And this isn't the philosophical, artistic truth of spy fiction.
Fair enough: it doesn't have to be. Lord knows I like Bond films, and for the most part they're not, either. I didn't expect it to be when I put it in our Netflix queue (which I did because we watched The Tourist last summer and liked it, although evidently not enough for me to blog it).
But I did expect it to be, or hope it would be, at least as much of an elegant philosophical and artistic lie about spies as the Bond series is, and as the Bourne series is. That would be fine. And it clearly wants to be both.
But it isn't either. To equal Bourne it would have needed (a) a story that, if not more believable, at least did a better job of distracting you from its unbelievability; and (b) a story that tapped into current geopolitical and domestic obsessions in a meaningful way. To equal Bond, at least at his best, it would have needed some sense that the main character takes joy in something else besides kicking ass.
We're in a Puritan age, is the problem. Sex and intoxication - play - can only be excused if it's sublimated into things like (ginned-up) vengeance and (self-) righteous anger. It's unhealthy, to say the least.