The Bourne Identity

Review Date:
Director: Doug Liman
Writer: Tony Gilroy, William Blake Herron
Producers: Doug Limon, Patrick Cowley, Richard Gladstein
Matt Damon
Franka Potente
Chris Cooper
A man is fished out of the ocean with two bullets in his back. He doesn’t know who he is or how he got there. Once ashore, he starts to splice together some of the tinier details from his past, but it isn’t long before the cops are after him, and he finds a bunch of money, fake passports and a gun under his name. Who is he? Who does he work for? Why are these people after him? Is he Tom Ripley? The nose knows.
I’ve always had a thing for spy movies. I’m not sure if it has anything to do with me wanting to be someone else myself (note how I don’t even write under my own name but the “JoBlo” moniker), or if I just like the whole thrill of never knowing what’s going to happen next, but this film doubles both of those pleasures by making the lead “spy guy” an amnesiac, so that not only does he have these “super-skills” and kung-fu powers (I’m exaggerating, but the man can kick arse), but he doesn’t really know what to do next, who he is or where he’s going. Quite the predicament, right? What’s even cooler is that as an audience, we discover many of this guy’s abilities as he does, so when he’s sleeping on a park bench and some police officers wake him up to move, and he proceeds to blindingly kick their respective asses…it’s as much a surprise to him as it is to us and…well, that’s pretty slick. What’s also notable about this flick is the casting choice of Matt Damon as the lead. He’s got the perfect “everyman” quality about him, but he’s also quite the gifted actor, as resoundingly proven in THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY. He brings this character home by playing him as the regular guy trying to “find himself” in a sea of intrigue and strangers all around, and I actually bought him in the fight sequences as well, all of which he apparently did himself (nice going, dude). I also appreciated the casting of the lovely Franka Potente (still running, I see), playing the ideal “confused chick” and mixing nicely with Damon (I also loved it whenever she would say “shietze!”).

Having said all that, the action in the film is actually less than I expected (although the Mini-car chase is quite the doozy), especially since the trailer makes it look like it’s all about Damon kicking behinds, but that doesn’t mean that I liked it any less…in fact, the pauses in the action made for interesting plot developments, and as the story moved forward and the pieces of the puzzle converged, the film gelled as a whole and strayed away from any major plot holes (which is something that really turns me off capers). The gorgeous European settings didn’t hurt either, and neither did the solid directing by one of my personal faves, Dougie Liman. I also really liked the ending, in which much is revealed about the lead character’s background, but not without giving it all away, leaving some stuff to the audience to deconstruct. Mind you, I’m not suggesting that this is the most complex plotline of all-time, because it certainly isn’t, but it ain’t your wham-bam-thank-you-miss either…rather a decent combination of the two. Although two characters whom I believe the film could’ve done without are the African dude who was basically there to serve one purpose and one purpose only (and to play his character over-the-top), and Julia Stiles, who “bugged” me for two reasons: 1) Ms. Stiles is much too lovely and talented an actress to be relegated to such a secondary (actually lower than that) role in a film and 2) to say that her character is superfluous to the plot is putting it lightly. After watching this picture, remove her character entirely and tell me if she brought anything to the proceedings? (I’m not referring to Ms. Stiles herself but her character!) Also, since when do 18-year olds participate in underground ops?

Anyway, thankfully these two bits, and the somewhat more leisurely paced second half, weren’t major thorns in my sensitive side and the film’s overall upbeat tempo and eventful complications made for an entertaining watch. Is this dude going to be the next James Bond? Not sure but with Damon at the helm and more engaging covert operations and conspiracies under their belt, sign me up for any future adventures with these fine folks. Shietze, baby…shietze!!

(c) 2021 Berge Garabedian

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