I think we can all agree that the Bourne films were some of the best movies ever made. I know they’ve been off the radar for awhile, but I was reminded of them again while watching the 2011 film Unknown, which was basically The Bourne Identity with a few of the minor details changed and a different cast. Not a bad movie, but still, it’s not Jason Bourne.
Maybe it’s because it’s been so long since I’ve watched the Bourne movies, but I had never thought critically about what they were portraying. You have a guy who was trained to be a ruthless killer. He was essentially dehumanized, reprogrammed like a computer, rebuilt like a machine. He had no freedom—he was part of a system that used him as a weapon to execute nefarious missions.
Then, through a catastrophic event in the midst of an assassination attempt, he loses all connection with his past and is set on a journey to overcome the beast he once was and live as a decent human being. Ultimately, the story is one of redemption, where an unexpected turn of events gives Jason Bourne an opportunity to change his identity, to become a new man.
Many of us are drawn to this story. From a human perspective, who isn’t looking for a second chance? Who isn’t battling the person they have become and longing for an opportunity to leave it all behind and become the person they’ve always wanted to be? This longing is confirmed by the 250,000 titles that an Amazon search for “self help” yields.
From a Christian perspective, this type of storyline is the basis of our hope. In many ways, Paul was the original Jason Bourne. His training and beliefs led him into some nefarious missions. In the midst of a mission to assassinate followers of Jesus, Paul was disconnected from his past through a catastrophic event (the appearance of Jesus). From there he was given a new identity (Paul vs. Saul), he was literally recreated (2 Cor. 5:17). He was a new man, given a new beginning, a new purpose.
As Christians, this is our story. Of course, the Bourne films are not a perfect analogy for the Christian life. But I think they reveal a longing that lies deep within every human heart. We know that something is wrong, we see the monsters that we have become, and we long for a break from our past. We know that it won’t come easily, but we believe that it’s worth fighting for. So we make movies that express this longing. And we watch movies that show us this drama played out in the lives of fictional characters.
In the final analysis, I am Jason Bourne. (I really wanted to write that sentence.) And so are you. We have been trained to be something other than human. But there is hope of change. It doesn’t come easily, and it certainly won’t come without outside intervention. But the death and resurrection of Jesus have provided the catastrophic event that gives us a second chance at life and a new identity.
So take a lesson from the life of Jason Bourne. And let’s hope that this summer’s release of The Bourne Legacy (sans Matt Damon) doesn’t let down the franchise.