Saturday, August 11, 2007


I saw them back to back last weekend. They were both entertaining and they make great companion films.

The Bourne movies follow the idea that the American government’s power is so absolute that they can manipulate world events through the use of their mind-altered automatons. The latest Die Hard movie takes the approach that the government is so inept in seeing possible dangers that private individuals like John McClain have to step up to save the country.

Neither idea is new, but using Damon’s earlier quote about “smart” movies, which one is the smart movie? The action in both movies is equally implausible with the one difference that Bruce Willis stops for the occasional punch line.

In the Bourne universe the world is so beaten down by our prowess that they can barely live their own lives. We have these assassins all over the world ready to push the hair trigger on any perceived threat. And we must have hundreds of them, because you can reach one in any decent sized city in the world.

In McClain’s universe, the government red tape and inaction spawned the bad guy angry that no one would take him seriously inside the government. When the madman attacks no one really knows how to respond or what might happen next.

I think the Bournce universe may have been truer during the cold war or it was at least possible. Maybe the CIA held out against the Russians until Reagan could provide the death blow. But the events of 9-11 suggest that the Bourne universe is a total myth today. That’s probably why conspiracy theorists say that American attacked itself. Because if jihadists can destroy the World Trade Center then their vision of obtrusive CIA domination in the world is bogus.

If you accept that Islamists attacked on 9-11 then the Die Hard movie is the smart one jokes and all. Bourne Director Paul Greengrass made the exceptional United 93 last year and that movie suggest a DIE HARD worldview. No one was ready for the attack that day.

I really like the Bourne movies, despite the overused super close up frenetic camera. I like the series because I want the CIA to be that engaged in the world. Bourne wants us to question the validity of CIA power, but I can hate the villains inside the system and still support the idea and goals behind it as a net win. Every organization run by humans is going to have the flaws of humans. CIA abuse is a natural by-product of people having power over people. The best we can do is run the bad eggs out, which happens in every installment.

I think the filmmakers fail to understand their own implications when they attack government agencies like the CIA. If people are abusing power in the CIA, then there is no reason to think that doesn’t happen in every other government organization. And therefore, it would be foolish to give the Federal government any task that can be handled in some other way. If the film makers want to stop government abuse then you have to reduce the size of government, something we all know they certainly oppose. To follow their logic, bureaucrats in other government agencies are heroes there to help, but those in the CIA are megalomaniacs like on Pinky and the Brain. A more simplistic view of government would be hard to find.

Of all the Bourne movies I think this is the weakest mostly because he returns to American and the action scenes in New York City seem a stretch. Would the CIA really order their gunmen to kill people in front of New York cops? At least in Berlin I can rationalize the lack of oversight.

You can’t beat the first Die Hard movie, but the current one is certainly better than the third one. Bruce Willis said a few years ago that he gave up action films. I’m glad he’s back because fewer people can pull them off anymore.

No comments:

Post a Comment