The Bourne Identity
‘The Borne Identity’, released in the year 2002, is a fascinating action-thriller flick. The movie borrows plot elements, characters and the title from a popular spy novel written by Robert Ludlum during the Cold War era. The movie is about a CIA operative who loses his memory and sets outs on a quest to reclaim his identity. He also faces the twin challenge of surviving his own doubts about his past and escaping from assassins hired by his own agency to hunt him down. The plotline is quite strong, if not unique, and has enough juice to keep the viewer interested till the very end.
The movie offers a healthy dose of fight and chase sequences to the keep viewer engrossed amidst thrilling character development, brisk pacing and solid acting. Movie Synopsis This Universal Pictures production was directed by Doug Liman, while Matt Damon stars as Jason Bourne in the lead role. The main character Bourne is found shot and half-dead in a beach and rescued by fishermen. He has no memory of his past, as he suffers from severe amnesia. The only clue that he uncovers immediately is the account number and address of a Swiss bank, beaming out of a “miniaturized laser pointer from his hip” (Younkin 2).
He desperately feels the urge to figure out his past and reclaim his identity. He begins a quest for reviving his identity by first going to Switzerland to look for answers and then follows the path laid by newly uncovered clues. In Switzerland, Bourne finds a gun and a lot of multiple currency money in his bank safety deposit. He also finds it bizarre that he possesses multiple fake passports under his name. Bourne is also surprised to learn about his exceedingly good martial art skills when confronted with a situation to fight for his life. When he tries to seek the aid of the US Embassy, more trouble awaits him.
These revelations make him uncomfortable as it brings upon the suspicion that he might have a dark past. At one point, he realizes that he has to wither accept the possibility of him being a bad individual or wander confused about his true identity for the rest of his life. Matt Damon effectively conveys feelings of paranoia when his character Bourne is overwhelmed by this internal conflict. At this juncture, Bourne meets a woman named Marie played by Franka Potente. She is in a crunch need for money and he needs immediate transportation to flee away to this next destination France.
Hence, they both agree to help out each other, as Marie strikes a deal with Bourne to transport him to Paris in exchange for $20,000 in cash. And, eventually Potente’s character turns out to be the hero’s love interest. In Paris, Bourne escapes all the assassination attempts planned against him by the CIA. Meanwhile, Marie goes flees away to safety on Bourne’s insistence. When Bourne visits the Treadstone Head Quarters, he gets back his memory about him being a CIA spy and assassin. He destroys the Treadstone operation and reunites with Marie in a remote Greek island. Characters
Clive Owen plays the role of an assassin sent by the CIA to kill Bourne since he failed in his mission of killing an African leader who threatens to expose the CIA secrets. Owen’s character, the professor, is a polished, cold, trench coat assassin who is in ruthless pursuit of Bourne. Owen nails the part to the tee with his emotionless expressions. Chris Cooper plays the role of the shady CIA officer Conklin who plans out top secret operations and makes ethically objectionable decisions behind closed doors. His character is also quite animated and annoyingly funny at times.
Julia Stiles gives a decent performance with her robotic expressions, playing a minor part of an analyst named Nicolette. Critique Movie critic Craig Younkin calls Bourne Identity a “film about a character trying to rebuild” and emphasizes the importance of steady character building in this movie (Younkin 1). Mike Clark of USA Today feels that Damon’s portrayal of Bourne is much more convincing than Richard Chamberlain’s performance in the 1988 TV version of the same movie(2). He also suggests that Demon’s being younger and his charming looks did not deter the credibility of the character.
BBC’s Neil Smith also speaks highly of Damon’s portrayal of Bourne and compares his character to the likes of “classic spies like Harry Palmer and George Smiley” (2). However, he harshly criticizes the movie for not completely harnessing the acting prowess of Potente who showed great potential in the popular movie ‘Run Lola Run’. However, Charles Taylor of Salon. com considers Potente as the “movie’s biggest human factor” (5). He perceives Potente’s character Marie as humane since she “watches frozen and scared” when Bourne is busy fighting with assassins, thereby providing “tenderness in the midst of violence” (Taylor 4).
Rob Gonsalves of eFilm Critic points out that Matt Damon’s natural appearance characterized by a “mixture of hard and soft features” makes him look “both defined and blank” (2). He perceives Bourne’s character as someone whose “mind forgot who he is but his body remembers very well” (2). Gonsalves feels this Damon’s attributes and acting work well for Bourne’s character that has no memory of his personal life, but still is proficient in certain survival skills such as speaking different languages and martial arts.
