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Overall Rating

Awesome: 22.88%
Worth A Look40.52%
Average: 20.92%
Pretty Bad: 13.07%
Total Crap: 2.61%

7 reviews, 111 user ratings

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Bourne Identity, The (2002)
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by Rob Gonsalves

"See it, enjoy it, forget it within five minutes..."
3 stars

Thoroughly cool (scene for scene) and just as thoroughly forgettable, 'The Bourne Identity' has some of the pared-down, businesslike thrills of 'Ronin' but little of its personality.

You enjoy it while you're there, but once you've seen it, you've seen it -- you don't feel as though there are secrets and meanings tucked away in dark corners, as you do with a more artful thriller like Christopher Nolan's Memento (or his more recent movie, Insomnia). Many, indeed, will compare this film to Memento, and for good reason: Both are about mysterious protagonists who can't remember anything, and who, we suspect, don't want to remember. But Memento immersed the audience in the hero's disorientation, while The Bourne Identity is just another thrill ride, though a reasonably well-crafted one.

Something about Matt Damon -- his mixture of hard and soft features, maybe -- has compelled directors to put him in one identity crisis after another. He seems both defined and blank, which works well for his character here, Jason Bourne, who has no memory of who he is but knows he has certain talents for survival. He has six different passports (under different names) stashed away, he finds (to his surprise) that he can speak a variety of languages, and when cornered he instinctively lashes out in devastating self-defense -- it's as if his mind forgot who he is but his body remembers very well.

The CIA, led by a frowning Chris Cooper, wants to find Bourne, or kill him, or both. Bourne isn't sure which, so he flees to Paris, along with a German drifter named Marie (Franka Potente, of Run Lola Run), whom he entices with $10,000 and the promise of more. For Marie, the trip soon becomes less about the money than about the adventure; though Marie's character is drawn even more sketchily than Bourne's, the dynamic and entrancing Potente gives the movie a badly needed shot of what-the-hell spirit. Terrified in moments of danger, Marie nonetheless gets it together enough to yell at an assassin, demanding to know where he got her picture. Potente also lends the movie a good helping of Euro-style, particularly after her hair is cropped short and dyed black and she appears in a black turtleneck; she's like a beatnik in the middle of a blockbuster, and she's just irrefutably cool.

Written by Tony Gilroy and William Blake Herron, based on a Robert Ludlum thriller (it was adapted before as a 1988 miniseries, with Richard Chamberlain), The Bourne Identity doesn't bother much with the reality of what it might be like to discover gradually that one is, at the very least, a highly skilled government agent of some sort, or maybe worse. Damon slips into foreign tongues and has the wit to show a flash of bemusement -- "I know this?" he might be thinking -- but I would've liked to have seen him feeling triumphant, or horrified, or something, in the aftermath of his violence. Director Doug Liman, in a sharp change of pace from his earlier Swingers and Go, doesn't seem interested in Bourne's morality; he's just along for the ride.

And it's occasionally a satisfying one. Bourne's reflexive genius at getting out of any sticky situation becomes something of a joke (one that I wish we were encouraged to share in); he has a brief, savage bout with an assassin in a hotel room, and a nicely staged encounter with another assassin in a field of tall grass. There's also a supremely bumpy car chase over the cobblestones of Paris that -- perhaps because Franka Potente is riding shotgun, caught between panic and ecstasy -- manages to be strangely charming. The Bourne Identity does the job, but it's a very basic job; I can't work up a lot of respect for a movie that relegates fine actors like Brian Cox, Julia Stiles, and the imposing Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (late of HBO's prison series Oz) to glorified walk-ons.

The movie is about muscular speed and skill, and that's all it's about. Like its hero, it's blank by design.

