Jason Bourne Suffers from SML Syndrome

Jason BourneI enjoy action/adventure movies. I’ve seen the first 3 Bourne movies a couple of times. I knew the kind of movie to expect when I went to see the latest installment.

It was an adrenaline-rushed, action-packed, car-chase-scene-explosion movie. Pretty much what I expected. It was enjoyable in that way.

But there were two things in the plot that set my teeth on edge and actually ruined the overall experience for me (especially the first one).

Major spoilers ahead – you have been warned.

The beginning of the movie had me internally cheering. Two fierce, intelligent women were headlining the action. I was particularly excited about the return of Nikki and really curious about the way they were going to develop the character of Heather Lee.

And then it happened. Nikki, who has evaded the CIA and anyone else looking for her for years and has repeatedly shown herself to be clever and resourceful falls victim to SML (Solitary Male Lead) Syndrometm.

With SML Syndrometm, female supporting characters have to be neutralized in order for the SML to pursue his solitary quest alone. They also must die in order to provide the SML with an extra emotional impetus for achieving said quest.

Marie suffered from SML Syndrometm in The Bourne Supremacy dying at almost the exact same point in the movie, if I remember correctly (it has been a while since I’ve seen that one). It’s one thing to get Nikki out of the way so Bourne can do his thing, but there was basically zero narrative reason for it to have to be a death. She and Bourne have obviously not been in contact since the end of The Bourne Ultimatum. She has gone her own way in a lot of ways, which is clear from the work she is doing when she finds the information about Jason’s father. And there were a lot of ways her character could have added some interesting dimensions to the plot if she was off causing little bits of mayhem on the side.

And, if you don’t have time for that, which I get – it was, after all, already a 2 hour movie, then just have her run off into hiding. Dying is not the only way to get rid of a character like that.

The main reason Nikki had to die was so that Heather could take her place (because heaven forbid we have more than one major secondary female in a movie like this /sarcastafont). Heather basically ended up being Landy and Nikki rolled into one with her own little ambitious quirk.

However, I did really enjoy her character and I loved that, even at the end, you weren’t entirely sure what she was playing at other than giving herself a foothold up at the agency. She helped Bourne, but it isn’t clear whether she does so to serve her own purposes, gain his trust, and have a super soldier on her side when she moves up or if she really wanted to help him and it happened to help her too. I liked that ambiguity in her character.

And that leads me to point two. What ruined her character for me is that she is the only one who is suspicious of/frustrated with Dewey. It is consistently only the females in the agency who come to the realization/suspicion that Bourne is looking for something else and that there is more to the story and that there is a larger cover up/corruption going on. And the thing with this plot point, as with the first, is that it would have been so much more interesting for, say, Jeffers to start realizing how corrupt Dewey really was. I kept waiting for it to happen. There were even little moments in Vegas where he hesitates in his conversations with Dewey. As he’s running for the suite where Bourne is going after Dewey I kept waiting for Jeffers to pause, to reconsider, to realize Dewey needed to be stopped.

Instead, they shot him. Lame.

So, yes, it was an entertaining shoot-em-up action/adventure flick. It was a Bourne movie. But these plot points made it feel more like just a rehash of earlier movie plots than as interesting a development to the Bourne franchise as it could have been.