#342. History Hunters

We cannot predict the future, but we can certainly study the past in excruciating detail. Some items of significance from the past are recognized for what they are immediately after they have gained a spot in the annals of history. And yet, there are many instances where these precious historical artifacts are lost. Sometimes these items are lost on purpose, to protect the power they yield. Other times they’re misplaced via upheavals that change the social structure of the world. Regardless of how these historical items are lost, there are people out there who hunt the lost history to better understand our modern world. These individuals might not be archeologists, like symbology professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) in The Da Vinci Code (2006), Angels & Demons (2009), and Inferno (2016), but they all understand the importance of history. This week’s two films highlight some “history hunters.”

Raiders of the Lost ArkRaiders of the Lost Ark
Year: 1981
Rating: PG
Length: 115 minutes / 1.92 hours

Because history isn’t always written down, we often need to turn to archeologists to dig up the past. While the artifacts recovered don’t tell the whole story, they can lead to an inference of the lives of the people who once used them. Regarding famous Hollywood archeologists, none come closer than the adventurer Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford). For his first appearance in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), he was able to find and recover the Ark of the Covenant. While the sequel, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) wasn’t about any historical object, the next film in the series, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) found the Holy Grail (albeit a different interpretation than the one in The Da Vinci Code). I can only hope that after the non-historical Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), Indy will find a historical artifact in the fifth installment due out in 2020.

Adventurer and archeologist Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) has traveled the world in search of rare and significant items. While he came home empty-handed from Peru, two men from the government have another mission for him. As it turns out, a mentor of his is being tracked by the Nazis because they believe he holds a key piece to an item known as the “Staff of Ra.” When Jones arrives in Nepal and finds his friend has died, he manages to obtain the item in question and heads to Cairo. Upon finding the Nazi dig site, Indy realizes they’re digging in the wrong spot because they only have half of the information on the Staff of Ra. With full knowledge of the artifact, Jones finds where the Ark is actually buried but is thwarted by the Nazis who trap him in a tomb and take the Ark away. Escaping from his predicament, Indiana Jones catches up with the Nazis just as they are about to test the powerful artifact.

National TreasureNational Treasure
Year: 2004
Rating: PG
Length: 131 minutes / 2.18 hours

While Americans do appreciate history, there hasn’t been much of it in the United States when compared to other regions of the world. In fact, as we’ve seen in The Monuments Men (2014), we will go out of our way during a time of war to protect the art and history of Europe as the Nazi menace looms overhead. Still, this doesn’t mean America is completely devoid of historical artifacts, it merely means most of them have been documented. Because of this, the undocumented history is certainly more interesting to pursue. Since the secretive society of the Masons helped found the United States, there have always been rumors of Masonic treasures buried under government buildings. National Treasure (2004) takes this idea and runs with it, following up these adventures with National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007) a few years later.

With only the single clue of “The secret lies with Charlotte” guiding his way to a fabled Masonic treasure, Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicholas Cage) sets out on an expedition to the Arctic to uncover a ship with the same name. When he finds a pipe with a clue that suggests the next piece of the puzzle is on the back of the Declaration of Independence, his partner, Ian Howe (Sean Bean), suggests they steal the famous document. The two men go their different ways, which leads Ben to go to Washington D.C. to warn the authorities of the robbery attempt. Because they don’t believe him, he takes matters into his own hands, stealing the document himself. The next few clues lead him to Independence Hall in Philadelphia and Trinity Church in New York City. The whole time, Ian is hot on Ben’s trail, eventually leveraging Ben’s father as a hostage. Will Ben give up a chance at treasure to save his dad?

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 history hunters

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#339. Alien vs. Predator

Which came first, the Predator or the Xenomorph egg? It’s almost weird to me how these two sci-fi/horror franchises have become inexorably linked over the years. If anything, it’s to the credit of 20th Century Fox to combine these two successful franchises together, even if the films that result from the crossover aren’t that great. Sure, each franchise has great and mediocre entries in their canon, but both franchises’ worst are better than the best film of their combined universe. Alien vs. Predator (2004) and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007) were both critically panned, but fortunately this has not detracted from the popularity of either franchise. While the idea of combining the Alien and Predator antagonists originally started as an idea in a graphic novel, the idea of a crossover is hardly new. Regardless, this week’s two films highlight the origin films from the respective Alien and Predator franchises.

