"The Bourne Identity"
Directed by Doug Liman ("Swingers").
Written by Tony Gilroy and William Blake Herron. Based on
the novel by Robert Ludlum.
Starring Matt Damon, Franka Potente and Chris Cooper.
Release Year: 2002
Review Date: 6/18/02
When I first saw the trailer for “The Bourne
Identity”, I remember what I did when I saw Matt Damon (ahem, “Rounders”)
throw a punch at a guard that literally flipped the guy into the
I burst out into laughter.
Matt Damon, action hero? No friggin’ way.
Then, I saw the movie.
Based on the Robert Ludlum novel, Damon
plays an amnesiac assassin that washes up on a boat off the coast of
Marseilles with two bullets in his back, a Swiss bank account and no
memory. After learning how to wharf with six French guys, he gets
dropped off on shore and makes his way to the bank, where he finds
out his name is Jason Bourne...at least in America, since he has
passports to six other nations with different names. After cops
pick up his trail upon leaving the bank, an international chase
ensues, with a CIA honcho (Chris Cooper), a safe house operative
(Julia Stiles), three hitmen and hundreds of Parisian police
officers all on his tail. The only things that Bourne can trust are
a 26-year-old potty mouth (Franka Potente, “Run Lola Run”) and his
As some of you remember, I reviewed the
four-hour ABC miniseries from 1988 of the same name earlier this
year and I really liked that version. The biggest difference here
is definitely Damon, because while I love Richard Chamberlain—damned
near the best TV movie actor of all time—it got hard sometimes to
believe he could whoop somebody’s ass. Director Doug Liman (“Go”)
does a good job of speeding up real time to make us believe that
Damon really does “have the skills of a dangerous man” (per the
trailer) by slightly speeding up the film whenever he goes into
action mode. This is definitely more action film than espionage
thriller, and it works mostly because of the great staging of events
throughout the film: a shootout here, a better-than-average car
chase there, a fistfight or a guy getting tossed out of a window.
Although I thought that Liman let his lead figure out his name too
quickly, I enjoyed following the hero as he figured out his identity
over the course of a slightly-too-long two hours.
Oh, and those locations! World travelers
will enjoy watching “The Bourne Identity” just for the lush scenery,
which clearly is shot on location in Paris and a few other European
locations. The other extras in this film are quite good, like a
well-acted supporting cast featuring Cooper, Clive Owen, and Brian
Cox. Owen is great mostly because he gets to gratuitously drive a
BMW in one scene in this film; as some folks remember, Owen did a
five-part internet film series last year for the car maker as The
Driver. The use of silence by Liman in the film is very, very good;
he lets Damon and Potente do much of the work with their awkward
relationship and his investigation into who he really is.
The film possesses only minor problems; a
couple of logistical things came up for me like “Hmm, that guy cut
off Bourne’s wet suit, and there are two bullets in his back...but,
there are no bullet holes in the suit!” Stiles looks uncomfortable
and out of place here; some of that is her character, but for
someone that now has a couple of pretty impressive credits on her
résumé, she shouldn’t even entertain parts like this. When Liman
does use music, like during that pivotal car chase sequence, it
doesn’t quite match up to how intense the action is.
But, this is a great entry into the
mid-summer action arena. And, in what is quickly become the theme
for 2002, films are finally giving us good endings again and “The
Bourne Identity” is no exception. Mmm, mmm, good.
Rating: $9.00 Show
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Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard