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Awesome: 22.88%
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7 reviews, 111 user ratings

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Bourne Identity, The (2002)
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by billypilgrimnz

"Gritty, dirty, paranoid spy thriller: forget XXX, this is the anti-Bond"
4 stars

If years and years of spy movies have taught us anything, it's that spying is a glamorous game. There's cool gadgets, cooler women (this espionage deal has always been the menís domain), exotic locations, and on top of this, the world to save, often at the last minute, always with panache.

Director Doug Liman, on hiatus from his usual pretty young thing pop culture groove, has different ideas. In THE BOURNE IDENTITY, the whole spying game is brought down into the everyday world, gritty, dirty, paranoid. Oh, the guns and the almost mystically precise information services are here (how about telling me where my car keys are?), but the visual style of the film is aeons away from the well-lit, glacial Bond films - it's almost THE REAL WORLD: UNDERCOVER IN PARIS (I THINK IT'S PARIS) WITH JASON BOURNE (I THINK I'M BOURNE).

Yes, the old amnesia story line makes it's reappearance for the month, and it's true that Liman doesn't have much to add to it, but apart from MEMENTO, not many films can. It's a comforting premise by it's very nature, we as an audience know what to expect - gradually uncovered identities, false trails, covert plots, annoying in-laws. Liman takes us through the usual routine, but again, refreshingly, it's a tour on a budget, Paris on a backpackers budget. He manages to get much more mileage out of the inherent paranoia generated by the fact you have an entire government agency after you (think the tax department, but less overtly vindictive), just by rooting it in reality. Even the requisite car chase is by Mini, which provides both an excellent opportunity for well-staged stunts and further distances itself from Bond.

If anything, Damon is the weak-link in the film. The side effect to the relentless publicity generated by his Oscar win for GOOD WILL HUNTING is now, every time you see him on screen, you expect him any minute to haul Ben Affleck into frame, slap him on the back and comment about the leading ladies arse. He is never believable for a second - and he continues to affect a robotic sort of body movement when he is trying to be serious, where he sort of hangs there in suspense, half-bent at the waist, like he's trying to remember his blocking instructions. It sucks the energy from a performance that is otherwise not too bad.

Luckily, Damonís costars pick up the slack. As his accomplice in flight, Potente has an air of disattached bemusement, an unwillingness to commit to anything until she reads the fine print. While this could be an annoying quality in the hands of a more precious actress, Potente's earthiness and comforting presence makes it the audiences touchstone, so when she starts trusting Bourne, we sense that maybe we should too. And she's dead sexy, not in your usual short skirt and FM pumps kind of way. There's something about her, the way her mouth pouts as she is given information, the way she slouches around, unsure where her feet are heading, or whether they are even going to go in the same direction. You want to take her and hold her, and it's the feeling that she wants you to that's the killer. She's a fantastic screen presence.

The villain of the piece is portrayed by Chris Cooper as Bourne's ranking officer of sorts, who prowls around the standard issue CIA offices, and then looks totally out of place in the cold, hard streets of Paris. His power lies in accessing and disseminating information, not in having to personally act on it. It is a rare actor that can play both convincing villians and sympathetic protagonists without overplaying one way or the other, but Cooper is one of them. Maybe it's his eyes, the way his voice is given an edge, but it's hard to equate the ice-cold Conklin with the genial, decent men he played in LONE STAR and MATEWAN.

Eventually the story line runs out of steam - the revelation of Bourne's original mission is anti-climatic, and the reason why an exercise in self-defeating softening of the main character, an invitation to the audience to pick apart the loopholes. ("He would have known you-know-who would be you-know-where"). But luckily, the picking doesn't totally unravel the preceding story, as it was never really based on the "why" anyway. THE BOURNE IDENTITY is all about the here-and-the-now, living minute to minute, keeping your unknown demons at bay, and maybe picking up a cute German girl along the way.

There are two quirks of casting, that either by design or accident add a little layering to the film. The first is Julia Stiles, buried under sensible secretary-type clothing (but with long black boots that suggest she does have a social life that has nothing to do with photoshopping wanted posters) and planted in a small hotel room for most of the movie. It would be tempting to suggest that by relegating of of Hollywoods many "It-Girls" to the sidelines as a glorified switchboard operator, the film is further distancing itself from the glamour of the spy genre, though the presence of Damon himself kind of deters any thoughts of motif casting.

Even better is Clive Owen, briefly appearing as another agent put on Damons tail. Here is one actor that has been constantly mentioned as a candidate for the next Bond, the superspy who pretty much defined the genre. He doesn't have much to do here, except get down and dirty and try to get the job done. He has a kiss off speech that James Bond would never utter (or be in the position to utter), and he delivers it with a weary emotion that the Bond franchise could never touch. Owen may be heading towards the babes and the gadgets and the cool suits, but at least he knows what he's missing.

