June 14, 2002 -- "The Bourne Identity," based on the Robert Ludlum novel, is a very familiar story, but it is well crafted.
Matt Damon of "Ocean's 11" stars as Jason Bourne, a secret government operative who is rescued by a fishing boat at sea. When he regains consciousness, he can't remember who he is or how he came to be floating in the ocean, miles from shore. He does have an implant which leads him to a numbered Swiss bank account. Upon his arrival ashore, he heads to the bank where he finds a box with numerous passports, cash and a gun. He still can't figure out who he is (gee, who would have lots of fake passports, plenty of money and a gun?), but he suddenly becomes the target of assassins. He doesn't know why. He has to find out who he is and why people are trying to kill him. Along the way he picks up a stranger, Marie Kreutz (played by Franka Potente of "Run Lola Run"). In return for lots of money, she agrees to drive Bourne to Paris. She also gets tangled up in Bourne's mess.
The story has echoes of "Total Recall," "Three Days of the Condor" and "Enemy of the State," among others. The idea of unraveling a mystery while evading pursuers makes for a strong story. There is also a romance. It isn't a great romance. It isn't all that believable either, but there is some chemistry between Potente and Damon. The idea of amnesia providing an opportunity for a person to objectively examine their life is not new either, but it is an interesting notion, nonetheless. The notion is that if you discover who you are and you don't like what you find, you can just adopt a new personae. I suspect is isn't quite that easy. Director Doug Liman ("Go") maintains an allegro tempo, so you don't have time to notice the holes in the plot. There is a good car chase and good stunt work. The fights are fast and well-staged. This is a strong action film. Damon and Potent give compelling performances. Chris Cooper of "American Beauty" is effective playing bad guy Ted Conklin. Brian Cox of "For Love of the Game" does a good job with the role of Ward Abbott, a bad guy bureaucrat. Julia Stiles of "Save the Last Dance" plays another spy, Nicolette. This is a real zero of a role for someone as talented as Stiles. Why is she in this film? It does not seem like a good career move.
"The Bourne Identity" is a good summer popcorn movie, but don't go expecting any deep meaning in it. This is kind of like Chinese food. It does not stick to the ribs. The writing is pretty good by Tony Gilroy ("Proof of Life) and William Blake Herron. Production values are also good. There is also a lot of nifty spy gadgetry like homing devices, implants and various kinds of surveillance equipment. This film rates a C+.
Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.