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originally posted: 01/26/07 11:21:57
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell great start to the franchise 5 stars
6/08/14 The king The film that started it all 5 stars
8/26/13 DB It's OK. The classic James Bond movies are way better. 3 stars
9/03/12 Courtney A quintessential action movie. Worth a watch. 4 stars
2/07/11 Pamela White Great spy drama with thought out action scenes, a hit 5 stars
10/30/09 MP Bartley In danger of being unfairly overshadowed by the admittedly superior sequels. 4 stars
10/28/08 blah blah fucking great fuck off the rest of you losers 5 stars
7/24/08 Shaun Wallner This ones ok. 3 stars
7/06/08 James Liman and Damon deliver a tense action thriller 4 stars
7/04/08 greasy steve this film was embarassingly bad. the emperor's new clothes 1 stars
1/26/08 Pamela White suspense, suspense and action great 5 stars
1/03/08 Heywood Jablowme Top-shelf thriller....even though his gf looks like a dude... 5 stars
12/13/07 davidbobo20 Best action movie since 007. 5 stars
10/12/07 Charles I wish someone in the production had read more than the dust jacket... still entertaining. 3 stars
6/28/07 gr117 Incredible! 5 stars
11/04/06 becky entertaining, but not worth buying 3 stars
5/26/06 William Goss Highly enjoyable spy thriller, if only for that car chase. 4 stars
11/21/05 Quigley one of my favorite films. matt damon was awesome, and the action and story were amazing 5 stars
11/08/05 Michael An Enjoyable Movie 4 stars
8/19/05 ES Exceptional movie followed by and even better sequel 4 stars
8/12/05 Kelly amazing action scenes and story even if it doesnt follow the book 5 stars
3/26/05 Denise good 3 stars
3/24/05 Charlie Better than the second one. Awesome car chase. 5 stars
3/18/05 B. D. Cole I'm not much of an action movie fan, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one 4 stars
3/15/05 cinkcool I can understand plot deviations from the book, after the first 20 mins this is not like it 3 stars
3/13/05 Tamara Burks I've read the book so I knew the basic plot but this was an excellent update 5 stars
3/04/05 Chris Stephens One of the best action movies I have seen 4 stars
2/26/05 James Kiang Excellent addition to the spy genre. 4 stars
2/23/05 julia great movie 5 stars
2/23/05 gracecchu Awesome movie, the sequel is also good. 5 stars
2/22/05 Debora Browning Good Movie liked it alot 4 stars
2/20/05 Charlene Javier Damon is hot! 4 stars
2/19/05 Diane Stahlman GOOD 4 stars
2/19/05 april gupton first one was better 2 stars
2/18/05 Eileen Lammers I expected more... so I was disappointed! 3 stars
2/18/05 Fahad Pinto great plot, good details 4 stars
2/18/05 dian anderson IF YOU HAVE NOTHING ELSE TO DO 3 stars
2/17/05 Dusty Johnson Great movie - my wife and I both liked it! Good story line from novel. 5 stars
2/17/05 Lisa Jochelson I enjoyed this movie, it kept me on the edge of my seat and frankly Matt Damone is hot. 5 stars
2/15/05 Joshua Lenti-Jones better than the recent bond flicks 5 stars
2/14/05 Angela Saunders Fast moving sequel, worth watching! 4 stars
1/07/05 Edisana Odudu I wish Julia Stiles were bare in it rather than barely in it! 4 stars
12/27/04 The Mockingbird very efficient, does everything a spy movie can, and matt is endearing or hot or something 4 stars
12/05/04 Kristina Williams Matt as a secret agent works. he's plain, unlike this flick. 5 stars
12/01/04 R.W. Welch Best Secret Agent Man pic in a while tho it gets a bit flakey towards the end. Good perfs. 4 stars
11/03/04 Stevo Better than any other spy genre out there 4 stars
8/30/04 Archanist 101 Now this is even better than another "007: Die Another Day" 5 stars
8/27/04 Aaron Smith awesome intrigue; Franka key part of movie 5 stars
8/03/04 Blair everything a movie should be 5 stars
7/24/04 The music was loud, so I stayed awake. Lots of chaos. Very little meaning. Inept. . 2 stars
7/04/04 Daveman Not worth your time, unless you're obsessed with the mundane spy thriller genre. 2 stars
5/14/04 Agent Sands Lots of fun. Good action. 4 stars
5/07/04 Ross Recommend the book, but movie is just as good. 4 stars
4/07/04 Sig Very intertaining, cant wait for the sequeal, "Bourne Supremacy" in 2004 5 stars
2/10/04 Jun Abuyen ok but it's a short movie 4 stars
2/04/04 Charles Tatum Smart thriller, 007 writers should take notes 4 stars
12/20/03 Kent okay. Not bad 3 stars
12/16/03 HorrorScribbler Entertaining spy stuff. Good supporting cast. 4 stars
