The Bourne Identity (2002) / Action-Thriller

MPAA rated: PG-13 for violence and some language
Length: 119 min.

Cast: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Chris Cooper, Brian Cox, Julia Stiles, Clive Owen
Director: Doug Liman
Screenplay: Tony Gilroy, William Blake Herron
Review published June 13, 2002

Bourne Identity 2002Based on the old bestseller by Robert Ludlum, The Bourne Identity might have also been a classic movie had it been made around the time it was written. However, being made in a time long after the Cold War, after countless other movies of similar ilk have been made, and also in a day and age when fighting and shootouts tend to go for over-the-top stylistics, The Bourne Identity is an odd choice for a major release for 2002. That's not to say it's bad or lacks entertainment value, as it is a solid production in most every respect. What The Bourne Identity lacks is freshness within its genre, content to be a good example of how to make an old school spy yarn than in an updating for today's audience.

Matt Damon (Ocean's Eleven, Finding Forrester) is Jason Bourne -- or so he thinks based on the documentation he retrieves from his Swiss bank account, along with several other identities attributed to his likeness. Trouble is, Jason can't really remember who he is or why people are out to get him, after being fished out of the Mediterranean with bullets in his back. These people are actually his own allies who trained him to be the assassin he is, and now they must silence Jason before their secret operations are found out.

While the acting, directing, and writing are definitely on target, it's the lack of freshness in the material that makes The Bourne Identity a tepid affair. Matt Damon does make a convincing secret agent, and Franka Potente (Run Lola Run, The Princess and the Warrior) adds a sympathetic turn as the woman forced along for the ride. Doug Liman (Swingers, Go) keeps the film reserved most of the way, although an exciting car chase and shootout at the end does fuel the action up a notch above most espionage potboilers. The film is credible most of the way, despite the incredible nature of the plot, but finally cracks during the final confrontation and epilogue where it becomes typical Hollywood fare.

The Bourne Identity is recommended for fans of Damon, readers of Ludlum's novels, and those who actually love old-fashioned, intelligent spy flicks regardless of when they came out or how derivative they are. However, if you've gotten to the point where even old James Bond flicks seem boring, you might save yourself two hours of yawns and catch another film instead.

-- Followed by The Bourne Supremacy (2004), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), and The Bourne Legacy (2012)

Qwipster's rating:

©2002 Vince Leo