Summer Movie Showdown: "The Bourne Identity" Review


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Summer Movie Showdown: "The Bourne Identity" Review

-- Rating: PG-13
Length: 119 minutes
Release Date: June 14, 2002
Directed by: Doug Liman
Genre: Action/Crime/Mystery

Many people may dream of it happening. No one expects it to one day come true.

What if you one day woke up and had no idea who or where you were?

Meet Jason Bourne; an anonymous man pulled out of the dark and dreary Mediterranean Sea. He is a man who must have had a past, but he might not have a future.

And so, a franchise was born. When the character from Robert Ludlum's novel made the jump to the theatre in "The Bourne Identity," he did so in a big way. You could say he landed with a splash.

He's been shot up, he has had the number of a Swiss bank account encoded in a mini laser implanted in his hip, and he has been rescued by an Italian boat crew. Unbelievably, those may be the tamest revelations in the movie. Once Bourne, played by perennial favorite Matt Damon, reaches dry land, the intensity of his life just keeps building.

While the action scenes in the movie are incredibly staged and filmed to keep viewers on the edge of their seats, they far outnumber the scenes providing the narrative, which doesn't translate as gracefully from the book to the big screen.

Haltingly, viewers discover that Bourne is a CIA operative, who has, for reasons yet to be revealed, gone rogue. In fact, Bourne is probably not Bourne. It's simply the name from one of many passports found in the lockbox the Swiss bank account number lead him to; after a quick interlude to team up with the equally mysterious Marie Kreutz, played by Franka Potente.

Now, the mission seems nearly impossible. Bourne must discover who he actually is, why he's gone rogue, and he must keep both himself and the almost-loveable Marie alive at the same time. No big deal, right?

As the duo virtually drag race across Europe to an enormously unpredictable ending, they engage in more fights for their lives than are contained in a dozen James Bond flicks. All these encounters are positioned to add intrigue and showcase Bourne's breathtaking ability to react to any attack. All are fast paced and go by at nearly a blur. But, unfortunately, many of them don't stand out once the film has ended.

Filmgoers originally flocked to the "Bourne Identity" in 2002 with expectations of seeing a rough-and-tumble action flick, and they got what they paid for. The movie version of the book is a little sketchy on the narrative, a bit scarce on characterization, but it does have an abundance of action scenes. No fear, however, was felt by dear fans of Mr. Damon. Everything led to the hint of more movies to come. And for fans unsatisfied with the denouement of the first in the series, the DVD included an even more surprising alternative resolution.

The "Bourne Identity" had its ups and downs. Fans of action and Matt Damon cheered. Others may have felt lost by the overpowering fight scenes, many of which erupted apropos and ended with more of a whimper than a bang. The critics were equally split, some praising Damon's credible dual portrayal of a hero and an antihero, others wondering how the producers could have stuffed so much thrill into a two-hour movie. However, numbers don't lie and the total take at the box office showed that a combination of intrigue and Damon drew crowds like moths to a light.

Damon is a great actor who could make a reading of the Magna Carta in Middle English sound enticing. He leads the charge through nearly every scene of the movie. That constant focus absolutely made Damon synonymous with the Jason Bourne character. Potente's performance, however, fell short. Although touchingly sweet at times and gritty at others, she was positioned throughout most of the flick as Damon's arm candy and babysitting charge. Sure, it heats up as time goes by, but we all know that a Damon flick needs to have some obligatory romance to keep his fans satisfied.

Overall, an intriguing plot, fight scenes choreographed to within an inch of their lives, a great lead actor, and the start of a franchise that would go on to produce several additional films equally large on action and a bit light on narrative. Rent or buy this one if you're ready to have your home sound like war-torn Sarajevo for the next few hours or if you can't bear to miss a Damon flick.

Rating; 3.5 out of 5

Tags: Matt Damon