PredatorPredator
Year: 1987
Rating: R
Length: 107 minutes / 1.78 hours

Despite not being nearly as prolific or as critically acclaimed as its Alien counterpart, the Predator franchise is still an essential piece of popular culture. Perhaps the reason the franchise hasn’t been taken seriously is due to the overt machismo that characterized Predator (1987). It’s even harder to take the franchise seriously when the Predator is integrated with our society, as seen in Predator 2 (1990) when the titular character comes to Los Angeles to do its killing. Recently, there has been a bit of a revival, with the Predators (2010) reboot, which added some more interest to the characters than just the meathead military guys from the original. Time will tell if this year’s The Predator (2018) will help bring the franchise into relevance, or if it will be the detonator on the nuclear device to kill the franchise for good.

Deep in the jungle of Val Verde, a spacecraft lands and releases its pilot into the dense surroundings. While a team led by CIA operative George Dillon (Arnold Schwarzenegger) are in the jungle to recover some stolen documents, they soon find that a team of Army Special Forces who went in ahead of them was brutally murdered. Unbeknownst to them, the “murderer” is still on the loose, and starts tracking the group of trained military men. One-by-one, the members of the team are picked off by the alien known as a “Predator,” a being who hunts dangerous creatures for sport. Eventually, the only remaining member of the team is Dillon, but he has determined that the Predator can only see in infrared, thus saving him from a potential conflict. Using the ingenuity of man, Dillon sets up a series of traps and is able to take down the Predator. Unfortunately, the Predator has one last trick up its sleeve.

AlienAlien
Year: 1979
Rating: R
Length: 117 minutes / 1.95 hours

In 1979, Alien was a hallmark film for both the horror and sci-fi genres. Not only is the eponymous Alien the 14th best villain of all time, according to the American Film Institute, but the sequel, Aliens (1986) practically improved on the original. It’s no wonder there are almost twice as many Alien films as there are Predator ones. Of course, Alien³ (1992) failed to deliver, and Alien: Resurrection (1997) did little to boost the franchise. When Ridley Scott, the director of the original Alien film, decided to revive the franchise with a set of prequel films, he succeeded in bringing the magic back to the franchise’s roots, but still falling somewhat short of the groundbreaking appeal of the original. Even with Prometheus (2012) and Alien: Covenant (2017) being moderate successes, there’s a chance that a future film would blow the whole franchise out the airlock into the icy vacuum of space.

In response to an emergency beacon on an alien world, the starship Nostromo lands on LV-426 to investigate. While there, the crew discovers the skeleton of a giant alien that appeared to be killed by something erupting from its chest. When they find a chamber full of enormous eggs, one of the eggs opens, and a creature attaches itself to the face of one of the crew members. Returning to the ship, the rest of the team helps to discover that this “facehugger” has highly corrosive blood. Fortunately, it dies after releasing its hold on the crew member. Unfortunately, shortly afterward, an alien creature bursts from his chest and skitters away to hide in the vents of the ship. Now the crew suddenly find themselves up against an alien threat that their company actually wants them to bring back to Earth. Warrant Officer Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is the last surviving member of the crew, and it’s up to her to kill this monster.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 man-killing monsters

#338. Arnold Schwarzenegger

Perhaps one of the most recognizable action heroes of all time, Arnold Schwarzenegger is a man of many talents. Of course, these skills usually evolve over time. From his days as an award-winning bodybuilder, he used this physique to enter the realm of Hollywood and portray other, similarly built characters. From his first role in 1969 as Hercules in Hercules in New York, his muscles and accented speech patterns have defined his acting career. Once he became older, and his muscle-bound machismo didn’t fit in the action movies anymore, he turned to politics, becoming the governor of California and holding that position for almost a decade. Despite somewhat moving on from acting in films, he still occasionally appears in them, albeit as a bit of a parody of his previous performances. This week’s two films highlight some of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best roles.

True LiesTrue Lies
Year: 1994
Rating: R
Length: 141 minutes / 2.35 hours

While most of Schwarzenegger’s roles have been in action films, he has actually done quite a few comedies as well. Often, these comedies are combined with some action so the audience can see Schwarzenegger in his element. For the better part of the 1980’s, Arnold’s roles were strictly in the “tough guy” category; but by 1988, his on-screen persona was lightened a bit with the release of Twins. At this point in his career, about half of his films were also comedies, including Kindergarten Cop (1990), Junior (1994), and Jingle All the Way (1996). Even the action/comedies of Last Action Hero (1993) and True Lies (1994) fully exploit his ability to poke fun at the action genre. Heck, we could even consider Batman & Robin (1997) comedy, for how laughably bad it was. At any rate, the fusion of comedy and action certainly worked for Arnold, and True Lies is perhaps the epitome of this.

