Prayer Focus
Movie Review

The Bourne Identity

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and some language

Reviewed by: Douglas Downs
STAFF WRITER

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
Genre:
Thriller
Length:
1 hr. 58 min.
Year of Release:
2002
USA Release:
June 14, 2002
Poster. Copyright, 2002. Matt Damon in “The Bourne Identity” Matt Damon and Franka Potente in The Bourne Identity

Starring: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Chris Cooper, Clive Owen, Brian Cox | Directed by: Doug Liman | Produced by: Doug Liman, Patrick Crowley, Richard N. Gladstein, Pat Crowley, Richard Gladstein | Written by: Tony Gilroy, William Blake Herron, W. Blake Herron, David Self | Distributor: Universal Pictures

There are some things that just seem to get better with time. I really enjoyed the large screen adaptation of the 1980 Robert Ludlum Cold War era novel. Truly “The Bourne Identity” is a great spy thriller. The best part of the story is that our hero, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), doesn’t even know that he is a highly trained CIA assassin.

This summer of 2002 release is really the culmination of two individuals: indie film director Doug Liman and the star of our show, Matt Daom. Liman, a graduate of Brown University, is known for the hits “Swingers” and “Go.” With $60 million in his pockets, this resourceful director wisely took to using local European film crews and changing some location shots to save money. Damon, a favorite of young audience members, has always wanted to do an action feature, and this role fits his perfectly. The addition of German actress Franka Potente (“Run Lola Run”) is pure genius.

While “The Bourne Identity” does vary some from the novel, what Liman has pulled off is the best thriller that I have seen in a long time. Certainly it is a better adaptation then the 1988 3-hour miniseries starring Richard Chamberlain. The frantic mystery begins with a man being fished out of the Mediterranean by an Italian fishing boat. Right away we are faced with some unanswered questions… Why does this man have bullet wounds in his back? Why does he have a Swiss bank number embedded in his hip? Why do so many people want him dead? Jason begins to travel all over Europe in hopes of uncovering the answers that he doesn’t know due to amnesia. It isn’t long before he realizes that he can converse in French, Italian or German fluently. The most surprising revelation is that he has unknown lightning-fast reflexes and can quickly disarm any enemy.

We soon learn that Jason is part of an elaborate CIA cover-up. When he meets up with a down-on-her-luck woman named Marie (Franka Potente), they two of them drive him to Paris (Marie is promised $20,000 for her services). Quickly this unlikely pair become fugitives: the machine guns pop and the body count begins to climb.

The chase scenes in the tiny Morris mini are nothing short of brilliant! I loved the tight Euro-feel and the originality that was invoked to use photography to help create the suspense. Chris Cooper (“October Sky”) turns in a great performance as the leader of this secret CIA division, a highly efficient bureaucrat. The story’s conclusion is the biggest change from the original novel, but in my opinion is even better.

Parents and Christians should note that there is some language (5 religious profanities, 15 religious exclamations, 2 f-words, etc.) and a lot of violence. There is one scene in which premarital sex is implied, but the plot is reconciled with our hero being a gentleman and sleeping on the floor. If you like the classic spy thrillers, chase scenes and lots of genuine suspense—you’ll enjoy this film like I did. And while I am opposed to the premise of governments being changed through the process of assassination, it is unfortunately true to the day we live in. Just ask Saddam.

“The Bourne Identity” is definitely worth full admission. More good news is that the cast has signed on to create the entire trilogy for the big screen.

