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The Bourne Identity
2002 - PG-13 - 118 Mins.
Director: Doug Liman
Producer: Doug Liman, Patrick Crowley, Richard N. Gladstein
Written By: Tony Gilroy & William Blake Herron
Starring: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Clive Owen, Chris Cooper, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Julia Stiles, Brian Cox
Review by: Carl Langley
Official Site:

Shhh! I can't hear
Generally speaking, what makes Doug Liman’s ‘The Bourne Identity’ more engaging and exhilarating than the typical Bond flick is that its spy leading man is easily recognizable as an everyday man on the verge of self-discovery. To add to the conventional thriller and spy genre, the character has amnesia. As Jason Bourne is learning of his past (or being “bourne again” as it were) ruthless assassins are on his trail, hoping to completely wipe his existence. It is not everyday you are exploring birth at the age of thirty-three and people are trying to eliminate your history simultaneously.

The screenplay is loosely based on Robert Ludlum’s novel that was a hit in the early 1980’s. Much like the sequel, ‘The Bourne Supremacy,’ the film takes the characters and runs amok with them. People die on screen that were left breathing in the books; locations and scenery are different; even the plot is altered.

Even though the screenplay isn't particularly faithful to the novel, it worked for cinematic purposes. ‘The Bourne Identity’ is tactfully kinetic, laced with brilliant visceral filmmaking (unlike its sequel, helmed by a different director), and never allows its audience to breathe. Fans of the book may be slightly disappointed, but no one can overlook the movie's entertainment value.

As ‘The Bourne Identity’ begins in a stormy, caliginous atmosphere, a mariner discovers Bourne (Matt Damon) floating face down in the ocean with two bullet wounds and a capsule implanted in his hip. This laser projector contains a bank account number to a lock box with information as to who he is – but it does not answer every question he desperately seeks. Someone is after him and he recognizes through his martial arts and quick senses that he is not an ordinary human. With help from Mari Krentz (Franka Potente), Bourne makes a decision to unearth his secrets before he is terminated.

This was the first action vehicle for Damon as star. His compadre, Ben Affleck, has also tried a couple of action vehicles, without the vigor as Damon embodies. Damon gives off an unfeeling sense; he derogates the spy role, which works to the film’s advantage. Damon and Potente work well together, but their romance is hazed by the anxiety of the fast-paced action.

Normally, one would point out Ted Conklin, played by the magnificent Chris Cooper, as the film’s villain. Technically, there isn't a bad guy, just men answering to their superiors. Abbott (Brian Cox) has authority over Conklin, and he seems a better fit to wear the blackguard suit. Both men, two of the finest character actors on the market today, slip into their roles suspiciously and credibly. They know if Bourne comes across too much, they will be the ones floating in the water.

Commend Doug Liman for directing an ambitious spy flick and not an egotistical, oversexed one. Liman captures each nifty move in the hand-to-hand combats, deftly reveals each trick in the cat-and-mouse game, and generates the pinnacle of suspense in one heckuva car chase. He brilliantly evokes a sense of paranoia and uses the soundtrack to augment that unhinged state. Liman’s result is further proof that an independent filmmaker (he directed ‘Swingers’ and ‘Go’) can handle a mainstream extravaganza. His stunts are dazzling, something not hinted at in his aforementioned films, making the show all more shocking.

‘The Bourne Identity’ is one of the most engaging action/thrillers I've seen so far. It is a straightforward story that doesn't rely on special effects, but with enough pop to allow the audience to stay tuned and not become bored. With adept directing, superb performances and non-stop thrills, ‘The Bourne Identity’ allows the view to escape into the realm of solemnity, a feat not too often accomplished.
Movie Guru Rating
An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant.
  4.5 out of 5 stars

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