Harry Tasker (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a loving husband and father, but what his family doesn’t know is that he is not a computer salesman. Harry Tasker is a secret agent. Therefore, when he misses a birthday party that his wife and daughter planned for him, he loses their respect. He can’t tell them that he was chasing Palestinian terrorists through Washington D.C., so he decides to make it up to his wife by surprising her for lunch the next day. It’s at this point Harry learns that Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis) is being seduced by a used car salesman pretending to be a secret agent. Using his connections, he scares the con artist out of the picture but also learns that Helen is desperate for excitement in her life. They soon both find themselves entangled in the Palestinians’ plot to terrorize Miami. As Helen learns of Harry’s true identity, they must work together to save the day and save their daughter.

PredatorPredator
Year: 1987
Rating: R
Length: 107 minutes / 1.78 hours

What’s encouraging about Schwarzenegger’s action movies, is that they often aren’t purely “action.” From his role in fantasy films such as Conan in Conan the Barbarian (1982) and Conan the Destroyer (1984) to his roles in science fiction films like The Terminator (1984), Total Recall (1990), and The 6th Day (2000), Arnold has shown that action has no genre limits. What helps make these action films memorable are the one-liners spoken in his Austrian-accented English. Most of these memorable quotes have come from his roles in the Terminator franchise, but there have been many great lines from other films as well. Sometimes I’ll even get into a Schwarzenegger quote-off with my friends, he’s that quotable. With his muscular physique, he showed how to play a soldier in films like Commando (1985), but he really hit his quotable stride two years later in the sci-fi/action film, Predator (1987).

A military team tasked by the CIA to rescue a hostage in the Val Verde jungle is joined by one of their agents, former Army Colonel George Dillon (Arnold Schwarzenegger). When the team arrives in the jungle, they find their mission is not one of personnel recovery, but information retrieval. Dillon recognizes a team of Special Forces who were brutally killed in a previous attempt to recover the classified information. Arriving at the insurgent camp, the team retrieves the documents but also captures a rebel named Anna (Elpidia Carrillo). As members of the team are killed off by a mysterious creature, Dillon learns that it is hunting them for sport. Eventually confronting the alien creature, Dillion manages to incapacitate it but must escape quickly when it activates a thermonuclear device. Yelling for Anna to “Get to the choppa!” they both narrowly escape the blast via the extraction helicopter.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 awesome Arnold Schwarzenegger roles

Bacon #: 2 (Commando / Bill Paxton -> Apollo 13 / Kevin Bacon)

#337. French Action Exports

It’s hard to deny that the United States is the capitol of action films. Our big-budget summer blockbusters just scream, “Explosions! Guns! Michael Bay!” While it can be simple enough to recycle the same material over and over again in a formulaic fashion without leaving the country’s borders, sometimes American films can be from foreign countries. When I think of French films, I usually think of romances, intellectual dramas, and bizarre art films. Rarely do I consider French films to be in the “action” genre. And yet, sometimes French action films can be brought over to America to give their action a high-octane boost. Sometimes, with the experts of action behind the wheel, the films become better. Sometimes they might have fared better if they weren’t exported at all. This week’s two films highlight a few examples of French action films exported to the United States.

The TouristThe Tourist
Year: 2010
Rating: PG-13
Length: 103 minutes / 1.72 hours

While the action in an American version of a French film might be amped up, this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a better movie. After all, a remake is still a remake, regardless of the country where its source material may originate. This fact isn’t necessarily constrained to action movies either. Diabolique (1996), the remake of the fantastic thriller, Les Diaboliques (1955), did poorly when compared to its French original. Similarly, Point of No Return (1993), tried to capitalize on the recent success of Luc Besson’s Nikita (1990), but to middling results. At least American audiences eventually received Besson’s films directly, with such gems as Léon: The Professional (1994) and The Fifth Element (1997). It seems Hollywood will grab up any foreign films that aren’t critically panned and will rush them into production, often to poor results. Look no further than the Anthony Zimmer (2005) remake, The Tourist (2010) for proof.

