The Bourne Identity

Directed By: Doug Liman

Starring: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Chris Cooper, Clive Owen, Brian Cox, Julia Stiles, and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

"You're worried about a budget meeting?  If we don't take care of this, we don't make it to the men's room.  We will burn for this.  We will both burn for this."
-Alexander Conklin (Chris Cooper)

In the world of spy movies, there are three guys who have burnt more baddies than anyone else — James Bond, Ethan Hunt, and Jason Bourne.  Then, there's everyone else.  It just doesn't get any better than these guys.  Each of these master spies brings something different to the table.  Bond sips martinis and beds lots of women.  Hunt does the impossible time and time again.  Bourne just wants to know who he is and is trying to get rid of a splitting headache.  With the upcoming release of The Bourne Legacy next month, now is as good a time as any to revisit this rogue spy's debut to the big screen in The Bourne Identity.

Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is a tortured soul.  Rescued from the depths of the Mediterranean off the coast of Marseilles, he's been shot in the back twice and now suffers from amnesia.  He has no idea who he is or how he ended up floating in the sea with two bullets in his back.  The only thing he has to help him figure out his identity is the account number to a safe deposit box in Zurich, Switzerland.  With a little money given to him from the man who rescued him at sea, Bourne travels to Zurich.

While asleep on a bench in the park one night, he is awakened by two cops who are requesting he leave the park.  When he debates the matter with them in German, they try to arrest him.  Bourne proceeds to beat the holy hell out of the guards.  Now aware that he's fluent in German and skilled in hand-to-hand combat, Bourne proceeds to the bank to find cash in various currencies, passports with different aliases, and a handgun.  What he doesn't know is that he is a secret agent who's failed to complete a mission, namely the assassination of African politician Nykwana Wombosi (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), and that the CIA is looking for him.

A bank employee informs a special branch of the CIA known as Treadstone that Bourne is in Zurich.  Alexander Conklin (Cooper), the head of the Treadstone operation, is anxious to learn of Bourne's whereabouts as he struggles to explain the failed assassination attempt on Wombosi to his superior, Deputy Director Ward Abbott (Brian Cox).  Meanwhile, Conklin sends local Swiss police to pursue Bourne, who flees to the U.S. Consulate where Conklin sends consulate officials after him.  As he continues to flee, Bourne meets Marie Helena Kreutz (Franka Potente) whom he offers $20,000 for a ride to Paris in an effort to escape this madness and learn more about who he actually is.

It's rare that an action movie is built on solid acting, grounded, realistic filmmaking, and strong writing, but The Bourne Identity is a flick that goes against the grain.  Director Doug Liman has crafted a well-paced, action-packed spy thriller that opens up a whole new world of lies and deceit for moviegoers.  Liman creates a grim world where paranoia is the new norm.  You can hear it in the dark music.  You can sense it in the film's brooding pace.  You can feel it in the tense writing.  In The Bourne Identity, Liman gives us a spy thriller where paranoia is justified because nobody does the right thing.

The film is fueled by strong performances from the cast.  As the title character Jason Bourne, Matt Damon gives us something he had never had to give audiences previously — an action star.  As Bourne, he's kicking ass, taking names, and trying to get rid of a splitting headache.  He's perfect for this master spy facing an identity crisis.  Aside from Damon's Bourne, my favorite character in the film has to be Chris Cooper's Alexander Conklin.  This guy is talking trash and not taking any crap from anyone along the way.  His fiery performance is filled with plenty of great one-liners.  Beyond these two, other standouts include Brian Cox's wily CIA deputy director Ward Abbott and Franka Potente's Marie who gives the film its moral compass.

One of the things I love about the Bourne flicks is that you get a taste of so many cities across Europe.  Before Woody Allen's travel series, the Bourne movies were the films that took me everywhere I'd like to be on any given day.  In The Bourne Identity alone, you'll get a taste of France, Switzerland, and Greece.  Despite the dark tone and cinematography of the film, the cities shown throughout The Bourne Identity are absolutely breathtaking.  That's my kind of setting for a movie.

The Bourne Identity is a fitting opening installment for the long-running spy franchise.  With great filmmaking from Doug Liman, strong performances from the cast, and some incredible scenery, The Bourne Identity is a hard film not to enjoy.  A few wine coolers will do for this one.  This first installment in the Bourne series gets a 0.03% rating.