THE BOURNE IDENTITY
Reviewed by Sam Hatch
Robert Ludlum's spy novel was originally translated into film in the 80s, as an oft-maligned television picture starring Richard Chamberlain. This time director Doug Liman (Swingers, Go) has taken the helm, and delivers one of the best spy films in ages with a classic hard-nosed style and an excellent screenplay. Matt Damon has come a long way from his status as Ben Affleck's sidekick. Indeed he has eclipsed his old partner's box office draw and star power, as Ben's Sum Of All Fears has proven a tad more forgettable than this effort.
Jason Bourne is an amnesiac super killer left afloat upon the Mediterranean with two bullet holes and a whole lot of buried homicidal instincts to keep him company. As a man trying to uncover his past and simply survive, Damon creates a tightly wound powerhouse - brooding lost soul at times, robotic death machine at others. Eventually he becomes paired with Lola Rennt's Franke Potente as a gypsy hostage/abettor named Marie who reluctantly gets sucked into the mystery enveloping Bourne.
As expected, while Jason is gallivanting around Europe (including, yes, Prague) his superiors in the Treadstone Operation arm of the NSA (Brian Cox's Ward Abbott and the woefully inept Alex Conklin as played by Chris Cooper) are going out of their way to send the rogue agent to an early grave. The tautly plotted script maintains its excellence throughout, as Jason and Marie's continuous digging of the dirt is peppered with instances of wickedly inventive car chases and showdowns with Clive Owen's enemy agent The Professor.As the film progresses, we're faced with the dilemma that if amnesiac Bourne is a nice (albeit randomly violent) protagonist, his true identity might very well be a nihilistic killing machine scarier than all of the film's antagonists combined. Thus raising the question of whether or not he should continue looking for his identity, or simply call it a day and retire into the woods with his newfound lady friend. Similar to Renny Harlin's The Long Kiss Goodnight, but fresh enough in tone to feel like a new spin on a 70s filmmaking style, Liman's film is an unexpected success that puts shame to the comic silliness inherent in many of the newer Bond films.