Very recently I picked up a DVD, the third in the Bourne series, The Bourne Legacy (“there was never just one”). I got it on the cheap up at the Pointe, here in Gatineau and I have used it mainly to practice my French. My method, along with DuoLingo (and a dictionary, and French for Dummies) is to watch it in English and then watch it again in French. I can read French fairly well, enough to have passed my doctoral requirement for a second language, but I still have great trouble decoding in regular conversation. So I thought, even though the pace is speeded up, I would be able to go back and back and back until I “got it”. This does seem to be working. But you can’t watch a movie that often without other things beginning to intrude into one’s consciousness. And I guiltily confess to loving the Bourne series, it confirms my worst suspicions about the government – any government, in this new high tek world. I especially loved the first one, Bourne’s struggle to remember, to come to grips with who he was and what he did – and Damon was terrific, both physically and emotionally in the role. At first I wasn’t sure about this third entry, and originally got it because of Rachel Weisz, of whom I am a big fan. Indeed, I wasn’t sure about Jeremy Renner, who gave an altogether different take on the “position” of the “operative” – but I must say that after several viewings, I came to appreciate his performance – he is able to send us messages that only decode explicitly later, layering up the meanings. . There are two scenes that pin the message down, one in the movie as it was cut for the screen, and one in the bonus section. That “lost scene” is about the fact that the “operatives” have been hording their enhancement medications and are exhibiting advanced paranoia – given that the masters here are intent on eradicating all involved (below their pay grade – and master status) by way of erasing all traces of their own illegalities, immoralities and expediencies, this paranoia must be seen as all too justified. The second scene is when our hero is asked by Weisz’s character, Marta (working in genetic loading), why he is so desperate to “stay enhanced” – given that the program is being “burned down” (no more meds available). He shows her who he was “before”, a Pvt, perhaps a little low in I.Q., and says simply, “if I don’t stay enhanced, I can’t protect us.” Its a low key moment that made the penny drop for me: think of the spate of superhero movies we have had raining down on us – the Transformers, the Avengers, Superman, Spider-Man, the Bournes themselves, and the whole super hero genre: has it come down to those quiet words – that we feel we will not survive unless we are “enhanced”? I think it does come down to exactly that. As George Monbiot has recently written, the threats facing us are of a magnitude that humanity has not faced, en mass, before – in various regions of destruction, perhaps, but not a nuclear meltdown, by a Fukashima, a Trump, or over the melting glaciers in Kashmir. We have never before seen the Arctic fail to ice up over winter, and we know that that means coastal cities will flood. Migration is already a flash point and will get exponentially worse as equatorial zones desertify permanently. We teeter on the edge of an unimaginable abyss. Personally, I am an older woman, with a handicapped daughter – if it actually will take “enhancement” to survive, we won’t make it. Perhaps I watch the movie, trying not only to decode the French to my Anglo ears, but to seek a way out for those of us “unenhanced”, left in the maelstrom of the current political moment and its almost inevitable consequences.
As a PS, just before I bought and watched this movie, I clipped an article on the changing methods the military is using to “enhance” its active personnel.