The Bourne Identity

2002, Movie, PG-13, 113 mins

Review

BOURNE IDENTITY, THE
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This savvy adaptation of Robert Ludlum's action-clogged 1980 bestseller benefits from the fact that the filmmakers were smart enough to throw out most of the book's preposterous spills and thrills and concentrate instead on its intriguing central character: An amnesiac who finds himself the target of some very scary assassins. Sixty miles off the coast of Marseilles, the body of a young man (Matt Damon) is pulled out of the stormy Mediterranean by the crew of a French fishing boat. To the amazement of the boat's doctor (Orso Maria-Guerrini), the man is still alive — incredible, considering that he's been shot twice in the back. But when the stranger eventually regains consciousness, he finds that the ordeal has left him with total amnesia. The only clue to the man's identity is a tiny laser device implanted just under his skin, which projects the name of a Zurich bank and the numbers of a Swiss bank account. By the time the boat reaches port, the stranger has managed to recover his health but not his memory. By the time he reaches Zurich, however, he's learned a few unsettling things about himself: He's fluent in several foreign languages; he can take out a number of men at once with his bare hands; and he can wriggle his way out of deadly situations with incredible physical skill and unnerving sangfroid. The contents of the Swiss safe-deposit box reveal his name and address: Jason Bourne, Paris. The guns, fake passports and wads of foreign currency strongly suggest that Bourne's game is international espionage. After narrowly escaping a net of Swiss police that has suddenly dropped around him, Bourne bribes a young German drifter named Marie (Franke Potente) to drive him to Paris. She agrees to do it for $20,000, but soon learns that a road trip with this particular international man of mystery could cost her her life. Ludlum's novel had Jason Bourne pursuing real-life terrorist "Carlos the Jackal" all over Europe, but director Doug Liman (SWINGERS, GO) and the screenwriting team of Tony Gilroy and William Black Herron know where the real story lies: deep inside Bourne's mind, where the decent fellow he thinks he is must confront the truth about Jason Bourne. They also know what's stale and what still works in espionage thrillers. They dispense with the glitz and complicated plotting, relying instead on great stunt work, relatively bloodless action, a winning leading man/leading lady combo and an equally offbeat supporting cast that includes the likes of Chris Cooper, Clive Owen, Brian Cox and Julia Stiles. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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