The thoroughly disappointing scene in The Bourne Identity

SPOILER ALERT: IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MATT DAMON FILM, THE BOURNE IDENTITY, STOP READING. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.

In all Hollywood thrillers, there’s a certain suspension of belief the audience is expected to give. And in every movie, there are gaffes, missteps, and mistakes. But the one scene in The Bourne Identity that has always, and continues, with subsequent viewings, to bother me, is the one at the farmhouse, the confrontation between Jason Bourne and Clive Owen’s character, the Professor.

The plot points us to the Professor being one of Bourne’s equals. They’re both from the Treadstone project. They’re both “super weapons” of a kind. They’re both highly trained, and highly skilled. When Eamon’s dog is missing, and Jason realizes a killer is out there waiting for him, he does what we expect him to do: take the fight to the killer. It’s here the writers take the easy way out.

If the Professor was as highly skilled and as highly trained as we’ve been led to believe up to this point Treadstone agents are, he would never do the following:

  1. Give up the high ground.
  2. Give up the quiet shooting ability of the suppressor on his SIG 55x rifle.
  3. Give up the superior range and firepower of the SIG 55x rifle for a backup pistol.

Jason doesn’t know the Professor’s location. Given the layout of the farmhouse and the surrounding area, he suspects, but he doesn’t know. When he runs out into the trees from the farmhouse, the Professor attempts a shot, and after missing, decides to come down from his perch on the hill? Why give up the high ground, and the sun behind you? Your target is still below you, still within range, just hidden in the trees. Shift your position, attempt to reacquire, but you DON’T COME DOWN FROM ON HIGH.

And as he gives up the high ground, he simultaneously gives up sound suppression on a firearm? Jason Bourne may be the best Treadstone produced, but he still wouldn’t be able to track the shots by sound, even if he suspected the Professor’s hide at the top of the hill. Not at that range.

Finally, after coming down from the hill, the Professor inexplicably takes the only sighting device on the rifle off—why no iron sight backups? He then decides, as the birds Jason sent into flight with a shotgun blast whirl noisily about, to put down the weapon that could reach to any edge of the big clearing they’re in, and take up a small pistol with a more limited range and fewer available rounds.

I just can’t buy it. The film’s technical advisor(s) really let the production down in this area, and allowed the writers a cheap and easy way out to put down the other Treadstone agent on Jason’s trail. Way, way easier than it should have been. At least Castel lost a straight-up, one-on-one fight with Bourne. It is, for me, a thoroughly disappointing scene in an otherwise enjoyable (if imperfect) action thriller.

James Cameron, secret conservative?

Leigh Scott:

And about the Na’Vi. Like most fifth graders, Cameron endows them with a nobility and honor that he thinks the Native Americans possessed. Fine, whatever. What is important is that he presents an “idealized” society. A society based on respect for the planet and the creatures that inhabit it. In one scene, Neytiri kills some freaky Doberman looking thing and then cries about it later. She had to kill it because it was attacking Jake. To save one life, that she deemed more important, she took another.

The entire Na’Vi society is based on a code of honor and achievement. The members must “prove” themselves to the tribe by accomplishing things like riding dragons. When Jake tames the big mofo dragon, a great accomplishment, he is rewarded by being made the leader of the tribe despite the fact that Tsu’tey was next in line to be chief.

Cameron’s idealized society is one based on individual achievement. When individuals take great risks, they are often rewarded over people who have seniority. Fairness is determined by accomplishments, not by rules. There are winners and there are losers amongst the Na’Vi and they manage to be a happy society. Oh, and when they are forced, they kill to protect themselves and their loved ones, an action that they don’t take lightly. They have honor and nobility. They have strong traditions.

Sounds good to me. In fact, it sounds a lot like the conservative view of what America stands for. I’m in. Hey, Cameron, beers at my house, I TiVo’ed Glenn Beck for you.