‘The Bourne Legacy,’ ‘Spooks,’ and the Moral Responsibilities of Bureaucrats

I imagine I might get tired of him at some point, but for the moment, I’m enjoying watching Jeremy Renner infiltrate every single viable action franchise in America, from Mission Impossible, to The Avengers, and now, the Bourne movies:


In a way, the Bourne franchise has always reminded me, and with the change in main characters reminds me more than ever, of Spooks, the great British spy series. The genius of Spooks is that the agents in the field are somewhat disposable: they may be attractive and competent at violence, but by the nature of the job, they have fairly short shelf lives. The real main characters are the people who work on the grid, who spend their time in the office making decisions that get other people out in the world killed or exiled. It’s an acknowledgement that there are differing moral responsibilities and different psychological costs for those who originate orders and those who execute them. The Bourne movies, and to a lesser extent, Judi Dench’s M during Daniel Craig’s run as James Bond, have always felt to me like they’re grappling with that distinction in a way that’s been fun and sometimes even illuminating to watch. These bureaucrats aren’t just shadowy figures with fathomless motives whose importance lies in their impact on the hero. You can damage your soul from your desk, without ever shooting a gun.