Movie Review

The Bourne Identity

He Was The Perfect Weapon Until He Became The Target.
The Bourne Identity Movie Poster

US Release Date: 06-14-2002

Directed by: Doug Liman


  • Matt Damon
  • Jason Bourne
  • Franka Potente
  • Marie Kreutz
  • Chris Cooper
  • Ted Conklin
  • Clive Owen
  • The Professor
  • Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
  • Nykwana Wombosi
  • Julia Stiles
  • Nicolette
  • Brian Cox
  • Ward Abbott
  • Gabriel Mann
  • Danny Zorn
  • Tim Dutton
  • Eamon
Average Stars:
Reviewed on: June 16th, 2002
Matt Damon in The Bourne Identity.

Matt Damon in The Bourne Identity.

A not completely horrible, loose adaptation of the Robert Ludlum novel, The Bourne Identity does manage to entertain with some exciting fight scenes, a so-so car chase, and the requisite number of explosions that we've all come to expect in Summer blockbusters, yet breaks no new ground and falls far short of being a really good movie.

The movie begins with an interesting enough premise.  A man (Matt Damon) is pulled from the Mediterranean sea with two bullet wounds to his back and amnesia.  The doctor on the fishing boat which rescued him, removes the two bullets and also discovers a small capsule implanted in the man's hip which contains an address and the number to a bank account in Zurich.  With that his only clue, the man heads to the bank where he discovers a safety deposit box that contains six different passports in six different names, and several hundred-thousand dollars worth of cash in different currencies.  Along the way he also discovers that he knows how to fight and kill.  He is left with the question, just who the hell am I and what happened that left me near death in the water?

This is where the movie makes its mistake.  Instead of being a mystery, slowly solved, it immediately cuts to C.I.A. headquarters where we the audience learn exactly who he is and what happened.  This early revelation of Jason Bourne's identity, removes most of the suspense from the film and the rest is simply momentum.

Matt Damon, whom I've never been a huge fan of, does a decent job in this role.  He handles the action well, which is mostly what is required of him in this Disneyfied Bond movie.

The plot, what there is of it, is simply the chasing and hunting of Jason Bourne and the young woman he hires to drive him to Paris, by the C.I.A., who want him dead to cover-up a botched assassination  attempt which could embarrass the C.I.A. if made public.  But plot is way down on the list of priorities for this movie, falling somewhere below exotic locales, explosions, and car chases.

Little details are also skimmed over in this movie.  For instance, just how Jason is able to travel from Marseille to Zurich with no passport or other paperwork and very little money, is never touched upon.  He flits across borders with impunity.

Typical light summer fare, The Bourne Identity offers action without suspense, sex without nudity, and death without blood.  Perhaps the real reason Jason Bourne has amnesia is that his adventures are just so forgettable.

Reviewed on: June 19th, 2002
Matt Damon in The Bourne Identity.

Matt Damon in The Bourne Identity.

Being that I am noted as not being a big fan of Matt Damon, you might think that I would not like this movie. However, I did. Bourne Identity is action packed and more entertaining than Die Another Day.

Matt Damon is actually a good actor here, playing the one role he is able to play. The confused, what am I doing character. It is the character he plays in his best movies; The Talented Mr. Ripley, Good Will Hunting and Courage Under Fire.

Scott did not care for this movie, but then he liked Die Another Day. Scott didn't like the fact that this movie never explained how Jason was able to travel without a passport. Scott, you gave 3 stars to a movie that has a guy build a billion dollar satellite just to detonate land mines. What about the fake iceberg, windsurfing scene? Compared to the ridiculous plot of Die Another Day, Bourne Identity practically comes across as a true story.

The one thing I did not care for about this movie was the complete lack of any character. Sure the lead has amnesia, but at no point do we ever learn anything about him other than his true occupation. At the end of this movie when the two leads embrace I felt nothing for them. They were just parts of a nice action story. A story with little emotional involvement.

Reviewed on: November 19th, 2013
Matt Damon and Franka Potente in The Bourne Identity.

Matt Damon and Franka Potente in The Bourne Identity.

Years ago I watched the second movie in the series (Bourne Supremacy) and didn't much like it. Earlier this year I finally watched the third movie (Bourne Ultimatum) and liked it quite a bit more. Now having finally seen the Bourne Identity I can say unequivocally that the first movie in the original Bourne trilogy is by far the best. Scott, I know you have since changed your mind about this movie but I still can't believe you ever described it as a "Disneyfied Bond" movie when it is ten times more realistic than any 007 adventure.

I definitely prefer Doug Liman's direction to that of Paul Greengrass. Liman doesn't overuse the shaky hand-held camera work or overdo the quick edits nearly as much as Greengrass does in the sequels. The action scenes can be watched without all the details flying by in a blur. It gives this movie a realness and timelessness that the sequels lack. Plus, since the sequels are all just more of the same, this movie seems more original in comparison, although to be honest it's something we've seen variations of for decades.

Jason Bourne is a great character and Matt Damon is perfect in the role. He's a baby-faced killing machine. It is high entertainment watching him try to figure out his identity while trying to survive being killed. Once he learns part of the truth he struggles with the morality of his past. But the plot is secondary to the action and this movie features plenty of it. It's one of those movies where you just sit back and watch it unfold without having to put much thought into the proceedings.

Sometimes you are just in the mood for a taut espionage thriller and The Bourne Identity delivers the goods. Although it didn't make me any more anxious to see the fourth movie in the series (Bourne Legacy), with Jeremy Renner taking over the reins for Damon.

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