Classic Movie Review: The Bourne Identity (2002)

Posted: April 1, 2013 in Drama
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bourne identity

Jason Bourne (Matt Damon is found by an Italian fishing boat floating face-up in the Atlantic Ocean.  One of the fishermen removes two bullets in Bourne’s back.   Bourne doesn’t know who he is but he finds a microchip implanted in his hip with a Swiss bank account.  He goes to a bank in Switzerland, and finds a safety deposit box with a number of passports with his picture and a number of different aliases.  Bourne tries to seek refuge in the US embassy in Zurich, but the guards try to arrest him.  Bourne using training that has become instinctual, escapes from the embassy, and asks for a ride to Paris, from a young woman named Marie. (Franka Potente) He has an apartment in Paris. Bourne offers Marie 20,000 for her trouble, which she reluctantly takes.

Little do they know that the CIA is tracking Bourne and Marie throughout their trip from Zurich to Paris, and have sent out assassins to kill them both.   CIA Agent Conklin (Chris Cooper) wants Bourne to either come back in to Langley or wants to kill him, because the longer Bourne is on the run, the bigger embarrassment it is for the CIA. While in Paris, Bourne kills an assassin named Castel (Nicky Naude) but the apartment is compromised and Bourne and Marie have to go elsewhere.  They move to the French countryside, to the house of Marie’s ex-boyfriend Eamon. (Tim Dutton) Bourne gradually finds out he is part of a CIA program named Treadsotne, and he is tracked by yet another CIA killer, named the Professor.  (Clive Owen)  What is Treadstone?  Does Bourne survive his run-in with the professor?

If you haven’t seen the Bourne Identity, you really should.  If you haven’t seen the trilogy, you really should.  These movies are as close to the perfect action adventure films as I have ever seen.  The phrase “rogue CIA agent” is used a lot these days, but it all started with this movie.  Not a moment of action seems superfluous, every moment seems necessary to tell this story.  The only other movies I can compare the Bourne movies to are the Bond movies.  But Bond always seemed more style over substance, sipping martinis, riding around in cool cars, which sometimes led to product placement, and sleeping with numerous women.  The Bourne Identity is nothing like Bond, no glamor, it is grounded in gritty reality.  Jason Bourne is a young guy, he’s lost his identity, he is literally feeling his way around, he has that training, which he uses reflexively to protect himself, but the difference is things get chaotic for Bourne, and the viewer never gets the sense that things will be alright.  He’s driving around in a Eurotrash car, with a punk-rock girl, and his own government is trying to kill him. That is my kind of spy flick.

The acting is superb.  This is the movie that made Matt Damon a household word.  Good Will Hunting brought him attention, but the Bourne Identity made Damon a star.  He handles the complexities of the role well.  Damon doesn’t make amnesia seem like a cliché, and he makes the action scenes look easy, like he’s been doing action movies all his life, and there is real chemistry between Damon and Franka Potente.  Potente does a really good job as a girl who’s conflicted between the growing feelings she has for Bourne, and the trouble he puts her in.  There’s always the question lingering whether she’s trustworthy or not.  Chris Cooper is outstanding as the bad guy, but Cooper’s character is grounded in reality too, he wants to limit exposure of the Treadstone program.  He’s just doing his job, trying to stop a bad situation from spiraling out of control.  He will stop Bourne any way he can, and tries his best to do so.

The direction keeps the fast-paced story going and there is one chase scene ranks as one of the best car chase scenes ever, right up there with Bullitt and The French Connection.  The writing is great too, I never thought the situations were unrealistic or cartoonish.

The Bourne Identity.  Born for greatness.

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