Viewer Comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—I am a big Robert Ludlum fan, and there was something that didn’t click in this movie for me until it was all over: Ludlum wrote stories about the Cold War which took place in the Cold War era. The setting for this film is the Post Cold War era. Consequently, the story in the movie was somewhat unsettling to me, since I know the Ludlum story so well. That circumstance aside, the movie is one of the most excellent examples of movie-making craft that I have seen in quite some time. The script writer and director take a good deal of time to develop the characters through fast-paced action sequences. Not once was I bored—either by the plot or by fantasmagorical special effects that directors use as crutches so often today. The value system portrayed in the plot was definitely post-modern secular humanism. But then, who ever heard of Christian assassins? Enjoy the movie for what it is and pray for morality in government.
My Ratings: [Average / 5]
—P.A. Harrington, age 47
Positive—I remember reading this book about ten years ago and really enjoyed the suspense and action in the series that followed. I think they did a good job of bringing that suspense and action to the big screen. The movie does have violence and language, but as I recall it did seem that they tried to reduce some of that from the original story while remaining true to the concept that Robert Ludlam intended. The production of the movie was done very well, some of the camera shots they used made you feel like you were in the middle of the action. There was one point in the movie that I held tightly to the arm rests to keep from falling off a building. This is definitely not a movie for children, but if you are looking for a suspenseful spy flic with lots of action, scenery and interesting camera shots, this may be for you. I look forward to seeing the remaining two Bourne movies when they are released.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 5]
—Cameron Thomas, age 30
Positive—I really enjoyed this movie! Yes, there is maybe 5 or 6 “BAD” words. But, the violence in the movie is not as bloody or graphic as I have seen in other recent action adventure films. There was only one sex scene and it contained a very uneventful kiss. I will not be taking my younger children to see this film. But, I think a well balanced, Christian knowledged teenager could watch this film without receiving any new negative concepts of sex and violence that they haven’t already seen on network TV.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
—Shannon, age 34
Positive—If you want to take a trip to paris. If you want to see the do’s and don’ts of driving. If you want to be paranoid and look behind every corner. If you want suspense and mystery in the same movie, this is a movie to see. I enjoyed it a lot… but only as I am an ADULT MOVIE GOER. THIS ONES NOT FOR CHILDREN. There’s a lot of gun shooting and other violence. though if you are an adult… I recommend it. “FUGITIVE” that doesn’t know who he is. Can he figure who he is? Who is after him? And why? Run MATT DAMON run. They are after you.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
—ROCKINRON, age 39
Positive—An excellent film for mature adults. Matt Damon does a great job entering the action-adventure genre and taking over for the aging Harrison Ford/Mel Gibson/Tom Cruise-types. The script is good, the acting is good, and the direction is tight. This is the first movie in a series of 3 and I’m looking forward to the next 2. Lots of violence and language. Not much sexuality. The leads do kiss (he is shirtless and she is in her bra) and they go to bed together, but nothing is shown (very tasteful, I thought, for a secular movie). Not for young children or for impressionable teens. This is a smart adult thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat. (Go see Insomnia… best movie of the year!!)
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 4]
—Todd, age 28
Neutral
Neutral—I though that this picture was a good action thriller for older audience it seamed like every one had a head wound dripping with blood at one point he grabbed a pencil and gabbed it in a mans hand and broke his arm and leg than the man proceed out the window and fell to his death. I think you get the picture. As far as the sex scene go’s they kiss about 15 seconds and the camera pans away.The swearing couple has f-words and the Lord’s name vain thew out the film.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 4]
—Daniel, age 18
Neutral—I think you probably know already from the previews that this film is about the main character’s search for his personal identify. Through most of the film, not only was he confused, but so was I. There were a few graphic and realistic violent scenes, but the love scene was tastefully done with the camera backing off and panning away as they used to do in the old days. The main character showed a surprising degree of decency and respect for the female character, though ruthless with any who sought to harm them. But one interesting aspect was the inclusion of a microchip surgically removed from the main character’s hip which contained his financial information. The media seems to be slowly selling us on the inevitability of this means of data storage. All in all, a satisfying action film with realistic characters and the requisite government conspiracy. No nudity and no four letter words that I could remember, although I heard at least one time someone used the name of our Lord as an expletive.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 3]
—Masa Nobu, age 51
Neutral—This movie reminded me very much of the James Bond Movies. There were numerous action scenes with some violence (but not grotesque). There was no nudity or sexual scenes although it was implied in one case. Scattered throughout the movie was some profain language. Overall, if you like James Bond movies you should like this movie.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 3]
—Mike, age 38
Negative
Negative—I’m amazed that so many of the comments have been positive to neutral concerning this movie. I read the book years ago and I did not think the movie did it justice. Even though it had an interesting plot and action the language [was] extremely offensive. How can Christians overlook hearing our Lord’s name being taken in vain in about as many different ways as possible?…
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive / 3]
—Cynthia Silberman, age 46
Negative—The preview was better than the movie. One brief kissing scene with sexual innuendos. Several “F” words. Various scenes seemed totally unrealistic, like Bourne falling more than 4 stories using a man’s body for shock absorption, and still walking to tell about it. Another man jumps to his death for no apparent reason. Only at the very end, does Bourne actually act human. Overall, the movie was not a shocker although somewhat entertaining.
My Ratings: [Average / 3½]
—Peter Go, age 36
Movie Critics
…Generic to the core…
—Ed Blank, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
…Frequent and sometimes graphic violence, along with tasteless vocabulary…
—Preview Family Movie and TV Review
…5 religious profanities, 15 religious exclamations… 2 F-words [etc.]…
—Kids-in-Mind
…Violence includes several deaths by gunfire and a man jumping to his death, while various characters fight and/or strike others, often with rather harsh blows…
—ScreenIt!
Comments from young people
Positive—In my opinion it was a great movie and it didn’t have many swear words in it, nor sexual scenes. It was just a great flick to go and see and I am gonna see it again after already seeing it times before.
My Ratings: [Average / 5]
—Carly Palmer, age 13
Neutral—I went to see this movie with my friend. It was an okay movie. It wasn’t as good as “The Sum of All Fears” and it had more cussing than the “The Sum of All Fears.” It was very confusing, and at sometimes hard to understand. Just watch out because there is quite a bit of offensive language.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 3]
—Nadia, age 14
Neutral—I guess all of the previous comments give you somewhat of an insight to what the movie is like… so I won’t go into detail. I guess I just wanted to say that the movie was very confusing for me, and I would have liked it a lot more if I would’ve understood it. It’s kind of a “conspiracy” type of movie. I don’t know if it’s because I just wasn’t too interested in the plot or what… but I thought it was too complex and confusing for me. Make sure you know a little about it before you see it to prepare yourself… and if you don’t like conspiracy type of movies… save your money and don’t go!!
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 3]
—Sarah, age 16
Positive—A reviewer mentioned that Bourne did not act human until the very end of the movie. This is untrue. Throughout the movie, he begs Marie to leave him, to run, to go to the police, to do anything but be with him, because he’s afraid of what might happen to her if she stays. We see him worrying up at night about the safety of the children of the house that he’s staying in, because of his presence there. He even appears to feels bad about killing an assassin sent to kill him, Marie, her brother, and his family because the assassin shows that small sliver of humanity in his dying moments. If this is not being human, I don’t know what is.

