The Bourne Identity


Directed by: Doug Liman
Written by:Tony Gilroy, William Blake Herron
Starring: Matt Damon, Franke Potente, Chris Cooper, Clive Owen, Brian Cox, Julia Stiles
Released: September 26, 2002
Grade: B

If you see Matt Damon as just another young “pretty boy” actor, you’re missing the wonderful start of what will be a long and fruitful career.  With his passion for each and every role, Damon transforms himself, leaving behind his own traits and idiosyncrasies.  Since 1997, he’s played a cunning lawyer (The Rainmaker), an unwilling genius (Good Will Hunting), a war hero (Saving Private Ryan), a murdering psycho (The Talented Mr. Ripley), a golf professional (The Legend Of Bagger Vance), a lovesick cowboy (All The Pretty Horses), a casual thief (Ocean’s Eleven), and even a humorous impression of himself (Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back).

The Bourne Identity sees him awake on a boat with two bullet holes in his back and no identity whatsoever.  His hip contains a computer chip with the number of a Swiss bank account - a clue that he is no ordinary individual.  At the bank, he finds a safety deposit box with a gun, a wad of money and several fake passports including one in the name of Jason Bourne.  Almost immediately, he is attacked by armed men but fends them off and flees the building.

He meets a young lady with a car, Marie (Potente), and persuades her (with $20,000) to take him to Paris to find more from his past.  Soon, everyone is chasing them and police all over Europe are on alert but why?  Exactly who is after them and what is it that Jason is supposed to have done?  As to be expected in the movies, we’ll find out all the answers but I’m not giving it away in this column.

Arriving late, I was forced to sit in the second-front row for this film but from the view I had, the cinematography and editing looked great.  Having raved about his last film, Go, I’d expect nothing less from Doug Liman.  But as seems to happen with most small rising directors, once they get money for bigger budgets and bigger films, they’re constricted by the safety barriers but in place by studio investors.  The Bourne Identity takes few chances and plays out like a typical thriller with easy-to-like good guys and one-dimensional bad guys.

Matt Damon is great in the title role and German actress Franke Potente (Run Lola Run) has the tough persona to look good along side him.  They become a fun team and whilst touched upon, the film doesn’t get sidetracked by frivolous romance.  To show his commitment to the project, Damon bulked up heavily and even learned Filipino martial arts!  Sadly, one my favourite actresses, Julia Stiles (Save The Last Dance), plays a nothing role that seems heavily edited.   It may once again be a case of stuffing too much from the novel (written by Robert Ludham) into a two-hour time frame.

Shot it Prague, Paris and Italy, The Bourne Identity is a picture-perfect advertisement for travelling through Europe.  Liman makes the most of these locations with his creatively visual style, fast pace and European crew.  It plays well but as expected, is too predictable.  As the audience, we knew more about Bourne in the early stages than he did and I believe this to be a flaw.  To keep us on the edge of our seats, we didn’t need to see the identity of those chasing him.  Too many questions were answered too early and the end result was a lack in suspense.  In my theatre, only Matt Damon was left looking for answers.