Jason Bourne and the art of disappearing

This post contains spoilers for the 2016 movie Jason Bourne.

I’ve been skipping a lot of the bigger movies in recent years. But lately, my partner and I have been watching movies while we eat breakfast during days off. Since neither of us had seen Jason Bourne, its number came up. Now, this is not a great movie by any means, but there were some aspects that stood out to me as even worse. For me, those areas had to do with data security and that hacker lifestyle.

Julia Stiles’ character, Nicky Parsons, has made it her business to take down Treadstone and all the similar programs that come after it. It’s an admirable goal and she’s clearly capable of doing most of the things related to it. She hacks into the CIA for goodness’ sake. She gets all the info she needs, including details of Bourne’s life. But there were some things that really bothered me. Part of the reason they bothered me is that they were mostly the writers throwing Parsons under the bus in order to further the plot. I’m a fan of Julia Stiles and as such loved Parsons from the second she first walked on the screen in the first Bourne movie.

Hair

This is the first huge faux pas for me on the part of the film makers. Parsons has been a part of the CIA. She was the one who put out the notice of Jason and Marie in the first Bourne movie with the altered hair. She knows right down to her toenails that changing your hair is the very first step in not getting tracked. And yet, she wears her hair long and blonde, just like the last time she popped up on the programme’s radar, connected to Bourne. And beyond that, while blond hair will most likely disappear in Iceland, she goes to Greece and doesn’t change her hair? Disbelief so hard.

I’ve been to Athens once, back before I started dyeing my hair. These days my natural hair is about the color of a country road, but back then, it was the color of a wheat field just before harvest. And let me tell you, everyone in Athens freaking loved it. Waitresses would stop by just to stroke my hair in disbelief. Fun times. Anyway, blond hair in Athens is noticeable, and even more so, if you’re alone or in a group where other people don’t also have long, blonde hair.

I get that you might not want to be changing the color of your hair every time you cross a border if you’re an international hacker/woman of mystery, but for fucks’ sake, wigs exist. And sure enough, Heather Lee, the brilliant and ambitious CIA cybersecurity expert recognizes Parsons in a massive crowd because she’s the only one present with blonde hair.

Bus, meet Parsons.

Equipment

Another thing that REALLY bothered me was the use of tech in this movie. When Parsons hacks into the CIA, she dowloads a load of data onto a USB stick. That, I have no problem with. It is still a fairly good way to transport data offline. What I do have a problem with is that the USB stick is GIGANTIC. Seriously, this thing is the size of an eyeglass case. And not only is the thing itself gigantic but she wrote ENCRYPTED on it in gigantic letters. Just to make certain that anyone possibly going through her things at, I don’t know, an airport, will immediately figure out that this thing is not only important but encrypted.

I have very little important information but even I have a USB stick small enough to fit inside a lipstick tube. The stuff Jason goes through after Nicky’s death (and seriously, how unnecessary was Nicky’s death?) is clearly stuff meant for traveling. Extra clothes, hygiene products and notebook. It should be19 easy to actually hide a USB stick of material that would instantly buy you a lot of time in prison if anyone were to find it.

Parsons, meet bus.

The other thing about the use of equipment that really bothered me was when Bourne finally got the stuff open. He had to go to great lengths to find Nicky’s mentor, Christian Dassault. The man is a super hacker who has been able to stay off the grid for a good while and he takes that gigantic USB stick with “encrypted” on the side, which he knows contains data hacked from the CIA, and sticks it in HIS OWN FUCKING MACHINE!!! WHAT?! I may have shouted at the TV when I saw that. Fuck that. I DID shout at my TV when I saw that!

You never, ever stick a USB you know is suspect in a machine that is not immediately disposable! And you definitely don’t do that with a machine that is internet capable. Especially if you’re a hacker with a knack for staying off the grid. And then he also leaves his unsecured phone on and freaking connected to his own computer. No. This is all wrong! I mean, I make this mistake constantly, but I’m not a super hacker trying to stay off the grid!

Bus, meet Dassault.

Invisibility

One thing I really liked about the first movie was that both Jason and Marie were super smart. They did all the right things. Even so, the bad people found them because they had so much better resources. There’s a car chase sequence in Paris that starts with Jason stopping to look at the map and work out their route. They evade the police and the bad guys because Jason is really smart. The bad guys find them because they have the resources to comb through Marie’s background. Neither of them could foresee them doing so.

We don’t see that in this movie. The characters keep making stupid mistakes that go against their backstory and their very nature. Because the plot needs to move. I can definitely relate, but at the same time, I am disappointed. There should have been a way to get that same feeling of Jason and friends losing because they had fewer resources. If anything, Bourne Identity taught us that.

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