Movie Review
The Bourne Identity
The Bourne Identity poster
By Craig Younkin     Published July 15, 2002
US Release: June 14, 2002

Directed by: Doug Liman
Starring: Matt Damon , Franka Potente , Chris Cooper , Clive Owen

Running Time: 118 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $121,661,683
A solid thriller not to be missed
The Bourne Identity is an action movie masterpiece. Never have I seen a thriller directed this slickly, or a bland plot written so fully. Unlike the rest of this summer's fun, this is not about trying to stop a nuclear terrorist attack or aliens from taking over the world, but rather a film about a character trying to rebuild. It's seems like small pickings, but this is actually the best movie of the summer so far. I challenge anyone to find better action, better characters, or better acting in a film this summer. The Bourne Identity just takes them all and turns it into a thrilling, compelling chase from Switzerland to Paris.

It begins though in the water, as our unnamed hero (Matt Damon) lies lifeless in the ocean. He is spotted by a fishing boat and brought aboard. The man looks nearly dead, as the crew doctor removes two bullets from his back and also something that looks like a miniaturized laser pointer from his hip. Only instead of a little red light, it shoots out the address of a bank in Switzerland. The man, who remembers almost everything except for who he is, takes this as his only clue. The boat drops him off and the doctor even gives him a little money to get to Switzerland.

There he realizes that he is very skilled in the martial arts. When threatened by two Swiss cops, he makes short work of them with a few quick reflexes. The next day he walks into the Swiss bank and gets another surprise. The contents of his cash box are a gun, a stack of passports, and money in U.S. and foreign currency. The most authentic passport there identifies him as Jason Bourne, a man who lives in Paris.

The events in Switzerland prompt Bourne to want to know more, but before he can leave, the Swiss cops are all over him. And when he reaches the U.S. embassy for help, even they try to arrest him. So, fleeing with no idea what is going on, Jason meets a woman named Marie (Franka Potente), who agrees to take him to Paris for $20,000.

What Jason doesn't know is that this goes higher than just Swiss cops wanting to arrest him. Back in America, the CIA's Ted Conklin (Chris Cooper) is a man looking to clean up a past hush-hush mission that went awry, and it is obvious that Jason played an essential part in it. Conklin dispatches assassins, he gets Satellite photos of everything Jason and Marie do, he goes into Marie's past life to pinpoint locations where they might hide out, and it soon becomes apparent to Jason that whoever he comes in contact with is in serious jeopardy.

This film was directed by Doug Liman, the guy who directed Swingers and also one of the best teen comedies ever made in the 90's, called Go. He is a more than qualified director, who with only a short body of work, already deserves to be named among the cream of the crop directors list. The Bourne Identity crackles and pops with elaborate suspense and thrills, showing us brilliantly shot gun battles, martial arts sequences and one of the most exciting car chases through the streets, sidewalks, steps and oncoming traffic of Paris ever shot.

He does all of this while still keeping us in tuned with what is going on with Jason Bourne. The film revolves around the mystery of his past, and the script is lined with surprises, even though there is barely a story beneath the mystery.

One of the best surprises though comes from the surprising performance by Matt Damon. Not only does he do the stunts to perfection, but he also has the tortured hero look that makes the character very compelling. The seriousness and intelligence he shows here makes him a great choice to play Bourne, playing him as a knowledgeable and skilled killer trying not only to stay alive and figure out who he is, but also to regain the humanity that the job made him lose.

Franka Potente is a very strong partner for him, and Chris Cooper, who spends much of the film barking orders, proves to be an exceptional nemesis. All this, combined with great stunt work, makes The Bourne Identity into a solid thriller not to be missed.
Craig's Grade: A-
Craig's Overall Grading: 340 graded movies
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