9/22/03 Rinse Really good, Franka=HOTTTTT 5 stars
9/03/03 Alex Damon has the screen presence of a indoor plant + the chick was fugly 2 stars
6/08/03 jlh I liked it. Not great, but well done. 4 stars
5/21/03 djacosta Nothing special 3 stars
5/17/03 R.W. Welch Somewhat familiar plot line but smartly done. 4 stars
5/11/03 Mystique cool action-scenes 4 stars
4/20/03 Dillon I really enjoyed it & I like everyone in the cast, esp. Clive & Franka 5 stars
4/17/03 Blubberbot basic hollywood action film 2 stars
4/16/03 Maegs Hey, I liked it. 4 stars
4/12/03 me good 4 stars
3/26/03 mitchell macari good 4 stars
3/13/03 Archmage Merlin Not enough action. Needs more pyrotechnics or something 2 stars
3/01/03 Monday Morning Wish he could have hit a few of those cheese-eating surrender monkeys during car chase. 2 stars
2/15/03 Chris Nothing new. Nothing bad either. 4 stars
2/15/03 Chris Nothing new. Nothing bad either. 4 stars
2/08/03 mr. Pink The best action film of 2002! An exciting and sometimes over-the-top movie! 4 stars
2/06/03 chuck could have been a better plot. 4 stars
2/06/03 123 This movie ain't special. With its predictable boring plot i can't see anything exciting 3 stars
1/29/03 Clice Owen se he was more interesting then Matt Damon. Action Good Plot Slow. 3 stars
1/28/03 Terry Gatton & Chris Cole We give it two king ding dongs up!!! 4 stars
1/08/03 George Nedelchev Surpisingly bad 1 stars
12/31/02 Tam Damon & action scenes are good, but the plot drags towards its anti-climax of an ending. 3 stars
10/30/02 spacecowboy oh come on, whoever reckons this is shit needs to have their head checked. 5 stars
10/05/02 Matthew Smith one of the most enjoyable action thrillers of the year, great car chase 5 stars
10/04/02 MovieJunky Mediocre, but I expected it to be worse. Franka is nice. 4 stars
10/03/02 Digi interesting story, boring everything else 3 stars
9/29/02 the spacecowboy thoroughly enjoyable. 5 stars
9/29/02 Peter Sherlock Another American formula movie. Rubbish for the braindead. 1 stars
8/22/02 Jerry Predictable Ending, Puts the Crap in CRAP 1 stars
8/07/02 I Can't Swim Anything with Franka & Clive must be seen & must be fantastic..oh, Matt was okay I guess 5 stars
7/20/02 ??? matt damon did great 5 stars
7/16/02 Carl To say this film is of an outdated genre dressed in modern technology is an understatement. 2 stars
6/25/02 Mike Nothing like the book. Hopefully the Bourne Supremacy will have some semblance of a plot. 4 stars
6/24/02 Film Afficianado Stock action film, predictable from the time you figure out what is going on 1/3 into it. 3 stars
6/23/02 cleansparks not bad, a bit predictable, but kept my attention 4 stars
6/22/02 Joanne Good Matt eye candy! 5 stars
6/22/02 Obi Wan Not bad for a first Action vehicle Matt . . . 4 stars
6/21/02 Jonathan Only real complaint was that I thought the car chase was way too drawn out, awesome besides 4 stars
6/18/02 Nick2k damn this movie was good. chockful of suspense. yes, i noticed the daylight too. 5 stars
6/18/02 wintermute Did anyone notice the HUGE daylight/nighttime continuity error in the 2nd to last scene? 3 stars
6/17/02 brent young a great way to spend some cash & some time... it was fun. somewhere between 4 & 5 stars... 4 stars
6/17/02 Ben It's OK. 3 Days of the Condor and The Day of the Jackal are much better. 3 stars
6/17/02 "Yes the shit." Yes. Entertaining and fun. No horribly original but fun. 4 stars
6/16/02 Paul Taylor Definitely on the high end of "worth a look". A solid film. 4 stars
6/16/02 natasha smart, interesting, a little outside of the ordinary--well done 5 stars
6/16/02 strider3700 Actually pretty good. The car chase was well done 4 stars
6/15/02 Greyjack Good, fun, well-executed film. Enjoyed the hell out of it. 4 stars
6/15/02 john wonderful 5 stars
6/15/02 Gibbo Non-stop action - lots of fun!!! 5 stars
6/15/02 Phil M. Aficionado Production is a 5, great action; story a 2 and acting a 3+; it's fine but not memorable 3 stars
6/15/02 Human Shield I had a blast. Matt Damon should be in more action movies. 5 stars
6/15/02 gunter Some remakes should not be remade; see Memento instead 3 stars
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  14-Jun-2002 (PG-13)
  DVD: 13-Jul-2004


  26-Sep-2002 (M)

Directed by
  Doug Liman

Written by
  Tony Gilroy
  David Self
  W. Blake Herron

  Matt Damon
  Chris Cooper
  Brian Cox
  Clive Owen
  Judy Parfitt
  Franka Potente

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