The Bourne Identity
The plot in a nutshell
A man with found floating in the ocean with gunshot wounds awakes with
no recollection of who he is. He quickly learns that he has many talents - killing, speaking many languages, evading, observing - but has no idea
how he put those talents to use in his life. And someone is out to finish the job of killing him. Can he figure it all out before it's too
late? I'm betting he does.
The Bourne Identity
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Relatively Spoiler Free Thoughts
If you read the book by Robert Ludlum, you're going to have to forget every word if you want to enjoy this film. The movie has two things in
common with the book - an amnesiac with the uncanny ability to kill, and the title.
I'll discuss where the book and film diverge a bit in the spoiler section, but I had some trouble getting into this film simply because it was so much
different than the book. Had I realized that going in, my expectations would
have been far different.
Still, there's enough here to enjoy. Matt Damon is a solid actor, and pulls
off both the confusion of Jason Bourne and the action scenes equally well. This movie proves he can handle a wide range of roles, and I think the movie
Daredevil would have been better served with him in the title role rather than
his drinking buddy, Ben Affleck.
This isn't a thinking movie - it's an action movie. Who Bourne is and what he does is revealed fairly early on, and there's little confusion for the viewer.
It's pretty clear who's trying to kill him and why, and there's no twists or surprises to the fairly obvious and standard plot. Don't go looking for
a great mystery, because you won't find it.
You will find some pretty decent fight scenes, with good choreography and style. Damon's Bourne is clearly not a man to be trifled with, but not an
unfeeling killer either. There's also the required car chase, this time involving
a mini-Cooper and the French police through the streets of Paris. It's an engaging chase, well done with a reasonable amount of cheap thrills.
Most of the stunts are also well executed, except for one involving a stair well which played out as unrealistic and goofy.
Rating - Rent It (Qualified).
This is your basic action flick, with all the usual elements. There's fighting,
and car chases, and the shooting of automatic weapons - Bourne even shows us
the most effective way to get a point across with a ball point pen. It's not
a great film or even a great action film, since the plot is fairly tired and with the most typical ending possible. Damon really saves the film, and if
a lesser actor like Jean-Claude Van Damme or even Stallone had been in the same role, it would have ended up a serious stinker.
BTW - if you like flicks like this, do yourself a favor and check out The Long
Kiss Goodnight. One of Geena Davis' best, and a nice performance by Samual
Jackson as well. It's the story of a female amnesiac agent, and has some excellent
stunts and action. And also worth checking out is the made
for TV movie based on the same novel starring Richard Chamberlain.
Spoiler Laden Thoughts
If you're worried about spoilers, this is the section to skip...stop reading!
Okay, that was a sufficient warning.
As I said, if you read the book, forget it before watching the film. None of the major plot points are left - there's no Carlos, no bank account
transferred from one place to another (Bourne simply removes the contents of a
safe deposit box), and it's obvious he works for the CIA in the first 15 minutes.
That's perhaps the greatest failing of the movie, since all the mystery surrounding who he is and what his past involved made the book such an
enjoyable read. Instead, the movie focuses on using the general situation to give us a few fight scenes, an car chase or two, and at least one big explosion.
By not knowing who Bourne is, the book made you more sympathetic with his situation. The film loses that aspect entirely, although Daman
manages to still bring enough to the role to give you some understanding of how he feels, lost and alone.
There's a girl in the film of course, and she helps him - but she comes along willingly from the start, unlike the book where he has to take her
by force as a hostage to begin. That means another aspect of the book is gone - her initial hate and distrust for him, until he finally does something
so clearly unselfish and dangerous for her that he wins her over. Instead, it's pretty clear she's going to help him all the way through right from the
All of this isn't terrible, since you can make a decent action movie without it being the Bourne Identity story. Actually, there are parts
of that story that would make it extremely hard to bring to film intact. Still, if you call a film the Bourne Identity, you can't be too surprised when
the readers of the book take issue with the lack of key story elements. Just ask the guys that made the Lawnmower Man.