August 7, 2007 [The Bourne Ultimatum]

Somehow, amid all the supersonic blast-patterns of The Bourne Ultimatum, I noted a date on a document, Jason Bourne's year of birth: 1970. So, if the movie is set in the present, that puts Jason on the nearside of middle age. I admit, movie-going does not set oneself up as an arbiter of what can be called physical resiliency, but it strikes me that Jason Bourne is one spry 37-year-old. And because I don't trust myself, I looked it up: the average age of an athlete involved in highly aerobic or contact sports—basketball, hockey, football, soccer—is 27 (for military service overall, it's about a year older). I know that something has been done to Jason Bourne, but unless he's the kind of supersoldier one gets only in futuristic tear-em-ups, all gene-manipulated and prenatally enhanced—which he isn't, far as I can tell—I'm worried for him, especially his knees.

But I wish I hadn't been distracted by that four-digit number flashed on the screen—I mean, so much else flashes as well—this sequel may not be as nearly hyperrealized as the second movie, it still bounces like the back seats of a mountain-road bus—and more: It manages to assume a melancholic air that is deeper than the usual aint-war-hell lip service so many of these movies pause for. No, Ultimatum is thoroughly unhappy, as regretful and confused and even hurt as many of us in the audience so sick of Iraq that even victory is unnecessary—at least, it certainly won't feel like it, incrementally dropped from the lips of alternately self-righteous and sour news-cyclers hoping for some of-the-moment desperate event to fill those 24 hours of news we asked for. Ultimatum waterboards those pundits—and us for watching—while at the same time giving us Matt Damon's face—as reassuringly nondescript as Tom Hanks' or Jimmy Stewart's—somehow seeming always ready to recall what it's like to relax—but he can't because like everybody else he's running.

At least he has the legs for it; me, I'm tired of having to keep up, even from my seat. I'm glad when at the end his lifeless body suddenly springs away from us, swims into darkness like the last of his kind escaping extinction; but where will he go? I went home afterward and turned on the TV and didn't see any safe havens for Jason. He'll have to keep swimming, turn that corner when he hits 40, and—what's the line in the Springsteen song? "Take a right at the light, keep going straight until night, and then boys you're on your own."

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