The Bourne Ultimatum

This latest film in the Bourne series ties up both the present and the past for Jason Bourne. As a character, Bourne is flat, almost always emotionless, and he moves and functions like an automaton. While in most cases this creates a two-dimensional character, in the Bourne series it helps to reinforce the character’s background, and establish him as the rogue tool of a government program gone unchecked. But what really makes Bourne interesting on the character and thematic levels is that he is a reaction to other characters like him– a demonstrative of what happens when a super soldier goes bad.

Bourne, Jason Bourne

The most famous super soldier and spy character in media history is agent 007, James Bond. Other characters can match him in subterfuge and skill, but the genre was created around him. Bond is loyal to the government he serves, and though they place him in ridiculously dangerous situations and ask him to kill people on a regular basis, Bond does so with panache and without regret. He is known for schmoozing the ladies, having his way with everyone from elite CIA agents to rogue KGB operatives. James Bond’s sexual prowess is both a great asset to his fame.

But Bond is also known for being placed in dangerous situations, and having the sense to get out of them using ingenuity which was passed along to his successors like Jason Bourne, Macgyver, or Jack Bauer. The difference is that unlike Bourne or Bauer, Bond and Macgyver’s roles are semi-comical, straying out of reality with outlandish uses of high tech gadgets for 007 and everyday objects for Macgyver. The enemies they face are equally silly. They often include stereotyped drug runners, ex-Soviet generals, and crazed tycoons. In the above photo, The Simpsons parodies Bond and the ludicrous situations he is put in.

Jason Bourne doesn’t have secret spy gear to keep him safe. Nor can he fashion a bomb from toilet paper and chewing gum. In order to become the perfect device of the government, Bourne had to be broken, brainwashed, and programmed. This created a time bomb. Bourne was one of numerous “assets” in the program, and he was the first to start challenging his programming, and to start recollecting his past. He became a threat to the government and thus they tried to exterminate him. While Jack Bauer seems to go rogue on a yearly basis, it is never in direct enmity with the government, but rather doing what he believed was best for the government even against their wishes.

National Security vs. Individualism

With Jason Bourne rogue, the creation of this character comes full circle. He represents a backlash against unchecked government power. The idea of Jason Bourne demonstrates the notion that the state cannot control the individual even when it takes drastic action to do so. This is part of what has made the Bourne series so popular. Aside from the heart pounding action, audiences have always responded to the idea of the individual facing off against an oppressive institution. When this film was produced, topics on civil rights vs. the government’s rights in the name of security are causing problems both in the halls of lawmakers and in the courts. It is a great irony for Bourne that it was he who chose this path, and that while he assisted in the destruction of the individuals who started the program, he must live with the costs and the actions he has taken.

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