A review of “The Bourne Identity” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: *** 1/2

Rating: PG-13 for violence, language, some nudity

Run Time: 1 hour, 58 minutes

 

 

Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is a man with a problem.  He awakens on an Italian fishing boat in the middle of the Mediterranean, with two bullets in his back and no memory of whom or what he is. The only clue is a small device planted in his hip that displays a Swiss bank account number.

Bourne swings into action by high-tailing it to Zurich to get to the bottom of the mystery.  He uncovers a safety deposit box full of international passports under different aliases, loads of American currency, and a gun.  Not to mention a series of shady characters who seem to want him dead.

Still in the dark as to his identity, Bourne picks up a German drifter (Franka Potente as Marie) and offers her twenty thousand dollars in exchange for a ride to Paris.  The impromptu road trip develops into a series of narrow, ping-pong escapes as Bourne tries to survive the attempts on his life while trying to unravel the ambiguity that is his life.     

Kudos to director Doug Liman (“Go”) for injecting textbook spy fare with slick intelligence and truckloads of tension. Bourne’s surprise at finding himself fluent in several languages and masterful in the martial arts as well as with firearms lends enough subtle comic relief to ease the narrative anxiety. 

Damon and Potente are tentative but touching together – sensible chemistry considering the circumstances.  Sound performances by Chris Cooper and Brian Cox, as CIA operatives who want their top Company assassin permanently out of the field, are a sinister counterpoint to the unrelenting action.  A smart and involving espionage thriller.