is a more advanced form of the spy thrillers that had their heyday on screen with James Bond (though it does feature some stars of yesteryear like Albert Finney and Stacey Keach). One might argue that John le Carre who preceded Robert Ludlum is more advanced since the line between the interior world that his characters inhabit and the exterior world they operate in not disambiguated. But on a superficial level a movie like The Bourne Legacy takes the spy as super hero to its logical extreme, albeit against a panorama of the kind of exotic locale that Ian Fleming liked to employ. While James Bond could ski and fly and punch it out with Oddjob or Rosa Klebb, the notorious SMERSH Colonel with a poisoned spike in her shoe, the latest offering partakes of bioengineering and lethal drones which are operated like the controls on a video game console. Programmable behavior and neural design with viruses delivering genomic messages create a whole new breed of agent who sometimes, like rogue athletes an overdoses of steroids, have psychotic episodes. Ed Norton who plays one of the higher ups controlling  these agents says “our mission is indefensible, but absolutely necessary” and part of that mission sometimes means destroying the objects of an intelligence agency's own creation. Thus we have a plot where heroic fighters for the free world are eliminated by the genial characters they once reported to. The self-attack that characterizes the modern version of espionage is a little like autoimmune disease with the body’s defenses attacking its otherwise vital organs. Reading about the antics of our own intelligences services and their repeated ability to undo each other’s work, one can’t help feeling that this is a case where even far flung escapist fare has an almost journalistic edge.


  1. I took seven 12-14 year old boys to this movie at a low end mall in Ma. a few weeks ago. I spent the first half of the film with absolutely no idea of what in God's name was going on. Bourne was new to me. It was kind of interesting being so completely out of it. The funnest thing was driving home with the boys and asking them to explain the film to me. It actually led (from the fact that the CIA is bad in this film) to the issue of American schoolchildren not being taught the "bad" things our government has done, and then onto a discussion of Hiroshima. So, worth the price of admission (only $5.50.)

  2. Hi Lisa, even though this movie takes place in Alaska, Seoul, London and Washington D.C. it’s all Greek to me. It’s basically a computer game so I’m not surprised the kids found themselves so conversant with the palette. I think it tips its head to neuroscience and bioengineering, but on a purely comic book level. The kids rightfully hit upon the central issue and that is how intelligence services have changed since the days of Wild Bill Donovan and the O.S.S. Hey that’s a great price by the way. We paid $8.50 as seniors.


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