Bond vs. Bourne: Is Matt Damon Right?

Is James Bond a relic? Matt Damon certainly seems to think so. And yet, despite all of his jabs and painstaking deconstruction, I am left wondering "So?" I mean, yeah, Bond is a pig. He's "an imperialist and he's a misogynist" as Damon put it. "He kills people and laughs and sips martinis and wisecracks about it."

Yeah? And? That's what I like about Bond. James Bond has never been a true role model. He's an ideal, sure. The ideal of the alpha male. The man every man wants to be and every woman wants to love (supposedly). The man who is unequaled in just about everything he does. The man with no real fear. Sure he might experience a little fear now and then, but really, who are we kidding? That's really just survival instinct kicking in. Not fear. James Bond isn't afraid of anything. And he never hesitates. You know, like we all wish we wouldn't hesitate.

But Damon's spot-on too. Bond is a relic from another decade far removed from our own: from his choice of drinks to his style of dress right on down to his views on women. Hell, in recent years filmmakers have been quick to give Bond smart, independent women to counterbalance his completely chauvinistic view of the opposite sex. Not that this has in anyway prevented those women from ending up in the bedroom at the first opportunity. Because that's just Bond.

Of course, all this trash talk doesn't make Jason Bourne any less of a cliché in his own right. A product of the paranoid '70s, he's quite the opposite of Bond, if actually by design. I mean, if you were going to write a series of books about a secret agent, wouldn't you try to get as far away from the most popular mold as you could? Bourne is an amnesiac. He doesn't have to feel guilty about what he's done because he can't remember it. It allows him to step back and hate the things that make him cool in our eyes. He's like James Bond if James Bond woke up one morning and said "What am I doing? Did I really kill 200 people on a secret volcanic base yesterday? My god. They were only henchmen. They had families." And then he'd run off to blame the government for making him do it.

But really, that's why we love Jason Bourne. He's the embodiment of our rage against the things we're not proud of, our conscience against those horrible things our governments sometimes have to do to keep us safe. But Jason Bourne goes after the guys who go too far, the guys who enjoy it. The guys who make a lifestyle out of it. Guys like James Bond.

Was Damon out of line trash talking our favorite martini swilling old chap? Nah. I think he was just getting into character. You can see Damon tear up inter-governmental conspiracies next weekend in The Bourne Ultimatum.

C. Robert Cargill - - - Email Me


Austin-based Cargill, who not only loves but owns The Cutting Edge, writes on movies and DVD five times a week.

Movie & TV Awards 2018