On a train to Venice as a tourist, Frank Tupelo (Johnny Depp) is approached by Elise Clifton-Ward (Angelina Jolie), who starts flirting with him, even going so far as to invite him to stay at her hotel suite once they arrive. Elise is doing this under instructions from her actual lover, Alexander Pearce. He wants her to throw the French Police and Scotland Yard off their trail by pretending that some random guy on the train is really him. As the chase continues, Frank finds himself in plenty of dangerous situations as the authorities continue to track him down in the hopes that they can retrieve the £744 million in back taxes. When the mafia joins the chase to recover the over $2 billion Pearce stole from them, the only way out of the situation is to reveal the truth. Of course, not only does Elise have her own secrets, Frank is hiding a secret of his own as well.

True LiesTrue Lies
Year: 1994
Rating: R
Length: 141 minutes / 2.35 hours

Remakes aren’t always bad. Sometimes, they can surpass their originals. For instance, most audiences will be familiar with Some Like it Hot (1959), but less familiar with the original, French film, Fanfare of Love (1935). Even good performances in movies like The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) might be lauded by audiences who merely hadn’t seen Purple Noon (1960). Directors will even take short films and expound them into feature-length affairs, just like Terry Gilliam did with 12 Monkeys (1995), an excellent adaptation of the “artsy” La Jetée (1962). Action films are relatively easy to transfer between cultures, but comedy can be a bit harder to convey with a straight adaptation. Still, elements of the comedy can be used as a framework to create a memorable film. For example, the main plot of La Totale! (1991) was utilized for the James Cameron comedy/action film, True Lies (1994).

Helen Tasker (Jamie Lee Curtis) is fed up with her husband. Because Harry (Arnold Schwarzenegger) isn’t paying attention to her, she’s craving adventure elsewhere. This was why she started contacting Simon (Bill Paxton), a man who claims to be a secret agent and is willing to let her help with an operation. Of course, Simon’s ruse is to merely get Helen into bed, but when the two of them are captured by a Black Ops task force, Simon reveals that he’s just a used car salesman. Helen, however, receives the opportunity to participate in a mission to seduce a mysterious man. In a surprise twist, Helen and the man, who is really her husband, are captured by Palestinian terrorists. As they escape their hostage situation, Helen learns that Harry isn’t a computer salesman, but is instead a Black Ops agent. The two of them team up to thwart the terrorists, saving their kidnapped daughter and the city of Miami in the process.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 exported explosions

#336. Angelina Jolie

One wonders if Angelina Jolie would have become an actress had her father not been Jon Voight. Perhaps her upbringing allowed her exceptional connections and nurturing of thespian talents that eventually allowed her to break into Hollywood. Of course, much of Jolie’s talent subsists in her sultry appearance and demeanor, which could have likely brought her stardom even with the absence of her famous father. Nevertheless, Angelina Jolie has indeed become a recognizable name in the realm of cinema, no doubt half in part to her relationship with Brad Pitt and the tabloids’ obsession with the couple. While she has portrayed many strong and independent women, it comes as no surprise that many of her humanitarian efforts have been to strengthen and empower women of all ages. This week’s two films highlight some interesting roles filled by Angelina Jolie.

SaltSalt
Year: 2010
Rating: PG-13
Length: 100 minutes / 1.67 hours

As action films have evolved over the years, there have been more opportunities for strong female protagonists. Some actresses, like Michelle Rodriguez, make these roles into militaristically violent characters. Others, like Scarlett Johannsson, tend to mold these characters into expertly trained assassins. Angelina Jolie manages to strike a delicate balance between the badass and the professional. Of course, this didn’t happen overnight. From her starring roles in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life (2003), to supporting roles in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004), these women live by their own rules. Even starring alongside Brad Pitt in Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), Jolie’s character can hold her own amongst the male-dominated action heroes. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that a film like Salt (2010) can use all of Jolie’s talents to bring action to the big screen.

Two years after her rescue from a North Korean prison, Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) is brought under suspicion from her employers at the Central Intelligence Agency when a Russian defector enters their office and refuses to be debriefed by anyone but her. During his testimony, it is revealed that Salt is a Russian sleeper agent (a la The Manchurian Candidate (1962)) meant to infiltrate the CIA and execute a mission to destroy the U.S. Not wanting to be captured so easily, Salt escapes and performs her own mission to survive. Memories of her childhood flood her mind as she realizes the truth of her past. Unfortunately, to get Salt to comply, her present is threatened when her husband of two years is kidnapped. Wanting to sever ties with her past, while also saving the world in the process, she turns rogue and goes after the other Russian sleeper agents to stop their nefarious schemes.