Overall, I enjoyed this movie very much. It was smart, well-made and moved along at a very fast pace. This is a good thing, because if the movie had stopped to be contemplative, we would have seen that the premise was the only thing propelling the movie at 200mph—the story was just an accessory to move the action along, and there wasn’t much else to it. However, that doesn’t make the movie any less fun to watch. There is a good amount of violence (although its mostly hand-to-hand combat and gunplay that we don’t see much of the results of), as well as some profanity (I only heard 1 f-word), although there were many religious exclamations that were, for the most part, unnecessary (i.e. overkill, twice in one sentence, etc.). If you think your children can handle things of that nature, then by all means take them to it. They’ll have a ball.
My Ratings: [Average / 4½]
—Peter Jurmu, age 16
Positive—I have to say, I loved this movie! I have always been a fan of Matt Damon although I do not agree with a majority of his films. But, since I was a fan, I had to get my family to go. So, we went the first day (yeah!!!). There was very little language, about 1-g-d and 1-f and I don’t remember anything else but one more s-word.

There is a short scene of sensuality, but it is not necessarily implying that they had sex. Because the next morning you see Marie in bed alone, with a modest t-shirt and shorts on. Also, Matt Damon’s character, Jason Bourne says modestly that he will sleep on the floor instead of in the bed with Marie. Also, our hero has a good moral standpoint. He has respect for our leading lady too. Great acting (Matt Damon and Julia Stiles, plus the girl who played Marie were magnificent!) And great script, camera and fight scenes make this a movie that deserves TWO BIG THUMBS UP! Great job Matt Damon! Keep to these kind of movies and movies like Spirit!
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 5]
—Anna Arango, age 10
Positive—This was an excellent movie. Matt Damon is brilliant, the plot was excellent. Definitely one of the movies of the year.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4½]
—Renee, age 17
Neutral—Oh boy! Another spy/thriller movie. But this time, no Tom Cruise or Pierce Brosnan. Matt Damon appears in this movie as a spy/U.S. weapon suffering from amnesia. He doesn’t know who he is, where he’s from, or why he has a gun in his safe keeping. The story begins to unfold from there. But, this movie isn’t a picnic in the park. There is some profanity and (sometimes graphic) violence. There is no sex, but (somewhat) “graphic” (if you will) kissing. The plot is poorly developed and is at sometimes confusing. It’s just your average spy movie that I spent a whopping $8.50 on! Take my advice, see a matinee of this movie, or what until video rental. It’s not a must-see. It’s pretty much your average PG-13 spy/thriller movie…
My Ratings: [Average / 3]
—Nate, age 14
Neutral—Ok… I am a fan of “thriller” spy kinda movies like this… I admit it! :) I did enjoy this movie BUT… before you go see it I must warn you! It isn’t perfect, there was a great deal of violence (beating, shooting, stabbing, etc.) as most of these movies have. And the other great downfall was the language… there was quite a bit. It’s scattered throughout the movie so it’s easier to overlook. But it still breaks my heart when people take the Lord’s Holy, Majestic Name in vain. Which all the actors had no problem doing.

There was one scene where Jason and Marie are seen making out, she takes off his shirt, that’s it for the sex. Human life isn’t valued too highly here either. As for the good. The plot is good, suspenseful, tense, and funny at times. The actors played their parts well. It’s good for what it is. If you like this kind of movie go see it and enjoy it for what it is. There are a lot of opportunities for discussion afterwards. But I wouldn’t take anyone under say… 14-15 years old. I tried to be very critical here for all you guys. It’s really not all bad though… like I say, I liked it!
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 3]
—Blair, age 15