The Bourne Identity

Director: Doug Liman
Writers: Tony Gilroy and William Blake Herron
Based on a Novel By: Robert Ludlum
Music by: John Powell
Cinematography by: Oliver Wood
Edited by: Sear Klein
Full Cast & Crew:

The Bourne Identity, released in 2002, is an amnesia-driven action thriller starring Matt Daemon. The loose concept behind the movie is that a guy is found by some sailors, floating in the ocean on the brink of death. They haul him aboard, and when he comes to, he remembers nothing about his past. He has no idea who he is, no idea how he ended up half-dead in the middle of the ocean, and he wants answers. Meanwhile, the CIA realizes that he’s alive, and dispatches a variety of hit-men to try and take him down, and thus the game of cat and mouse begins. We follow Matt Daemon as he discovers who he is (including that his name is Jason Bourne), falls in love with a woman named Marie, who is played by Franka Potente, and kicks a lot of ass along the way. In many ways, The Bourne Identity is a grittier American take on James Bond, with a much more believable badass action star at its center, and a more series tone tying it all together, but I don’t think that quite does justice to the movie.

The Bourne Identity is a masterfully tense movie. There are a lot of sequences of Bourne simply moving about in the world, and the constant threat of the CIA coming for him, coupled with Bourne’s excellently portrayed paranoia, do a lot to keep me on the edge of my seat. This movie’s action also kicks ass. Every fight scene has top notch choreography, takes place in an interesting location that the characters often attempt use to their advantage, and is very well-shot and edited. My understanding is that this movie is somewhat responsible for the popularity of the “quick-cut” style of action that plagues modern action movies, especially when you consider that the guy responsible for a lot of Bourne’s cinematography has gone on to work on a lot of trashy action flicks, but the key difference is that most of those movies use quick cuts to hide their bad choreography and staging, while Bourne uses quick cuts to enhance its already great action.

There are also several more overt “thriller” sequences, including an excellent car-chase and a positively nail-biting scene of Bourne climbing along a building, and these do wonders in keeping the movie varied and interesting to watch.

So far, I’ve talked a lot about the technical side of The Bourne Identity, but all of that would be for naught if the characters and story weren’t good. Apparently this film is adapted from a novel, something I’d have never known if I didn’t google it, because it works just great as its own standalone thing. Daemon plays the character of Bourne very well, and does a wonderful job making the (admittedly cliché) amnesia storyline work. I found myself invested in the story by virtue of being invested in his performance. I sympathized with Bourne as a character, because Daemon made him sympathetic. This compelling characterization, combined with the screenplay’s knack for slowly drip-feeding the audience bits and pieces of a satisfying reveal, makes for a story that very rarely had a dull moment.

The part of Bourne that I have the most quibbles with is the romantic subplot with Marie, because she was fairly underdeveloped when compared with Bourne and their romance felt like something of an unnecessary addition to the story, but even that isn’t a fully-fledged criticism. Potente plays the role extremely well, and the screenplay does well to side-step a lot of action movie romance clichés in a way that I personally really appreciated. Does it need to be in the movie? Definitely not. Am I mad that it was included? Not really, no. At the end of the day, my happiness at seeing a somewhat unique take on the action film romantic subplot won out, and I found myself enjoying the relationship being built up between these two characters during breaks from the action. That’s the other thing this romance does well, by the way. By the end of the movie, I really felt like I had watched these two characters build a proper dynamic together, as opposed to just being forced together by virtue of being the two leads of opposite genders in an action movie. Marie’s introduction into the story was handled with a similar level of creativity. In many ways, she felt something like the anti-Bond Girl.

In all, The Bourne Identity is a very well-made action flick. It’s also the first in a trilogy of movies, and while I have not yet seen the other two, it does an adequate job laying the groundwork for a future continuation, without taking time away from this movie. The action is fantastic, the tension reaches unbearable levels at times, the performances are top notch, and the romance is a nice little sprinkling of flavor on top of everything else. Not to mention, it has a great, simple story tying the whole thing together. I would highly recommend checking The Bourne Identity out if you can, because you’re very likely to have a good time with it. I certainly did.

Written on 05/02/2022

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