The TouristThe Tourist
Year: 2010
Rating: PG-13
Length: 103 minutes / 1.72 hours

Much like other Oscar-winning actresses before her, Angelina Jolie received her first Oscar early on in her career for her supporting role in Girl, Interrupted (1999). This is usually seen as a vote of confidence that these actresses will go on to bigger and better things. At the very least, there are a diverse set of films in Jolie’s filmography, including Maleficent (2014) and Wanted (2008). But, as is often the case, a certain genre seems to be the prevalent force in her repertoire. Even the animated fare of the Kung Fu Panda franchise merely gives Angelina Jolie another opportunity to portray a character skilled at fighting. Of course, films like Wanted and The Tourist (2010) help to paint these characters as more mysterious than your standard action fare. This intrigue is deftly paired with the overt sexuality that Jolie can bring to these roles, which actually might be considered a step backward from previous roles.

Elise Clifton-Ward (Angelina Jolie) finds herself on a train headed to Venice after she received instructions from her lover, Alexander Pearce, to find a random man and pretend that this man is him. This ruse is meant to throw Scotland Yard off their trail, as Alexander has been dodging taxes for years and owes the British government nearly £1 Billion. Of course, not only are government officials after Alexander but the Russian mafia as well. Consequently, Elise chooses Frank Tupelo (Johnny Depp) to accompany her to Venice where they dance the night away only to find themselves in a high-speed boat chase as their creditors track them down. While it is revealed that Elise is not who she seems, there comes a moment when Frank shows everyone that he’s been hiding something significant about his true identity as well.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 action-filled Angelina Jolie roles

Bacon #: 2 (Kung Fu Panda / Dustin Hoffman -> Sleepers / Kevin Bacon)

#335. Action Spy!

The irony of the spy genre in Hollywood is that any spy who is really good at espionage is unlikely to be caught. If a spy is not caught, then there is no chance that they’d have to escape via a high-octane action sequence. This would be a boring movie. Anymore, most spies are experts in the cyber domain, which makes any chances of action even less likely. Still, for those “feet on the ground” agents out in the field, knowing how to handle one’s self is a fundamental element to their survival should they be compromised. While most spy movies involve some elements of action to them, some have more action than others. Entire film franchises are based on spies saving the world by fighting their way out of the enemy’s clutches. So, while the action spy is a fabrication of Hollywood, it’s safe to say they’re here to stay. This week’s two films highlight some notable examples of the action spy.

The Bourne IdentityThe Bourne Identity
Year: 2002
Rating: PG-13
Length: 119 minutes / 1.98 hours

Most spies usually have an agency backing them. Whether it’s MI-5 in the James Bond franchise, the Impossible Missions Force (IMF) in the Mission: Impossible franchise, or the eponymous U.N.C.L.E. in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015), every spy has an agency giving out orders and providing logistical support to keep them armed and dangerous. But what if a spy’s agency turns on them? What if they have to not only survive with a compromised identity but survive against the agency that trained them? These spies need to think fast and move even faster. When a spy is the best of the best, it’s entertaining to watch them escape from even the most hopeless situation via their ability to fight, run, and survive by any means necessary. The epitome of this type of spy is none other than Jason Bourne.

After a botched mission, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is shocked to learn that Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) has survived and now has no memories of who he is. Unfortunately, his training is so deeply ingrained in his mind that he is able to call upon his spy skills to avoid capture. From hand-to-hand combat to professional driving, Bourne uses his talents to escape to the French countryside where he eliminates The Professor (Clive Owen), a sniper sent from the same CIA black ops program Bourne was from to eliminate him. With this new knowledge of Project Treadstone, Bourne heads to the safe house in Paris to confront his handler, Alexander Conklin (Chris Cooper). Upon reaching a modicum of closure, Bourne vanishes into the night, attempting to live a peaceful life as he continues to search for his missing memories.

SaltSalt
Year: 2010
Rating: PG-13
Length: 100 minutes / 1.67 hours

Any spy worth their salt (ha ha) will be able to maintain their cover, even in the most stressing of situations. As we’ve seen in films like Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), this cover can go so deep as to keep an individual’s spouse in the dark as to the true nature of their employment. Of course, as we also saw in that movie, once covers are compromised, action ensues in the most extreme fashion possible. Even if a spy’s spouse or significant other isn’t a spy, like in RED (2010), then there’s likely to be a greater chance that said spy would need to protect themselves and their loved ones should anything go wrong. Obviously, when things go wrong with a spy, they can go wrong in a big way. There’s a reason these action spies are usually off globetrotting since the fate of the world is often in their capable hands.

