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I watched the first 3 instalments in the Jason Bourne movies this week and generally enjoyed Matt Damon running around beating people up while he discovered his “past” as David Webb. But I also realized while viewing the movies this time that the whole series answers the question of “What if MK Ultra Worked”.

If you’re not familiar with MK Ultra it was a human experimentation program where people were subjected to LSD, electroshocks, sensory deprivation, isolation, verbal and sexual abuse, and various other types of torture. The goal was to figure out how to brainwash people so that you could turn them into whatever was needed by the financier, the CIA.

Unsurprisingly the victims of the program suffered immensely, and the victims chosen were often suffering from some type of mental affliction to begin with. Like the woman in the last link, who likely suffered from post-partum depression and when she finished the program was almost non-functional. She was certainly not capable of a regular relationship with her daughter and husband anymore.

While it’s easy to think that Jason Bourne is a “success” and thus the program worked, he’s pretty messed up to. He has no memories of his life before the program. He constantly has flashbacks which stop him functioning properly. He’s always on the run, and ultimately he’s been manipulated by powerful people thinking they can do whatever they want and get away with it.

Even if the program worked, it was simply exploited to fulfil the whims of a bunch of white dudes that thought they could run an extra covert blackops program to kill whomever they found bothersome. Some of the characters even just did it for money. Sure they cloaked their acts in patriotism, but it was for money first.

While I still enjoyed the movie, adding this knowledge of MK Ultra makes Bourne, and all the other super assassins in the movies, so much sadder. These are human lives that were broken because powerful people wanted killers without a conscience.