Favorite screenplays: The Bourne Identity part 5
So now Jason Bourne has a dependent. Marie, who was already pretty messed up to begin with, has just seen Jason beat up an assassin and the assassin throw himself out a window. Jason wants to give Marie an out, but she’s in shock. Seeing the kindly old landlady shot in the head in the foyer doesn’t help. The point is, Marie is having her own identity crisis: is she, she must decide, the kind of woman who puts her life in the hands of a man like Jason Bourne?
Bourne takes Marie to the train station. He leaves Marie in the car while he stakes it out. Marie has an opportunity to flee — she has a car and her $20,000 — but she opts for getting a bottle of liquor instead. Her life is in danger, but she likes Jason, and, ironically, she feels safer with him than without him.
Jason comes back to the car and the young couple has what amounts to their first fight. Their long, long first date has consisted of: a car ride where Marie jabbered and Jason spaced out, a meal where Jason raved about his upsetting magic powers, an awkward moment in his apartment regarding a bath, and an assassination attempt. Marie, I think, is justified in wanting to know where this relationship is going. Jason, for his part, keeps saying she can get out, she can be free of his madness, but Marie responds the same way she did at his apartment — she takes him protests to be an expression of need, she thinks he’s playing it cool, and she leans into it. “So figure it out,” she says, being motherly again, figure it out, I’ll support you. She literally straps herself in and declares that she’s in it for the long haul with Jason.
Just in time for the police to show up and a tremendous chase sequence. The sequence is good enough on its own, but it also includes a few character beats: Jason, when he has time to talk, thinks only of Marie. Mindful, I suppose, of the commitment she’s just made to him. He gently gives her advice and warnings about how to survive this hair-raising car chase as though they were trying to find a space at the mall. Then, once they do find a space, Bourne announces that they will have to abandoned the car forever, again, with the flair of a man reminding his wife they need milk. And again, it may be only a crummy little car, but it is also one of Marie’s only possessions — they’ve barely known each other a day, and Jason is already stripping Marie of her identity as surely as he’s lost his own.
Meanwhile, across town, Wombosi shows up at a local morgue to look at the body of John Michael Kane, the guy who tried to assassinate him. The body in the morgue, he insists, is not the man who tried to kill him. And again, here in this heavily themed movie, the question of identity arises. If the man in the morgue is not Wombosi’s would-be assassin, who is it?
Nicolette, the CIA’s gal friday in Paris, reports in to Conklin about Wombosi at the morgue. And so we kind of put together that the body in the morgue was put there specifically to try to make Wombosi believe that Bourne is dead. That still doesn’t tell us who it is, but it at least tells us why it is.
(Nicolette, whose role is largely functional at this point, differs from Conklin’s boys back at CIA headquarters. Zorn and the other boys are all lock-step, can-do, how-high yes-men, but Nicolette repeatedly tells Conklin about how she can’t do things, that things are impossible. Like Cordelia, she tells her father not what he wants to hear, but the truth.)
Jason and Marie check into a crummy hotel, and Jason cuts and dyes Marie’s hair. Again, changing her identity. The intimacy of the act, not to mention the completion of the change, finally pushes Marie to the point where she must act. Jason, she figures, doesn’t take signals from girls very well, so she goes ahead and corners him in the bathroom and kisses him.
Why does this spy-movie romance work when most do not? In Three Days of the Condor Robert Redford falls into a clinch with Faye Dunaway at a similar juncture, and it feels forced and unbelievable. In every James Bond movie, Bond inevitably falls into bed with any number of comely lasses, ignoring, for a few hours, his duty to save the world, and the effect is comical. Why does the romance of Jason and Marie feel right, just and justified?
Part of it is the way Marie is drawn: we see that she lives pretty close to the edge already, that Jason maybe isn’t even the weirdest guy she’s ever dated. Part of it is the thrill of being on vacation — when you step on the airplane, you take on a different identity and you do things you wouldn’t ordinarily. Marie has kind of taken the ultimate vacation — she’s left the country, taken up with a man, abandoned her car and cut and dyed her hair — and she’s done so willingly. Jason has never lied to her, he’s never forced her to do anything, and he’s always treated her with fairness and respect. And, absent evidence to the contrary, he’s a “good guy,” supremely capable, and ever thoughtful.