Wednesday, August 15, 2012

"The Bourne Legacy"

Warning: This is a plot spoiler review and also a socio-economic/technological review of "The Bourne Legacy" now playing at Regal Sehome 3 in Bellingham, WA

"You have a plan, right?" "You're a doctor, so you've thought this through?" says Jeremy Renner ("Aaron Cross") to Rachel Weisz ("Marta Shearing") in the Bourne Legacy .  Marta, a virologist taking part in genetic modification of soldiers, does not have a plan. As most members of the professional classes would, she suffers psychological collapse as her superiors in the military industrial complex  brutally hunt her down.  Aaron Cross,on the other hand, has a plan and it doesn't involve being hunted down.

In this Tony Gilroy script, Weisz stands in for the beleagured and abused professional classes in society; sacrificing their intellects for the goals of national security while forfeiting prestige.  Renner stands for the working class kid, twelve I.Q. points short of Army standards but sent to Iraq by his aggressive recruiter anyway. When an IED finds him in Ramadi, his body and mind get a "genetic upgrade" courtesty of "The National Assay Research Group", a corporate led military asset run by Edward Norton ("Eric Byer"). In this script Gilroy tackles three issues that, as he implies, are not science fiction:
  • 'gene doping' or 'genetic enhancement'
  •  corporate control of the military-industrial complex
  •  behavorial programming of "spree killers"

The Bourne Series has always presented the user with an everyman soldier abused and fed up with the system, all the while attempting to give the viewer a close look at how technology is changing warfare. Behavior modification, programming of identity, omniscient surveillance, information warriors, black ops, black sites are just accepted parts of the 'trade craft' in the Bourne Series.  Despite this, the target is never an 'Islamic terrorist' or anything of the sort. The targets were always Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Julia Stiles, Paddy Considine, Joan Allen or some other sympathetic and well-known actor or actress from the  American or European general public. The target usually suffers devastating results from such surveillance. Jeremy Renner fills in this slot with authenticity. Renner, originally, from Modesto, CA., plays ('Outcome' agent) Aaron Cross with such a deep integrity that the viewer is sucked right into his struggle. In the Bourne series, we the viewer become the hunted "Bourne Identity", gradually dawning to the powerful realities of a police state constantly profiling, targeting, and hunting us.

"Gene Doping"
The potential for 'gene doping' or gene therapy for physical and mental enhancement is a well discussed and much feared technology, specifically so for the IOC or International Olympic Committee. Military use of synthetic drugs to enhance performance probably predates the Nazis who reputedly fed steroids to their soldiers. But 'gene doping' edges closer to a practical reality with every nano advancement made in science. It is a question that is simply not getting a lot of press. What happens if our medical industry develops seemless technology that allows us to 'lock in' permanent enhancements in physcial and psychological prowess? How would that change us as a culture? as a species?

"Corporate Control of the Military Industrial complex"
Numerous sources have covered this phenomena recently. Here are a few:

  • Washington Post special feature: "Top Secret America"
  • "The Shadow Factory" by James Bamford
  • "Halliburton's Army" by Pratrap Chatteree
  • "Blank Spots on the Map" by Trevor Paglen
  • Wikileaks "Spy Files"

Gilroy focuses on the nexus between technology and corporate control of that technology. In the world of the "Bourne Legacy", coporations control the objectives of the United States military from the 'dark corners' of the Beltway. Edward Norton and Stacy Keach manage to portray exacting and hidden control with alacrity and intensity.

"Behavioral Programming of "Spree Killers"
This reference in the film comes at a historical junction of much publicity for numerous 'mass murder' or 'spree killings'.  As featured in "The Bourne Legacy", an unusual perspective is taken, although not elaborated on. It would be interesting (and possibly timely) to hear Tony Gilroy talk about this part of the film more.

The film adds much too keep a viewer interested. One particular feature astounded me: a shocking and harrowing ground level view of  a "hellfire" missile destroying a mountain cabin.  Instead of seeing this from the targeting site of a drone's surveillance system, we see the missile and feel it's effect through the eyes and acting of Jeremey Renner.  It struck me that in 10 plus years of the 'war on terror', no film has ever done that for me.  "The Bourne Legacy": I just might see it for a third time this weekend.

No comments: