Jason Bourne (M)

In a word: Illuminating

Jason Bourne

The Bourne franchise is back with this new instalment of the heroics of the maverick former CIA operative. This time Matt Damon is back as the title character, and he comes across as somewhat more world-weary than in previous Bourne movies.

With his memory recovered, Bourne is still on the loose, trying to avenge the murder of his father, Richard Webb, by his former employer. As Bourne uncovers the truth about his father, he discovers that the CIA made Webb’s death look like an Islamic terrorist attack.

Tommy Lee Jones plays corrupt CIA director Robert Dewey, still trying to have Bourne killed before Bourne exposes another CIA operation that this time will ensure everyone’s online privacy is compromised and nothing is hidden anymore.

Meanwhile, Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed), the founder of Deep Dream, a social media organisation that has developed software that ensures internet privacy for every user, emerges as a stumbling block to Dewey’s plans for constant online surveillance. Kalloor, originally wooed by Dewey, doesn’t want to compromise his values and now wants out. But Dewey, suddenly discovering that Kalloor is about to expose him at the public launch of Deep Dream, tries to orchestrate his killing.

CIA operative Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) is seemingly on both sides. She sees the methods of Dewey and finds them questionable, believing Bourne is more valuable alive.

Fear and mistrust are at the centre of movies like this. Jason Bourne is no different. It is this, plus the suspense - and Bourne managing to constantly stay one step ahead of his pursuers, which creates the popularity of this series of stories.

In the current world climate, where fear seems to pop up everywhere we turn, we long for a Bourne-type character to defeat the corruption we see in institutions that are supposed to protect us. Typical of Matt Damon’s own worldview, this movie is critical of US intervention in world affairs. Publicising the murder of Bourne’s father as an act of so-called Islamic terrorism is one instance of such critique in this movie.

There is a disturbing irony about these movies, though. In critiquing American corruption and deception, they convey the not-so-subtle message that violence can be used to defeat violence. What does this say to a world in which more people seem fearful of violence than ever, despite facts that say that violence is, in fact, decreasing?

As I think about this, I am reminded of the futility of violence and of what Walter Wink called the "myth of redemptive violence". The fact that there are so many Bourne movies being made says a lot about the fact that violence sells.

If only nonviolence would sell more, given its greater capacity to bring about good. In his book, Chaos or Community: Where Do We Go From Here?, Martin Luther King said: “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral; begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

I would love a Bourne movie to take on violence using the methods of Dr King. I wonder how it would go at the box office.