Shortly after being rescued from North Korea, Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) admits to her boyfriend that she is actually a CIA agent. Regardless of this, the two of them get married shortly afterward and live happily until two years later when a Russian agent arrives at the CIA and is interrogated by Salt. He tells her about a group of Russian sleeper agents and that she is one of them. Since his testimony is proven correct by a lie detector, Salt needs to immediately escape the CIA compound and head into hiding. Upon learning her husband is kidnapped, she decides to carry out the mission of her sleeper-agent self, killing the Russian President in the process. With her loyalty to the Russians now confirmed, she is given her next assignment: kill the U.S. President. When one of her CIA colleagues reveals himself to be another of the sleeper agents, Salt reveals her actions are a ruse and that she is still loyal to the U.S.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 exciting espionage agents

#334. Amnesia

What were we talking about? Oh yes, amnesia. While this trope is usually associated with soap operas, it has been used in a variety of diverse formats and for a variety of different reasons. Sometimes the effect can be used for humorous purposes, much like the plot of 50 First Dates (2004). More often than not, amnesia is used to make the protagonist more relatable to the audience. Everything the main character re-learns is new information to the audience. In fact, this trope is typically used to not only provide lengthy exposition but to also give the plot a good twist at the end. If anything, amnesia can make characters more dynamic: acting one way as they regain their memories, then having to make the decision to either revert to their former life or pick up their new one once they learn the truth. This week’s two films highlight amnesia as a plot device.

UnkownUnknown
Year: 2006
Rating: PG-13
Length: 85 minutes /  1.42 hours

The largest appeal of amnesia as a plot device is the erasure of any memories the main character would have that would bias their decision-making process. Perhaps the most famous example of this is Christopher Nolan’s Memento (2000). The little hints the main character gives himself to avenge his wife’s death only act to propel him into an unintentional bias that drives him to vengeance. While Memento covers a medical condition, temporary amnesia has its uses as a plot device as well. When key memories fall into place for temporary amnesiacs, the plot is driven forward by the exciting revelations. Films like Total Recall (1990) and Unknown (2011) hide assassins in plain sight. However, when the entire cast of characters contracts temporary amnesia, figuring out who’s who and each individual’s alliances makes for exceptional drama.

Not to be confused with the Liam Neeson film of the same name, Unknown (2006) starts with a group of men regaining consciousness and trying to figure out why they’re locked in an abandoned warehouse. They also need to deduce why one of them was tied up, another shot, and why the rest of them have other, various injuries. Slowly, they begin to piece together that they are part of a failed kidnapping due to an accidental chemical leak that put them in a temporary coma and erased their memories. As their memories return, each individual realizes they’re either a kidnapper or the kidnapped. When the mafia returns to unlock the warehouse, they proceed to eliminate the witnesses, not knowing that one of the individuals has just remembered his actual job: acting as an undercover cop to infiltrate the mob.

The Bourne IdentityThe Bourne Identity
Year: 2002
Rating: PG-13
Length: 119 minutes / 1.98 hours

Memories are the moments that define our lives. We are who we are via the collected memories of our lives. These memories shape us and inform our decisions in life. If memories are erased, an individual can be molded into almost anyone. If a government has the ability to erase memories, they can create docile and obedient soldiers, much like was seen in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014). Of course, memories are much easier to erase when they’re part of a cybernetic interface. Films like Robocop (1987) and Ghost in the Shell (2017) show this digital memory erasure still comes with some problems, though. But what if a well-trained super soldier loses their memories? Would they continue to call upon their ingrained training, being able to perform all their duties without knowing how they got that way? Would they continue to kill without knowing why?

After an unidentified man is found floating in the Mediterranean by some local fishermen, he only has one clue to his identity: a safe deposit box in Switzerland. While he doesn’t know who he is, he does retain a plethora of useful skills. Opening the box in Zurich, the man learns he has multiple cover identities and opts to use the one of Jason Bourne (Matt Damon). Unfortunately, his presence is soon identified, and he has to run away, mostly unsure why he is being chased. As he comes in contact with more people from his past, he learns that he was a highly-trained assassin and part of Operation Treadstone. Because he carries no memories of his time as a CIA black ops operative, he decides he’s better off cutting ties with Treadstone. Unfortunately, Treadstone does not want to lose an asset as valuable as Jason Bourne and will fight him to bring him back into the program.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 awesome amnesias