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The Bourne Identity

Starring Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Chris Cooper, Clive Owen, Julia Stiles
Screenplay by W. Blake Herron, Tony Gilroy, David Self
Based on the novel by Robert Ludlum
Directed by Doug Liman

IN SHORT: Extra cheese on that popcorn. Thank you very much. [Rated PG-13 for violence and some language. 120 minutes]

A body is floating in the Mediterranean, off the coast of France. It's sheer luck that a ratty fishing trawler finds the guy -- in the middle of a torrential rain storm -- and saves his life. Sometimes, though, luck is not a good thing. The body has two bullets in its back, a laser thingie planted in his hip and no memory of who or what he is. Meet "Jason Bourne" (Matt Damon, click for CrankyCritic® StarTalk) and join his quest for his Identity.

Remember the days when the CIA was considered a superslick, slightly sinister spy organization which kept its mouth shut and let writers like Ian Fleming (for the Brits) and Robert Ludlum concoct fanciful tales and plant the notion that our Agency could, at the push of a button, locate and tell you everything about anybody anywhere in the world? That the Agency was so powerful that no enemy was safe and no target too small to take down? 9-11 put an end to those notions and, considering the amount of lead time needed to turn a best selling novel into a would be movie monster, put the kibosh on almost any hope The Bourne Identity had at the latter. Stripped of any believability, it's still got enough action to make it a laughable popcorn flick.

That laser thingie guides the mystery man to a bank in Zurich -- already local cops are narrowing in on his trail -- and a safe deposit box therein provides a ton of cash and at least two different identities. A breakneck chase through the streets of town leads to a fracas in the American embassy and an offer of 20 grand in cash to itinerant student Marie Kreutz (Franka Potente) for a ride to Paris, where one of the identities seems to have an address.

Take a deep breath at this point folks, 'cuz it's a long ride until the next car chase and/or fight scene. Jason can't remember his name or occupation, but he can climb building walls like Spider-Man; he's got no problem handling three different languages, a number of hand to hand fighting styles and an assortment of weapons (with and without bullets) or the babe who is now deep in the number two as our beloved CIA, based on a grainy photograph taken by a spy camera (of which there must be, like, thousands all over Europe) know everything about Marie. Every job. Every place of residence. Whether she uses tampons or pads. You know, everything. Ultimately, Bourne tracks clues which point towards African Warlord Nykwana Wombosi (Adelwale Akinnoye-Agbaje) who has been threatening to blackmail the CIA top dogs in Langley, Black Ops Agent Ted Conklin (Chris Cooper) rides herd, before Congress can start asking difficult questions.

We didn't feel like we were missing much from the Source Material -- we don't compare to the Source as it is -- but Doug Liman's direction has awkward pacing, like going from zero to sixty in no time flat -- that our disbelief in the story was compounded. The Bourne Identity is good for a laugh and has enough action that it'll make kidlets happy to get fist deep in the golden flavored topping. As a stand alone spy thriller, there's little mystery and less suspense.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Bourne Identity, he would have paid . . .


Matt Damon does fine in a role that may have had more punch to it pre 9-11. As we said above, sometimes luck is bad. The Bourne Identity novel was first of a trilogy. We doubt you'll see the rest of 'em on the big screen.

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The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.