Bourne Identity, The

Stars: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Chris Cooper, Brian Cox, Clive Owen, Judy Parfitt, Gabriel Mann
Director: Doug Liman
Writers: Tony Gilroy, W. Blake Herron, based on the novel by Robert Ludlum

With a top notch premise, superb action and interesting characters, The Bourne Identity is a slick and exciting espionage thriller.

Filmed in Paris, Prague, Italy and Greece, the settings are perfect for all sorts of international intrigue caused when a CIA agent fails his assignment to assassinate a former African leader, ends up injured and missing for two weeks then resurfaces an amnesiac only to discover that people want him dead, make that lots of people.

Matt Damon may be an unusual choice for CIA agent Jason Bourne, but as conceived, he’s believable in the part. Nicely buffed, Damon did his homework before filming and he makes the fight scenes look good.

In the story, Bourne is found unconscious, floating in the Mediterranean by Italian fishermen. He’s hauled on board and it’s discovered that he has two bullet holes in his back and a capsule containing a Swiss bank account number embedded under his flesh. Once back on shore, he goes about trying to discover who he is. First stop is Switzerland. He finds some clues in a safe deposit box at the bank. Of the many possible identities found there, he chooses the passport of American citizen Jason Bourne of Paris as his true identity. Good pick. He goes next to the American embassy where he’s recognized and the entire Marine contingent is after him. It seems the CIA believes he’s compromised one of their secret projects and has put the word out that he should be captured. Better still, they want him dead.

Using his tremendous fighting and undercover skills, Bourne escapes and elicits the help of a woman, Marie (Franka Potente of Run Lola Run fame), he saw earlier inside the embassy. Knowing she needs money, he offers her $10,000 to drive him to Paris. It’s a good cat and mouse chase from this point on, with exciting car chases through the narrow streets and alleys of Paris and even down a steep flight of steps. Police are after him everywhere he goes; CIA assassins come crashing through his Paris apartment windows or hide nearby trying to pick him off with sniper rifles. Marie has a chance to leave him, but she stays on, convinced is his ultimate goodness. Franka Potente is a not a pretty face, really, but she’s got a good face and I loved her in Run Lola Run. She portrays Marie in all her confusion and sincerity with finesse.

Also features Chris Cooper as CIA handler Conklin and Brian Cox as CIA director Ward Abbott; Clive Owen plays the sniper, known as The Professor. Julia Stiles appears in a small role as Nicolette the CIA’s Paris contact.

Lotta says: Despite several plot holes The Bourne Identity is top notch from top to bottom. Some thoughts: Why doesn’t Bourne ever get rid of the very obvious red bank duffle bag? What’s with the odd headaches that are mentioned but never explained? Would the CIA simply order a hit on such a valuable commodity as a guy like Bourne before trying to find out what had happened to him?

Reviewed 6/14/02