Review: The Bourne Identity

bourne_identity_cov.jpgThe Bourne Identity
Year: 2002
Director: Doug Liman
Starring: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Chris Cooper
Kaboom Review Action Movie Rating: 78

A man with deadly skills yet near total amnesia flees from unknown killers and tries to uncover his identity.

Quick Review
The Bourne Identity is a well-constructed, solid movie that succeeds in telling a tense, intelligent story of intrigue and espionage. At the same time, the pace stutters at times, Matt Damon’s acting makes it tough to attach to Bourne, and much of the action falls short of reaching its potential.

Full Review
In a genre that has been inundated with escapist entertainment, The Bourne Identity stands out as gritty, logical, bourne_identity_4.jpgand smart. This is a fresh, tight film that stays within itself nicely. You can think along with this movie, rather than turning your brain off at the theater. Nevertheless, while there is a lot to like in this film, The Bourne Identity still has enough weaknesses that it falls short of realizing its potential for greatness.

The most impressive element of the film is its grounded, intelligent story. With many action movies, the plot and premise break down if you examine them too closely. With The Bourne Identity, the story gets better on reflection. Although the pace stutters at times, actions, reactions, and movement make sense. Everything is connected; scenes flow naturally. A key component to this effectiveness of the story is the seesaw battle Jason Bourne and the government agency hunting him down. Both sides are trying to outthink each other, and both sides have tremendous resources to bring to the task. Bourne has his deadly skills and sharp mind; the agency can tap into vast intelligence sources and bring to bear large numbers of talented assassins, bright agents, and policemen. What is most important, however, is that the agency acts with cold logic and cunning. The resultant cat-and-mouse pursuit ramps up the tension and establishes the solid heart of the movie.
While the consistent, tense drama drives the film, there is some decent action tossed in to spice things up. With the exception of a premise-busting jump at the end of the film, the action is realistic, intelligent, and believable. We get fights, duels, and a notable car chase in a Mini-Cooper. Interestingly, several fights scenes are collages of frantic, close-up camera shots. While this tends to highlight the pace and violence of the action, it also obscures some of the movement: at times I had no idea who was doing what to whom. All in all, it’s effective at generating an impression but not particularly helpful in telling the story. The care chase is well shot, but neither particularly original nor particularly forceful. The visual effects consist of mostly camera angles and speed enhancements. For the most part these work well enough, but they also didn’t strike me as memorable.

The characters, acting, and script in The Bourne Identity vary in their quality. The script works, but is secondary to the plot and action. I greatly enjoyed the movie’s interpretation of the Jason Bourne character. He comes off as talented and deadly, yet the film manages to contain his skills and preserve the realistic premise. Nicely balanced. The added element of amnesia makes him a unique and intriguing character. Having said this, I also bourne_identity_potente.jpgfelt that Matt Damon lacked force in the role. He struck me as flat and weak in his acting. His lack of emotion made it hard for me to empathize with Bourne’s plight. The other actors do a good job, but no one stands out as particularly impressive. Chris Cooper, as the head of the effort to eliminate Bourne, was capable in his role. Franka Potente, as Jason Bourne’s tag-along love-interest, was decent but not inspired.

As for Babes and Hunks, Franka Potente looks great from certain angles, but only average from others. On the whole, she helps out the Babe rating from her significant support role. For Hunks, we’ve got the boyish Matt Damon’s good looks to bring the Hunk rating to well above average.

To wrap it up, The Bourne Identity is a well-constructed, solid movie that succeeds in telling a tense, intelligent story of intrigue and espionage. At the same time, the pace stutters at times, Matt Damon’s acting makes it tough to attach to Bourne, and much of the action falls short of reaching its potential.

Pace: 68
Plot: 78
Action: 81
Consistent Premise: 86
Script/Quotes: 58
Characters: 76
Acting: 51
Villain: 55
Body Count: 21
Time to First Dead Body: Unknown
Babes: 70
Hunks: 81
Explosions: 9
Special Effects: 38
Stunts: 60
Ending: 73

Overall: 78

[tags]The Bourne Identity, Jason Bourne, Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Chris Cooper, Doug Liman, movie review, action movie[/tags]

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4 thoughts on “Review: The Bourne Identity

  1. Quiet possibly my favorite movie series. The ingenuity if these movies is great, can’t wait to see what’s next!

  2. OK – This is definitely one of my favorite action thrillers. For me, the strength of the realism element makes it all the more compelling. I would have given this film a higher ranking than Mike, especially in acting (again for realism). Jason Bourne’s average look, build, and nondescript demeanor means he could be anybody anywhere -the perfect choice for a black ops asset- and Matt Damon was perfect for the role. Chris Cooper is also flawless as Conklin, the kind of guy you loath, but secretly hope is on your side. There is a lot of nuance to this character, and you can see that he is festering below the surface.
    I love the Mini car chase – and it takes you places that a run of the mill muscle-car chase can’t. Bourne Delivers.

    A side note: Do not be fooled into buying the DVD that promises a new alternate beginning and ending; the original theatrical release is much better.

  3. Anders,
    Thanks for the comments! I understand I’m in the minority with regards to this film. I did enjoy it, just not quite to the degree of many others.

    I agree completely with the casting of Damon as Jason Bourne, I think he fits the character perfectly. Where I struggled with him was that his acting struck me as wooden at times—I felt like I was watching an actor, and that kept me from getting immersed in the story as much as I would have otherwise.

    The more I think about it, though, the more I agree with your point on Chris Cooper. I really liked the job he did with Conklin, and probably should have given him a better nod in my review.

  4. Matt Damon’s best film to date (even better than Good Will Hunting which i really enjoyed).

    He definately was the best choice to play Jason Bourne in all the Bourne films.

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