Bourne to run

How many other sharp writers, I wonder have thought of the same puntastic title for a blog after, like me sitting though a Bourne-a Thon? Who knows? Certainly not me, and who am I to google it and destroy my belief that I am an individual voice on the Internet.

Matt Damon will soon be running across our movie screens once again as the eponymous hero of the Bourne franchise (sorry, Jeremy Renner, you are very good with a bow and arrow in Avengers but I do not count the Bourne Copyright Licence aka Legacy as a proper Bourne). With this in mind,  I thought I would settle down for a bit of a Bourne-A-Thon this weekend and enjoy a full back-to-back 328 minutes of Matt Damon breaks Europe.

I love Matt Damon and could watch him break any continent, or Mars for that matter, but frankly revisiting the films seemed like the perfect way to while away the considerable time it took to slow roast a shoulder of lamb for my husband. Below are some thoughts on Bourne, although of course if you have not yet seen the trilogy (a) WTF?? Sort yourself out and (b) there are some mild spoilers below.

1. Hair

If Jason Bourne teaches us one thing, it is about the importance of having low maintenance hair. Despite the fact that we see him for a considerable amount of time, and we know he has scissors because he is always using them to perform field surgery on himself using Russian Vodka as a rudimentary sterilizing agent, we never see him worry about his hair. It is always short, so it does not fall in his eyes when spinning around to perform a martial arts manoeuvre and it never seems to grow.

Any woman, however, who hooks up with Bourne must immediately have a haircut, preferably over a hotel sink with old taps and change the color of their hair to dark brown, even if it was pretty dark brown before. Jason understands that to be a shadow on the wind, to move beneath the hi-tech surveillance of the CIA like a ghost, you need short brown hair, like his.

2. Mirrors

The importance of mirrors in Bourne can not be underestimated. They act on a number of levels. Firstly, they are a metaphor for the search for identity, as Jason squints at his own face with the same question over and over – Who cut my hair? And how did they know what style to give me – I can’t even remember my own name, let alone what to ask for at a barber’s shop.

Secondly, they are a technical device. If you have ever wondered why Holmes had a Watson or Morse had a Lewis, it is so they can have conversations and the main character can tell his partner (and by extension the audience) what is going on. In the first Bourne movie, he has the girl Marie who travels with him for most of the film and provides this role, but in the second movie after she is murdered, he must tell the audience what he is thinking by staring at himself in the mirror, making his mind up and then having cryptic conversations with Pamela Landy at the CIA, so the CIA can have a big conversation about what he is up to.

Thirdly: thematic, the film is about memory and loss, every time he looks in the mirror we are reminded of this – and in one telling scene in the third movie after he has yet again played hairdresser, Niki, the girl who has now joined him, looks back at him in the mirror and is clearly the spooky reflected image of Marie in the first film. A ghost from the past whose death has reminded him that he must always be alone, but never far from a mirror.

3. Evil Americans versus evil English people

If you want to be evil in the CIA, you need to be rake thin, unless you are a woman, in which case you are thin because you are driven and committed and need to be as thin or thinner than your male peers to be considered as good. This is proof yet again that Shakespeare was right about everything, ‘Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look. He thinks too much.’, said Ceasar, right before he was knocked off. Still, the English in the film are busy playing against type. Both the bad Englishmen are much heavier set than their US counterparts, proving Shakespeare knew nothing and that at least the English bad guys got to live of the fat of their ill-gotten gains before Bourne took them down.

On the other hand, if you want to be a hit man, whether you consider yourself good or bad, you just need to look fit and have the ability to spend hours lying on hotel beds with your gun on the table beside you waiting for the phone to ring and a brief instruction to be delivered.

4. Bourne would have voted remain

Despite the fact that Bourne has more passports and than I have fillings in my teeth, he spends a lot of time moving between countries in Europe, where he does not need to use a visa at all – for now. He always likes to use his Jason Bourne passport, though, so he can send a signal to the CIA that he is on the move again, and confirm this by looking straight at the security camera as he does so. This not only lets the CIA know he means business, but gives them a chance to play with all their tech gear and zoom in on his face.

The best thing about Europe, or course, is the fact that you can travel easily between countries by train. Bourne loves to travel by train, presumably because he can stare out of the windows, immune to the passing  beauty because all he can see is the faint reflection that his face casts on the window (see Mirrors). He must travel by plane occasionally but thankfully we are never treated to a shot of Bourne settling into his seat, then struggling to open a tiny packet of dry roasted peanuts or asking for the chicken, only to be told that there is only beef left. He does get in and out of a few cars, but let’s face it, the less said about Bourne’s driving, the better. He would probably rate himself quite a good driver, but I’d caution against this on the grounds of safety. I don’t think I recall seeing Bourne walk away from a car that he had not totalled, or committed at least one traffic offence in while driving. No, trains are definitely the best form of transport for Jason.

Given the sheer number of countries that he travels to and through, I am pretty confident that he would have been a strong advocate of the EU, despite being American.

5. Music

It is always good to have a piece of music to associate with a character, and nothing says Bourne like the end credit track, Extreme Ways, by Moby. I love this track. I love the ways that the opening notes sear through the final frames of each movie, like the “Duff Duffs” of Eastenders. Each film ends with a quiet moment of triumph, with the series finishing on the apparently lifeless body of Bourne in the water,  just like we first found him, suddenly becoming reanimated and swimming away.

Bourne truly has more lives than the T-1000 but yesterday I journeyed once again with him, through the many repetitions and callbacks in the films, and willed him on as he outwitted the powers that had created him again and again. Despite the fact that I am a firm believer in films quitting while they are ahead,  I am looking forward to the latest outing. Rather than go with my idea, they have called it Jason Bourne. Now that he knows his name and his history, I wonder what he will be running from this time and will there be a mirror when he gets there?

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