A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

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 | , ,


  1. Wait a minute. Didn’t Brian Cox already play the commander of a secret military/spy operation trying to deal with an amnesiac super agent in “The Long Kiss Goodnight”?

    Comment by Doc Wheat | October 6, 2010 | Reply

    • Don’t forget when he played the commander of a secret military/mutant operation trying to deal with an amnesiac Wolverine in X2!

      Comment by ajmovies | October 6, 2010 | Reply

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