The Bourne Identity has everything audiences crave at the theater. This action/thriller delivers the goods, especially for fans of the spy/action movie genre, with a few spices of situational humor (it’s more tongue in cheek than laugh out loud). The solid plot is punctuated by several strong elements essential for a successful spy/espionage film.
Danger? Yes. When someone wants you “dead by sundown”, dangerous situations are inevitable.
Intrigue? Yes. Jason Bourne, well played by Matt Damon, doesn’t know who he is but that vault guard could…oh maybe someone walking on the street recognizes him. Added intrigue follows when he discovers more about himself throughout the well written plot, based on the book by Robert Ludlum, while traveling through fantastic European settings such as Paris. Behavioral software, unbelievable protocol, theoretic exercises, CIA involvement, assassination targets and miniscule information beacons also raise the level of intrigue to a high level.
Intelligence? Yes. Bourne never makes a decision without mindful actions. He uses newspaper research and acts after careful thought and observation, sometimes almost too much.
Romance? Yes. Enter Marie Kreutz, played by Franka Potente (Run Lola Run) – the only person Bourne knows. Real feelings challenge the couple throughout their exploits especially during one sequence with a chance to get away from danger with a car and a lot of money. It’s refreshing and rare to see guy revealing more skin than girl.
Great action? Oh yes. Previews spoil one action surprise, but other sequences, especially the car chase in the Mini cooper car chase, are simply unbelievable. Director Doug Liman (Go, Swingers) uses several point of view shots including aerial to create high impact in this car chase that’s very entertaining to watch without being too long and drawn out.
Potente’s performance could give her breakthrough opportunities in the U.S. film industry. She makes Marie very real and human, especially with her no-nonsense ways. She even helps Bourne get information as he tries to retrace his steps. It would’ve been nice to see more scenes like the one where Bourne walks Marie through a reconnaissance errand at a hotel.
“Everything I found out I want to forget” and “I’m on my own side now” represent realistic dialogue. Damon shows real emotion in the lead role well complimented by the stellar supporting cast in the film.
Julia Stiles (Save the Last Dance) plays Nicolette, an operative stationed in France who gathers information from an apartment tech center. You know she works in French communications as she relays information heard on the local police scanner to her superior, but seeing her actually speak even a little bit of French would’ve made her character more authentic.
Chris Cooper (The Patriot) plays Ted Conklin an entrenched government official who gradually finds himself in a situation beyond his control. “What do you want to do?” his colleagues ask when Conklin runs out of ideas. Conklin also makes a critical strategic error when he arranges an exterior meeting by a bridge. Pay close attention to the facts he knows and the facts Bourne knows when this meeting occurs.
Brian Cox (Braveheart, Long Kiss Goodnight) plays Ward Abott, an important figure as does Clive Owen (Croupier) who plays “The Professor” in a potential star making role. African official Nykwana Wombosi is played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (The Mummy Returns, TV’s Oz) who makes the most of his limited screen time.
It would’ve been nice to see more screen time from this supporting cast, but the real star of this film is the plot adapted from Ludlum’s novel by screenwriters Tony Gilroy (Bait, Armageddon) and W. Blake Herron. John Powell (Face/Off, Shrek) creates a kinetic musical environment to compliment the action with the perfect balance of sound that doesn’t drown out the sound effects.
Some unavoidable cliches and the pace of the plot may bother some viewers, but this reviewer greatly appreciated the talent of the cast and filmmakers which produces a solid piece of entertainment with high interest and involvement. More appeal for female audiences than most action genre offerings currently in theaters. Recommended (*** out of four stars) and rated PG-13 for violence and language.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler