Movie Review: The Bourne Identity

By Erik Petersen
Movie Magazine International
“The Bourne Identity” was directed by admired indie film maverick Doug Liman, who’s known for the excellent “Swingers” and the criminally overlooked “Go.” The movie is loosely based on the 1980 Robert Ludlum thriller of the same name. It tells the story of a secret government operative who’s struggling to recover his memory while avoiding would be killers at every turn. Matt Damon takes his first shot at a big budget action thriller and the results are encouraging. He doesn’t display much emotional range but he’s up to the physical challenge of the role. For nearly the whole picture he’s on the run, scrambling to recover his memory and connect the dots. It’s an old school spy story and a good one.

Franka Potente, the fleet footed one of “Run Lola Run” fame stars as Marie, a down on her luck German ex-pat struggling to hustle up some bucks in Geneva when she meets Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne. He needs a ride to Paris and she needs the money. Their car chase scene in her Austin Mini is a great ride. Consider it the Gen-X equivalent to Bond’s swanky BMW chase scenes.

In one scene a murderous assassin crashes in through the window firing a machine guy. Bourne unleashes a fierce combination martial arts and boxing-style beat down and Marie is left gasping. Slipping into her native tongue she exclaims “Schnizer.” We don’t have to speak German to know that she’s in a world of schnizer.

Marie and Jason’s relationship is a nice affirmation for a movie whose star and director wanted a character driven action film. She’s not too beautiful and he’s not tossing off pithy wisecracks. Together they’re fumbling their way across Europe, a step ahead of the bad guys. As much as possible they seem real. The closest we get to action fantasyland is when Bourne has to protect a man and his children. Marie is worried an unseen assassin will kill them. Bourne simply looks at her and tells her “That’s not gonna happen.” And we believe him.

Clive Owen, best known for his role in “Croupier” plays the assassin. He doesn’t get to do much here but he handles his big scene with Mr. Damon admirably. Their showdown is one of the best in the film. The rest of the bad guys are led by Chris Cooper, a world-class evildoer lurking inside the CIA. Mr. Cooper was excellent as the creepy Nazi neighbor in “American Beauty.” Here he spends most of the time in some mission control room spying on Mr. Damon and giving orders to CIA flunkies, including the largely wasted Julia Stiles. Still, as far as cold war villains go he handles his role nicely.

In “The Bourne Identity” the CIA is portrayed as an all powerful, all knowing entity with tentacles that extend across the globe. It’s nice to spend a couple hours believing our country has guys like Jason Bourne to protect it. I’m afraid the truth is much more frightening. I’m Erik Petersen for Movie Magazine.
More Information:
The Bourne Identity
USA - 2002