Favorite screenplays: The Bourne Identity part 7

Act III begins as Act II did — with an explosion of activity from Conklin back at CIA headquarters.  Here, he barks orders at all his kids about how to pinpoint Bourne, crosscut with him reassuring his father-figure Abbott that Bourne will be caught and killed.  Abbott, we learn, is upset about Bourne solely because of a budget meeting he has coming up with his Congressional overseers and Treadstone looks to be a big fat failure.  So we see that, as is often the case in familial disputes, it all comes down to money.

Meanwhile, in France, Jason and Marie steal a car and drive to a house belonging to an old friend of Marie’s, Eamon.  It’s not made explicit, but it seems clear that Marie and Eamon had a thing a few years back, a thing that didn’t end well.  In a brilliant twist, when Eamon comes home to find Marie and Jason have broken into his house, he assumes that Marie is the one in trouble and his sympathies are completely with Jason.

Surprisingly, Eamon lets Marie and Jason stay in the house, suggesting a very complicated backstory for him and Marie.  Eamon (identity again) asks Marie about her new boyfriend — “What does he do for a living?  Is he good for you?  Are you happy?”  Marie’s only response — “You know me, I try too hard” — manages to wrap up her entire character — or identity, if you like — in one line, crystallizing all the choices she’s made in the narrative into one neat little sentence.

And we are reminded of what Fitzgerald said: action is character.  While Jason is looking for himself and Marie is looking for herself in Jason, they’re both forgetting that their identity can already be defined by the things they do.  Jason is an instinctive and capable man of action and Marie “tries too hard,” gets too caught up in her emotions, always tries to make everything work.

Back at CIA headquarters, Conklin, tired of getting brow-beaten by Abbott, pushes back, threatens Abbott with exposure if he doesn’t fall into line regarding Bourne.  Conklin, the bad father, should know better than to threaten his own father.

Eamon, World’s Most Understanding Ex-Boyfriend, lets Jason and Marie stay the night.  Marie wakes up in the night to find Jason standing over Eamon’s children.  And so, for the first time, we see a nurturing side of Jason — given a moment’s peace, he’s capable of thinking of a future.  “I don’t want to know anymore” he says, “I want to forget” he says to Marie.  It’s almost a proposal.  Standing there with Marie, even the phrase “wife and kids” comes to mind.

Next morning, The Professor attacks.  Eamon, again, thinks Marie is the troublemaker.  Jason, then, becomes “protector of the family” — that is his new identity.  He neatly turns the tables on The Professor and tries, without success, to get him to say who he is and what Treadstone is.  This kind of scene is always tricky for a screenwriter because the viewer never wants to sit and listen to one character tell another something he (the viewer) already knows, and it’s made worse by the comic potential of a scene where one of the characters is an amnesiac.  The last thing the script needs at this point is a laugh, but to have The Professor, with his dying breaths, gasp and blink and sputter “Why are you asking me this, do you have amnesia or something?” would do just that.  So instead the script has The Professor concentrate on his pain and grief.  “Look what they make you give,” he sobs.  It sounds like he’s talking about “life,” but we know at this point that he’s really talking about “identity” — to belong to Treadstone you must give up everything you are or consider yourself to be.




2 Responses to “Favorite screenplays: The Bourne Identity part 7”
  1. Alan says:

    I thought Eamon was Marie’s stepbrother and not an ex-boyfriend and his kids were therefore her nephew/niece.

  2. Todd says:

    Indeed, Wikipedia agrees with you. Live and learn!