Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Bourne Ultimatum - a Christian Parable?

Parables - secular or spiritual - are often confused with allegories. The latter are less frequently heard and harder to create due to the fact that every element in them has symbolic meaning.

Parables, on the other hand, can have several layers of meaning but essentially make one main point and they make it through a story. The Bourne Ultimatum, in my humble opinion, is a fine example of a parable - and a Christian one at that.

Here's why.

The film - shot on location in London, New York and Tangier - follows Bourne's quest for answers. Who is he? Why is he as he is? How did he become this way?

Strip away the CIA context and these are fundamental philosophical - indeed religious - questions.

Bourne's search leads him back on a journey. Painful though it is, this path involves uncovering his past crimes and, as far as he can, apologizing for them. The Christian concept is confession of sin and repentance - a change of mind. Like the lost son in the gospels, we see Bourne literally coming to his senses and turning back to the point at which he went astray.

Whereas the first two installments of the Bourne saga portray Jason as a victim, this final episode gives us the other side of the story. Although brainwashed by the powers, Bourne also chose this path initially. Sin is both a thing that takes us over, and at the same time is a personal choice. Mankind in sin is both a rebel and a slave.

Bourne's journey ends with this recognition - dramatically re-enacted in the basement of the secret CIA training facility where he first agreed to learn to kill. Increasingly choosing mercy over judgment as he fights his would-be captors, Bourne's freedom from this prison is through water - his desperate jump into New York's East River being perhaps an oblique nod in the direction of baptism "This water," wrote the apostle Peter 2000 years earlier, "symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God."

As the re-born David Webb, the participant-victim is now free to start a new life. Whatever script writer Tony Gilroy's intentions, viewed as a parable about conversion, the script ticks the right boxes. As an allegory, it would leave you confused!

Meanwhile, enjoy the clip.

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