Sunday, July 22 , 2018, 6:06 am | Fair 66º


Cinema in Focus: ‘Jason Bourne’

3 Stars — Thought provoking

In Jason Bourne, the fifth film based the fictional CIA assassin created by Robert Ludlum is still in search of his identity.

As noted in the first film, The Bourne Identity, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is experiencing dissociative amnesia due to a moral crisis.

As his memory returns and his relationship to the “agency” is conflicted, we are confronted with some universal questions: What makes a person who they are? Is it parental influence? Is it their values and principles? Is it their decisions and actions?

And what if, even if a person chose to freely go through a training program to enhance their ability to kill, they suddenly have a crisis in which their soul now rejects such a choice? Now who are they, the assassin or the moral objector to government-sanctioned murder?

In true spy-thriller genre, Bourne is unequaled. Where others outnumber with superior weapons and vehicles, Bourne can out-maneuver and out-fight them all.

Even the supposedly equally trained “asset” (Vincent Cassel) puts up a good fight but is no match to this super-spy.

Similarly, fitting the genre, the women in Bourne’s life are beautiful and resourceful but expendable. This is seen in chapter five when Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) begins to partner with Bourne but eventually pays the ultimate price of the “lone-spy” storyline.

Throughout the series, the various evil leaders of the CIA have been killed, making it necessary to continually introduce more and more deformed leaders with no moral compass.

This, of course, makes for a good story, but in real life it is highly unlikely that all of those who rise to positions of authority in our Central Intelligence Agency lack a conscience.

In this chapter, we now have CIA Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) who has a scheme to use a massive Internet platform created by Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed) to spy on all Americans.

Seen by Parsons as far worse than the Treadstone Program that created Bourne, Parsons seeks out Bourne for his assistance in stopping Dewey.

To make this film — as well as the next — more interesting, into the story comes a beautiful, intelligent but cold and ambitious Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander).

Serving as the CIA expert in the cyber world, Lee is unpredictably involved in the various plots and subplots of the film.

She is set to be a major part of the next chapter in the story as she makes secret files available to Bourne of his real name and the true nature of his father’s involvement in his life’s choices.

It is this stoking of his desire to know who he really is that is at the core of the series and of our universal interest beyond the action sequences.

Identity is a far more illusive reality than most people realize. It is complex and multifaceted with no single label being able to embody a person, yet we tend to speak of ourselves and certainly of others as though such labels define them.

In a world where we are intersecting so many groups who want to claim our identity and “bring us in” as the CIA wants to do to Bourne, we must be resistant such simplistic claims on who we are.

Transcending even the physical, let alone the political world, we are creatures with identities that are far larger than any of us can imagine. It is that truth with which Bourne and all of us struggle.


» If you have seen all, or most, of the Bourne films, which is your favorite and why: The Bourne Identity (2002), The Bourne Supremacy (2004), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), The Bourne Legacy (2012) and Jason Bourne (2016)?

» The true motives of Heather Lee are left purposefully ambiguous. Do you believe she is a “patriot,” a “zealot” or “a power-grabber”? On what do you base your opinion?

» The last three film of the Bourne series were all directed by Paul Greengrass. He also directed Captain Phillips and United 93 among many others. What did you find most engaging about the film and what was distracting? Did you find the “over-the-top” chase scene engaging or distracting? How about the cold methods of Dewey that he would have his own asset kill so many CIA operatives?

» Do you find Bourne’s search for identity similar to your own? In what way? How is it dissimilar?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is the retired pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.

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