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"The Bourne Identity" Movie Review

Franka Potente and Matt Damon in Universal Pictures' action/romance, "The Bourne Identity."
©2002 Universal Studios - All Rights Reserved.

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So what if they had to reshoot scenes, change the ending, and move its original release date from early September 2001 to June 14, 2002? Though many times substantial changes to a film or its release date can be the kiss of death, "The Bourne Identity" rises above it all to provide killer entertainment (I use the word 'killer' meaning great - I'm trying to get into the spirit of an action film).

"The Bourne Identity's" major flaw may be the studio's choice of a June 14, 2002 release date. Our own Action/Adventure Guide, Fred Topel, agrees with me that the film should have been released much earlier (Fred suggests April 2002 as an ideal time), at a time when it would have creamed its opening weekend competition (not that that's the main objective to making a film). Its current release date pits it against the recently released Ben Affleck-helmed "The Sum of All Fears," Chris Rock and Anthony Hopkins as secret agents in "Bad Company," and the Nicolas Cage/John Woo collaboration, "Windtalkers" - all action films that may divide the audience "The Bourne Identity" actually deserves.

"The Bourne Identity" has Matt Damon as an action star and the relatively unknown Franka Potente as his unwitting partner. American audiences may be unfamiliar with Potente's work in "Run, Lola, Run" but surely after "The Bourne Identity," Potente will be a much more recognizable - and admired - actress. In "The Bourne Identity," Damon plays a man who is rescued at sea and awakens unaware of who he is or how he got there. All he does know is that he possesses incredible skills at fighting and can scan a scene and know instantly what's safe, who is an ally, and where the quickest escape routes are. These don't seem to be skills your average Joe would possess, so Damon's character knows something's up.

After discovering passports with multiple identities, bundles of cash, and a gun, all securely placed in a safe deposit box, Damon adopts Jason Bourne as his likeliest name and embarks on a hunt for his true identity. Teaming up with an unwitting accomplice, Marie Kreutz (played by Franka Potente), Bourne fights off police officers, secret agents, an unknown but powerful organization, and participates in an incredible chase through the streets of Paris that rivals the classic chase scene from "The French Connection." He does all this while trying not to fall for Marie's considerable charms (yes, "The Bourne Identity" is really a romance).

Matt Damon proves he's more than up to the task as an action star. With muscles rippling, he fights, flees, and falls in love more convincingly than most actors we've been forced to accept as action heroes. Franka Potente isn't the classic leading lady - she's beautiful in a more subtle way - and she's much more than the typical damsel in distress. The audience can relate to, and believe, that Damon's Bourne falls for her quickly because of her beauty, brains and personality. These two are on-screen for the majority of the film, leaving veteran actors Chris Cooper and Brian Cox to complete the story with substantially less screen time. Cooper and Cox make the most of their limited roles, fleshing out their two-dimensional characters and elevating their jobs as supporting players to a higher level.

I'm not an action/adventure fan. It's not that I don't enjoy a good fight scene or a car chase now and then, but if a movie is only being touted as an action/adventure, I'll normally pass on it. "The Bourne Identity" is more than an action film; it's even more than an action/romance. "The Bourne Identity" has the benefit of interesting characters, a cast of actors who don't go over the top with their stunts, a storyline that keeps on moving, and enough dialogue to make even a non-action/adventure fan like myself pay attention to the film. Not once did I look at my watch during the screening - and that's saying a lot for a movie.

Overall Grade: B

"The Bourne Identity" is rated PG-13 for violence and some language.

Director: Doug Liman
Producers: Doug Liman, Patrick Crowley, and Richard N. Gladstein
Executive Producer: Robert Ludlum
Screenplay By: Tony Gilroy and William Blake Herron
Based on the Novel By: Robert Ludlum
Director of Photography: Oliver Wood
Production Designer: Dan Weil
Editor: Saar Klein
Costume Designer: Pierre-Yves Gayraud
Visual Effects Supervisor: Peter Donen
Stunt Coordinator: Nicholas Powell
Music By: John Powell
Casting: Joseph Middleton
Art Director: Laurent Piron
Set Decorator: Alexandrine Mauvezin

Jason Bourne - Matt Damon
Marie - Franka Potente
Conklin - Chris Cooper
The Professor - Clive Owen
Ward Abbott - Brian Cox
Wombosi - Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
Zorn - Gabriel Mann
Research Techs - Walton Goggins and Josh Hamilton
Nicolette - Julia Stiles

Photo: ©2002 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

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