Reviewed by: Douglas Downs
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.