He also compares this movie to the critically acclaimed thriller Memento, since the lead characters in both films suffer from the same condition while striving hard to uncover their identity and past. Margaret McGurk of the Cincinnati Enquirer is all praise for the director Liman, as she suggests that the movie’s “urgent pace helps play down some of the awkward plot holes” (8). She feels that that plot in most movies in this genre do tend to be lacking at times, since the primary focus is on the main character and only little time is left for explaining plotlines in detail.
McGurk also appreciates the director for smartly muting the background score at the right time. Liman also receives praise from Top critic Colin Covert of the Star Tribune for his realistic style and paying “precise attention to detail”, especially in the car chase scene staged in Paris (6). Movie critic Jeremy Heilman of MovieMartyr. com points that the film’s weakness lies in the “lack of a strong villain” character and the absence of a concrete reason behind CIA’s desire to get rid of Bourne (3). He also feels that the films seems incomplete as a “number of plot threads remain untied” (Heilman 3).
The movie’s main character is well developed and the storyline of the movie left enough room to make decent sequels, in the form of ‘The Bourne Supremacy’ and ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’. Editing Technique The classical Hollywood editing approach is geared to toward achieving continuity by adopting editing techniques such as matching shots, cutting for reaction and cutting on action. However, the editors of the movie break out from convention, by capturing action on the fly and cutting for movement. This enables the audience to view action sequences exactly from Bourne’s shoes.
The end results of this technique can be quite confusing and unsettling to the viewer, since there is always an element of uncertainty. Unlike usual action flicks, this movie’s editing does not ignore the consequences of the main character’s actions on other characters, thereby adding a touch of realism. In a way, this movie is not only entertaining but also makes the audience relate to the consequence of violence. Lighting and Cinematography The lighting and colors are quite dark to be reflective of the nature of the subject being handled in the movie.
The movie follows quite a contemporary style of storytelling in this genre. The opening scene of the movie starts with a unique shot where we see Bourne’s body from underneath, through the water. The movie’s action sequences were shot and edited in way to provide a sense of realism, usually experienced in documentaries. The film is visually appealing as it showcases scenic locations in Zurich, Prague and Paris. The final scene set in the Greek island of Mykonos is testament to the movie’s refined visual treatment. Conclusion
One has to remember that this movie came out in 2002, just a few months after the tragic events of 9/11 when the CIA’s operational methods came under the microscope. Hence, it is natural for the audience to expect an element of relevance to real-world events. Applying political connotations to this movie would have only worsened the socio-political climate. According to A. O. Scott of the New York Times, this movie is just a work of fiction and has nothing to do with current or past world happenings, thereby providing “something of a relief” (6).
He further says Ludlum’s work is purely a fictional thriller, and does not intend on stimulating ethical dilemmas or posing questions over troubling geopolitical issues (Scott 6). Although the movie is not a typical action flick filled to the brim with action sequences and special effects, it does succeed in providing heart-pounding action to the viewer. Works Cited Page Covert, Colin. 24 March 2007. “Bourne Identity is a scorching thriller”. Star Tribune. (June 13 2002). 24 March 2007. <http://www. startribune. com/entertainment/movies/11521476. html> Clark, Mike. “Bourne plays old-school spy game”.
USA Today. (14 June 2002). 24 March 2007. <http://www. usatoday. com/life/movies/2002/2002-06-14-bourne-identity-review. htm> Gonsalves, Rob. “The Bourne Identity”. eFilmCritic. 24 March 2007. <http://efilmcritic. com/review. php? movie=4637&reviewer=416> Heilman, Jeremy. “The Bourne Identity (Doug Liman) 2002”. 24 March 2007. <http://www. moviemartyr. com/2002/bourneidentity. htm> McGurk, Margaret. “Bourne to Thrill”. Cincinnati Enquirer. (14 June 2002). 24 March 2007. <http://www. cincinnati. com/freetime/movies/mcgurk/061402_bourneindentity. html> Scott, A. , O. “He Knows a Lot, Just Not His Name”.
New York Times. (14 June 2002). 24 March 2007. <http://query. nytimes. com/gst/fullpage. html? res=9C02EFD7143CF937A25755C0A9649C8B63> Smith, Neil. “The Bourne Identity”. British Broadcasting Corporation. (September 2002). 24 March 2007. <http://www. bbc. co. uk/films/2002/08/16/the_bourne_identity_2002_review. shtml> Taylor, Charles. “The Bourne Identity”. Salon. (14 June 2002). 24 March 2007. <http://dir. salon. com/story/ent/movies/review/2002/06/14/bourne/index. html> Younkin, Craig. “Reviews; The Bourne Identity”. MovieFreak. 24 March 2007. <http://www. moviefreak. com/reviews/b/bourneidentity. htm>