Leading the way for the even more jittery (and impressive) THE BOURNE SUPREMACY, this is assured, absorbing film-making.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=4637&reviewer=397
originally posted: 02/12/05 21:14:35
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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
8/25/13 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
2/06/11 Pamela White Great spy drama with thought out action scenes, a hit 5 stars
10/29/09 MP Bartley In danger of being unfairly overshadowed by the admittedly superior sequels. 4 stars
10/27/08 blah blah fucking great fuck off the rest of you losers 5 stars
7/23/08 Shaun Wallner This ones ok. 3 stars
7/05/08 James Liman and Damon deliver a tense action thriller 4 stars
7/03/08 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
1/02/08 Heywood Jablowme Top-shelf thriller....even though his gf looks like a dude... 5 stars
12/12/07 davidbobo20 Best action movie since 007. 5 stars
10/11/07 Charles I wish someone in the production had read more than the dust jacket... still entertaining. 3 stars
6/27/07 gr117 Incredible! 5 stars
11/03/06 becky entertaining, but not worth buying 3 stars
5/25/06 William Goss Highly enjoyable spy thriller, if only for that car chase. 4 stars
11/20/05 Quigley one of my favorite films. matt damon was awesome, and the action and story were amazing 5 stars
11/07/05 Michael An Enjoyable Movie 4 stars
8/18/05 ES Exceptional movie followed by and even better sequel 4 stars
8/11/05 Kelly amazing action scenes and story even if it doesnt follow the book 5 stars
3/25/05 Denise good 3 stars
3/23/05 Charlie Better than the second one. Awesome car chase. 5 stars
3/17/05 B. D. Cole I'm not much of an action movie fan, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one 4 stars
3/14/05 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
2/25/05 James Kiang Excellent addition to the spy genre. 4 stars
2/22/05 julia great movie 5 stars
2/22/05 gracecchu Awesome movie, the sequel is also good. 5 stars
2/21/05 Debora Browning Good Movie liked it alot 4 stars
2/19/05 Charlene Javier Damon is hot! 4 stars
2/19/05 Diane Stahlman GOOD 4 stars
2/18/05 april gupton first one was better 2 stars
2/17/05 Eileen Lammers I expected more... so I was disappointed! 3 stars
2/17/05 Fahad Pinto great plot, good details 4 stars
2/17/05 dian anderson IF YOU HAVE NOTHING ELSE TO DO 3 stars
2/16/05 Dusty Johnson Great movie - my wife and I both liked it! Good story line from novel. 5 stars
2/16/05 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
12/26/04 The Mockingbird very efficient, does everything a spy movie can, and matt is endearing or hot or something 4 stars
12/04/04 Kristina Williams Matt as a secret agent works. he's plain, unlike this flick. 5 stars
11/30/04 R.W. Welch Best Secret Agent Man pic in a while tho it gets a bit flakey towards the end. Good perfs. 4 stars
11/02/04 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
8/26/04 Aaron Smith awesome intrigue; Franka key part of movie 5 stars
8/03/04 Blair everything a movie should be 5 stars
7/23/04 Wallace_h@webtv.net The music was loud, so I stayed awake. Lots of chaos. Very little meaning. Inept. . 2 stars
7/03/04 Daveman Not worth your time, unless you're obsessed with the mundane spy thriller genre. 2 stars
5/13/04 Agent Sands Lots of fun. Good action. 4 stars
5/06/04 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
2/03/04 Charles Tatum Smart thriller, 007 writers should take notes 4 stars
12/19/03 Kent okay. Not bad 3 stars
12/15/03 HorrorScribbler Entertaining spy stuff. Good supporting cast. 4 stars
9/21/03 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
6/07/03 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
5/10/03 Mystique cool action-scenes 4 stars
4/19/03 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
4/11/03 me good 4 stars
3/25/03 mitchell macari good 4 stars
3/12/03 Archmage Merlin Not enough action. Needs more pyrotechnics or something 2 stars
2/28/03 Monday Morning Wish he could have hit a few of those cheese-eating surrender monkeys during car chase. 2 stars
2/14/03 Chris Nothing new. Nothing bad either. 4 stars
2/14/03 Chris Nothing new. Nothing bad either. 4 stars
2/07/03 mr. Pink The best action film of 2002! An exciting and sometimes over-the-top movie! 4 stars
2/05/03 chuck could have been a better plot. 4 stars
2/05/03 123 This movie ain't special. With its predictable boring plot i can't see anything exciting 3 stars
1/28/03 kitt4film@hotmail.com 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
1/07/03 George Nedelchev Surpisingly bad 1 stars
12/30/02 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
10/04/02 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
9/28/02 Peter Sherlock Another American formula movie. Rubbish for the braindead. 1 stars
8/21/02 Jerry Predictable Ending, Puts the Crap in CRAP 1 stars
8/06/02 I Can't Swim Anything with Franka & Clive must be seen & must be fantastic..oh, Matt was okay I guess 5 stars
7/19/02 ??? matt damon did great 5 stars
7/15/02 Carl To say this film is of an outdated genre dressed in modern technology is an understatement. 2 stars
6/24/02 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
6/22/02 cleansparks not bad, a bit predictable, but kept my attention 4 stars
6/21/02 Joanne Good Matt eye candy! 5 stars
6/21/02 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
6/17/02 Nick2k damn this movie was good. chockful of suspense. yes, i noticed the daylight too. 5 stars
6/17/02 wintermute Did anyone notice the HUGE daylight/nighttime continuity error in the 2nd to last scene? 3 stars
6/16/02 brent young a great way to spend some cash & some time... it was fun. somewhere between 4 & 5 stars... 4 stars
6/16/02 Ben It's OK. 3 Days of the Condor and The Day of the Jackal are much better. 3 stars
6/16/02 "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
6/15/02 natasha smart, interesting, a little outside of the ordinary--well done 5 stars
6/15/02 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
6/14/02 john wonderful 5 stars
6/14/02 Gibbo Non-stop action - lots of fun!!! 5 stars
6/14/02 Phil M. Aficionado Production is a 5, great action; story a 2 and acting a 3+; it's fine but not memorable 3 stars
6/14/02 Human Shield I had a blast. Matt Damon should be in more action movies. 5 stars
6/14/02 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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