125 – The Bourne Identity

Matt Damon stars as a young man found floating in the middle of the ocean by some French fisherman. He has no memory of who he is, but he does have a weird computer chip implanted in his hip and two bullets in his back. The chip contains a number of an account in Zurich, and there he finds a safety-deposit box with multiple passports, a lot of money, and a gun.

The young man chooses the identity of Jason Bourne from the box. But who is Jason Bourne? The money and the IDs, along with his supersonic reflexes and hand-to-hand fighting skills, seem to indicate that he’s not your typical car salesman. For whom does Bourne work? Is he an assassin? A good guy? A bad guy? And who’s following him, anyway?

Bourne hightails it out of Zurich, heading to Paris in the company of Marie (Franka Potente), who accepts his offer of $10,000 to drive him (and another $10,000 when they get there). And of the course of the bulk of the movie, Bourne tries to reconstruct his life – and his identities.

The movie is based on a Robert Ludlum potboiler thriller, and was made into a TV movie in 1988, with Richard Chamberlain as Jason Bourne. Having not read the book yet, I had no real expectations of the movie. Matt Damon, however, did strike me as a little too young for the role. He’s a good actor, and this is a good role for him to work on his acting chops, but he just didn’t do it for me in this movie. Damon can be appealing at times, but he’s still relatively early in his career, and just not the heavyweight that this role seemed to demand. He seemed very unsure of himself (although, of course, Bourne’s very unsure, not knowing who he is or what he’s become), veering at times from strong-willed action hero to puzzled milquetoast.

As Marie, Potente isn’t half bad – she’s actually very good, and she gets better as the movie progresses. She’s a wanderer without a real home, much like Bourne, and Potente does a fine job of essaying her character’s change from someone being forced on a mission to a faithful sidekick, of sorts.

Another problem is the lack of chemistry between Damon and Potente. The scenes they shared – and there were plenty – should have been sizzling, but they pretty much died in terms of chemistry. Luckily, there was plenty of action surrounding them to make up for this failing.

The worst problem, however, was the directing itself. Doug Liman (Swingers) is a pretty good director, but this was his first shot at a spy thriller. Too bad he dropped the ball – the pacing is absolutely leaden throughout much of the film. Either a lot of things were happening – which can be good, as it disguises plot holes – or nothing was happening. If providing a sense of atmosphere was the goal, the film did not succeed.

The writing itself was pretty crisp, although the characters were a little flat (and, aside from the two leads, they were caricatures, including Cooper’s Machiavellian bad guy). The explosions and car chases were great, but that’s become the norm for these films.

The Bourne Identity: 5

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