A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 220 – The Bourne Identity

The Bourne Identity – October 6th, 2010

I have no good reason for not having seen this or its sequels before. None whatsoever. It wasn’t overhype. It wasn’t any particular objection. I don’t have issues with any of the main cast or the director. I like spy movies and thrillers when I’m in the mood. And that’s about it. I’ve just never quite been in the right mood at a time when I have time to watch a movie. This is something that happens to me. I want to put something in, but I’m in the mood for something in particular. Usually something mindless so it can be background noise. And a movie like this isn’t background noise. You kind of want to pay attention so you know what the hell is going on.

While this is ostensibly a sort of super spy thriller, it is one with an inherent mystery going on. It’s not a case of figuring out who’s the bad guy and all. In this case the bad guys are a somewhat dark grey area, but who they are isn’t a question. We know that there’s a somewhat secretive government-funded program that has something to do with our main character and what’s going on around him. But our main character doesn’t know who he is. He doesn’t know what he does or why he was found floating in the ocean, shot in the back, with the number for a Swiss bank deposit box embedded in his hip. He can’t remember, but signs point to him being a dangerous man of some sort. So the mystery and thrill aren’t about a spy or secret agent going on a mission to stop a villain. They’re about a man with all the skills we associate with the baddest of badasses who has no idea why he knows fifty ways to kill someone with a pen. That’s some damn good suspense right there.

So yeah, Jason Bourne, found floating in the Mediterranean, totally clueless as to his identity and prior life, ends up finding out he was kind of working for the US government and they’re kind of pissed he went AWOL on them. The thing is, since he has no idea who he is or what he should be doing, according to procedure, he does it all wrong. I’d say this is a serious lapse in the handling and training protocols for such agents. Seriously, these are dudes who run a major risk for getting a knock on the head, and no one thought maybe keeping a tail on them in case of a slip-up was a good plan? Anyhow, the movie revolves around this sort of dance between Bourne, learning about his past and what sort of man he was prior to his memory loss, and the government agency who sent him out and their other operatives.

It’s a beautifully choreographed film. Every move Jason and Marie (a woman he accidentally ends up involving in the whole mess) make is countered by Conklin, the man in charge of the operation. Good suspense should, rightfully, be a chess game. An uneven one. Where one side of the board has managed to queen a couple of pawns and still has a knight in play and the other has a single rook and maybe a pawn locked up somewhere mid-board. And in the case of this movie, the player with the rook doesn’t know where the other player’s king is. Sort of like Battleship. I think I’ve just invented something evil. Moving on.

The whole movie is set up so that the audience knows more of what’s going on than Bourne does. We get to see the folks in Washington talking about how an agent has gone missing and we get to see when they track him down and have footage of him he doesn’t know exists. We see when they have a woman named Nicky doing surveillance on him from a safe house in Paris and he doesn’t know she exists (and might I mention, Julia Stiles as Nicky is awesome even though she’s in like, five minutes of the movie). We see other operatives in other cities, mobilizing and getting ready in case Bourne comes their way and he has no idea to watch for them. The enemy isn’t some shadowy threat from a foreign power. The enemy is a friend. The worst kind of friend. The sort of friend who doesn’t jump off a bridge and get you to come with, they get you to do it first.

I greatly enjoyed this tonight. I’m a little sorry I hadn’t seen it before, but I think I was right that I need to be in the right mood. Andy happened to suggest it and the timing of the trilogy works well for tonight, tomorrow and Friday, and I happened to be up for a thriller that demanded my attention. Perfect combo, right there. I’m looking forward to the other movies tomorrow and Friday, even if Clive Owen won’t be in them (another awesome role that only got a handful of shots). They’ll have Matt Damon, and I’m really liking him in this, so that’s a very good thing. And IMDB tells me Franka Potente and Julia Stiles are back, so that’s a yay. And there’s the promise of Karl Urban and Marton Csokas. Sounds like a good cast and if the others are as good as the first I’m sure I’ll be happy.

October 6, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Bourne Identity

October 6, 2010

The Bourne Identity

Back in 2002 a group of people made a movie which was supposed to be he start of a new franchise in the spirit of James Bond. It involved a roguish new kind of super spy and was full of quips, explosions, gadgets and even had a couple big-name actors. Actors like Vin Diesel and Samuel L. Jackson. That movie was called XxX and it failed to launch a James Bond killing franchise (though it did have a sequel, so it wasn’t a complete failure.) Instead it was this wickedly cool adaptation of a Robert Ludlum novel about a reluctant amnesiac super spy that created the new standard for super spydom and forced the re-invention of the Bond franchise.

It’s easy to see why this one movie re-defined the whole spy genre. It combines a smart and thrilling plot with a ton of fantastic action. It doesn’t stray into the realms of the impossible as so often happens with action adventure. Everything is plausible, but also larger than life.

The action starts when a fishing vessel of the shore of France comes upon a body floating in the water. They recover the poor wetsuit garbed corpse only to discover that the guy isn’t quite dead. He’s been shot, but he isn’t dead. The ship’s doctor, while removing the bullets from the stranger’s back, comes upon a sort of mini laser pointer embedded under the skin on his hip. This laser pointer holds the number of a bank account in Zurich, and is the only hint at all as to the stranger’s identity since he himself has completely lost his memory.

So it’s off to Zurich where the stranger finds that his name is most probably Jason Bourne (at least that is the name on one of the many passports in his Swiss safety deposit box.) He also finds a whole bunch of money in all different currencies and a gun. Soon he is being chased by the Swiss police and discovers that he has uncanny combat ability in addition to a number of different identities and money.

Jason flees to France with a young woman he meets after escaping the police in Switzerland. Marie is a German drifter with financial problems who can’t resist when Jason shows up and hands her $10,000 for a ride to Paris. You can kind of see where things are going to go from there. Jason and Marie find themselves chased all over France by a shadowy organization run from deep within the CIA. He desperately wants to know who he is, and there are powerful people who simply want him eradicated because his very existence is a political liability for them.

I won’t say that it is not formulaic. But that’s part of the appeal. It’s a straight forward thriller about a single man against all the might of an organised group of top secret agents with unlimited funds. Of course there is romance. Of course there is a show-stopping car chase through the streets of Paris. (Which reminds me, I need to buy Ronin some day.) Of course there are assassins and double dealings. The only question is how will Jason emerge alive and who or what is Treadstone.

The degree of success for the movie is in part due to the great cast collected to play the characters. Matt Damon is perfect as the bewildered man himself who has all these amazing abilities but cannot figure out how he knows how to do all these things. I absolutely loved seeing Franka Potenete as Marie, since Run, Lola, Run is one of my favorite movies of all time. Brian Cox seems born to play the commander of a secret military/spy operation. Chris Cooper is perfect as the man in charge of finding Bourne and bringing him down. And it’s a delight as well to see Julia Styles as Nicky, the head of the French headquarters for Treadstone, who is not staffed for this.

Another part of what is so wonderful about the film is the great direction by Doug Liman. Everything is so hard edged and brutal. The action has a sort of elegant harshness to it. There’s fantastic fight choreography and some amazing stunt driving. And oh, the locations. Like any proper super-secret-super-spy movie there are tons of striking foreign locales on display.

After watching this movie XxX is a lumbering lummox and James Bond is a sex-starved snob. Jason Bourne is the wounded everyman of super spies and as such is far more relateable. It’s easy to see why more Bourne movies soon followed this one, and tomorrow I look forward to talking some about just how well they live up to the high level set by the first movie.

October 6, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | 2 Comments