The Bourne Identity

17 11 2007

The Bourne IdentityIn 2002, indie filmmaker Doug Liman gave us The Bourne Identity, a refreshing change of pace to the sterile, perfunctory antics of the then-current Brosnan-era James Bond. Where Bond seemed clunky and outdated, Bourne was slick and modern, and it’s more than likely no mere coincidence that a retooling of the Bond franchise was undertaken in Bourne‘s wake, resulting in 2006’s Casino Royale.

But enough about James Bond.

The Bourne Identity is a film based loosely on the 1980 Robert Ludlum novel of the same name; in it, we follow Matt Damon’s character, an amnesiac who may (or may not) be a man named Jason Bourne. As the film progresses, he discovers (along with the audience) that he is incredibly skilled at hand-to-hand combat, can retain important tactical details about his surroundings without any conscious effort, and has a knack for stunt-driving through the streets of Paris. Meanwhile, assassins are out to kill him at every turn.

Curiously, I rewatched this film recently because I had no recollection of the plot beyond the vaguest of details, and now, having seen it again, I realise that my memory was actually pretty good. There really isn’t that much to the film, but while you’re watching it, the illusion of substance is maintained.

The Bourne Identity still

Of course, with a cast that also includes Chris Cooper and Brian Cox, performances aren’t going to be a weak-point. Damon was a surprise as an action star at the time, but he pulls off his role with such confidence that it’s a wonder why it was a surprise in the first place. I am, however, still left wondering why the excellent Clive Owen is given such prominent billing for such a minor role.

The action sequences are excellently handled and staged, though the shooting style emphasises impressionistic blurs of movement rather than clarity, which can become quite frustrating. The pacing overall manages to maintain the film’s tension, and the screenplay (co-written by Michael Clayton‘s Tony Gilroy) doesn’t let-on that there’s less going on than it seems until after the credits roll.

Admittedly, there was, once again, studio interference during production, leading to reshoots and countless rewrites. Maybe The Bourne Identity would’ve been a stronger film had Liman’s original vision remained intact. However, it is what it is: a well-made, relatively smart action film that does exactly what it intends to do and nothing more.

(star)(star)(star)(half-a-star)(no star)

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4 responses

20 11 2007
Kevin Olsen

Your reviews are very in-depth and thorough. Well done!

20 11 2007
Dion

Hey, thanks!

21 11 2007
Kathleen

The third film is actually the best, it blew me away…

27 11 2007
Dion

I’ll be getting to the other two films in due course…

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