The Bourne Identity

The Bourne Identity

****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

If you mixed The Fugitive with Memento, you might come close. This is a chase movie and an amnesia movie. The combination has real potential.

What is so intriguing is that Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) doesn't know who is after him or why he is being targeted. He can't remember his name, his job, his anything. And yet there are signs.

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When attacked, he knows the moves, which are implemented with ruthless efficiency. Someone has taught him how to fight and how to kill. He speaks foreign languages fluently and handles guns like Dirty Harry. He has the skills of an assassin and the instincts of a wild animal.

He is hauled unconscious out of the Mediterranean by French fishermen. He has bullet holes in his back and a battery imbedded in his thigh that flashes the name of a Swiss bank. Curiouser and curiouser...

Meanwhile, a man (Chris Cooper) at CIA headquarters, with a look on his face that spells P.I.S.S.E.D, says: "I want Bourne in a body bag by sundown." Cue electronic computer aids and information highway codes that can tell you what a frog in the swamps of Inner Mongolia had for breakfast. Jason goes to the bank. Someone makes a call. The chase is on.

Doug Liman directed a couple of superior low-budget alternative comedies (Swingers, Go) that were more of a two-fingered salute to the studio system than an open invitation to the producers of an expensive Robert Ludlum thriller, shooting in Prague, Paris and Italy. The choice is inspirational, because what he brings to the script is an independent visual style. With cinematographer Oliver Wood, he roughs it in the streets, avoiding the seductive slickness of a Tony Scott flick, which this so easily could have been.

Franka (Run Lola Run) Potente is an ideal choice for the girl, who bumps into Jason in Zurich and agrees to drive him to Paris. She is German, unused to the Hollywood tradition of Barbie-esque perfection, and acts natural. Damon has been to the gym, like they all do eventually - check out Christian Bale's pecs in Reign Of Fire - which makes sense under the circumstances, and tries hard to lose the college boy persona. It's a more convincing performance than his cowboy in All The Pretty Horses.

The film has credibility flaws and a gut-soup ending. It employs off-the-peg hitmen, who never smile, and quality actors (Brian Cox, Julia Stiles, Clive Owen) in bit parts, but succeeds in what must be the hardest challenge for any action director - the car chase. This one makes Bullitt look staged and The Rock feel OTT.

Reviewed on: 05 Sep 2002
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CIA agent Matt Damon loses his memory and is chased around Europe by hired assassins.
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Director: Doug Liman

Writer: Tony Gilroy, William Blake Herron, based on the novel by Robert Ludlum

Starring: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Chris Cooper, Brian Cox, Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje, Clive Owen, Gabriel Mann, Julia Stiles, Walton Goggins, Josh Hamilton

Year: 2002

Runtime: 118 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US

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