The Bourne Identity (DVD)

Starring Chris Cooper et al

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FPB certification number
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  1. 2
Running Time
FPB Consumer Advice
FPB Rating
  1. Doug Liman
Universal Pictures Video
Bourne Identity Single Disc - (Import DVD)
  1. Chris Cooper
  2. Franka Potente
  3. Matt Damon
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Neil, Goodwood. 7 March 2003

2002 has seen the two acting buddies and co-Oscar winners for the script for Good Will Hunting, both star in separate spy thrillers. Ben Affleck followed in Harrison Ford’s steps to play Tom Clancy’s CIA hero Jack Ryan in The Sum of All Fears. And now we have Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity. Some people may recall the TV mini-series of the same name starring Richard Chamberlain way back in 1988.

Anyway director Doug Liman, he of the drug youth drama, Go (1999) has managed to put together one of the smartest and most exciting spy thrillers we have seen in a long time. The plot in a nutshell is about a man near death (Matt Damon) pulled out of the Mediterranean sea by a passing fishing boat. He somehow has survived his terrible ordeal at sea and has been shot twice in the back as well. The catch is, when he wakes up he has no idea who is and how he came to be in the middle of the sea. What follows the gradual uncovering of identity and who and what he was before he lost his memory.

Along the way the man teams up with a young German woman Marie Kreutz (Franka Potente). Franka Potente played in the very successful German version of Ground Hog Day, Run Lola Run. Try saying Run Lola Run a few times in a row without getting you tongue all twisted.

The Bourne Identity is sharply photographed, providing us with a travel guide view of Europe including Switzerland, Paris city streets and French countryside. The thing that makes The Bourne Identity stand out from other movies is in the way it portrays violence. The hand-to-hand fights are brutal and bloody and to the point. The movie tries not to glorify violence but shows how shocking its effects can be on another person.

Other than the excellent leading man performance from Matt Damon, we have Brain Cox and Chris Cooper (I) (he was superb in October Sky btw), also turn in good showings from the CIA office bureaucrats point of view. Amazingly Julia Stiles (Ten Things I Hate About You) is given a very sedentary role, as the CIA liaison officer in Paris.

The question in the end is, which of the two acting buddies has the better spy movie then? For me Ben Affleck’s The Sum of All Fears was very good and was definitely one of the better spy thrillers of the year so far. But The Bourne Identity is just that one slight degree better and highly entertaining. It has a more personal feel to it, making it easier for the viewer to identify with the characters on screen.

Just as we can surely expect the Jack Ryan franchise to have another movie outing I honestly hope we get to see another Jason Bourne movie as well, as Robert Ludlum did write more follows up to his original bestseller. Besides any movie which has Moby’s “Extreme Ways” in the end credits, as well as "Ready, Steady, Go" by Paul Oakenfold which was played during the car chase, just has to be good in my books.

9 / 10

Steve, . 26 March 2003

A film review by Steve Rhodes
Copyright 2002 Steve Rhodes

THE BOURNE IDENTITY, the first big budget Hollywood film by indie director Doug Liman (GO and SWINGERS), is a completely satisfying thriller that will keep your brain engaged and your adrenaline pumping.

Matt Damon is terrific as an amnesiac guy who doesn't know who he is or what he does for a living. After finding that he is a lean, mean, fighting machine and discovering that he has a suitcase full of fake ids, he realizes one of his names is Jason Bourne and that people are out to kill him.

Jason's CIA boss, Ted Conklin (Chris Cooper, OCTOBER SKY), thinks of Jason as "a malfunctioning $30,000,000 weapon." Ted gives his team strict orders, "I want Bourne in a body bag by sundown." All of the casting is superb. Cooper is a cold blooded bureaucrat who isn't used to sullying his own hands when he has people killed. Cooper is as easy to hate as Jason is to love, although notice that it is Jason doing almost all of the killing.

What really makes the plot sizzle is Jason's sidekick, a reluctant participant named Marie Kreutz, played with smartness and vulnerability by RUN LOLA RUN's Franka Potente. Poor Marie just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when Jason is on the lam and needs a car, fast. In no time, CIA headquarters thinks that they are an item and has them both on the top of the Most Wanted list. The chemistry between Damon and Potente is fascinating while being only slightly sexual.

Other fine pieces of acting are turned in by Clive Owen (CROUPIER) as one of the men attempting to assassinate Jason, by Brian Cox as Ted's amoral section chief and by Julia Stiles as the woman who cleans up messes in the field.

Liman's directorial skills are constantly in evidence. The movie has one of the best chase scenes in a long time. Driving a Morris Mini, Jason and Marie fly through rain soaked Parisian streets, sideways and alleyways, pursued by police cars and motorcycles. In another memorable sequence, Jason makes one of the most unusual escapes that I've ever seen.

Since there are other Bourne books in Robert Ludlum's spy series, I hope we can see more about this "black ops agent who's off the reservation." They may or may not have meant for this to be the first of a film series, but I certainly hope it turns into one. And, let's hope that American directors find more good parts for Potente. She's incredible.

THE BOURNE IDENTITY runs 1:50. It is rated PG-13 for "violence and some language" and would be acceptable for kids around 12 and up.

My son Jeffrey, age 13, gave it *** 1/2. He raved about Damon's acting. He thought the casting was good, and the plot was really unique.

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