‘The Bourne Identity’ (2002)

I remember the first time I ever saw “The Bourne Identity“. I loved the film so much that I went on to see “The Bourne Supremacy“, “The Bourne Ultimatum” and even Jeremy Renner’s “The Bourne Legacy” (which comes to Blu-Ray on Dec. 11). They are all great, but nothing beats the first film in the series. Honestly, “The Bourne Legacy” is actually very well done, but we’ll get to that in another week or two. Onto the review of “The Bourne Identity“.

In the middle of the sea, a man floats lifeless in the water. A fishing boat spots him, and takes care of him. The man cannot remember who he is, but we all know him as Jason Bourne (Matt Damon).  He may not remember who he is, but he has second-nature memories. This means he knows how to read, write, speak multiple languages, memorize an entire room and all the details the moment he steps into the room, and of course…he remembers how to fight. He solely uses this second-nature memory to find out who he is, but what he finds just ends up getting him deeper and deeper involved into a government conspiracy. It is up to Bourne and Marie (Franka Potente) to escape alive.

This film focuses primarily on Jason Bourne rediscovering his history and trying stay alive, and keeping Marie alive. It did focus on the government agent trying to kill him, but for the most part, we don’t know who they are or why they are trying to kill him. That stuff, as well as Bourne trying to take them down is focused more in the second and third film. The conflict in this film is a mix between man vs. self and man vs. man with a slight lean towards self. Yeah people were after him, but the only way to defeat them is to first find out everything about himself. That’s what makes this film man vs. self.

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Clearly, the writing in this movie is top notch. It’s dramatic, its smart, and it’s exciting. Before he passed, Robert Ludlum was a genius author, and knew exactly how to piece together a plot just enough to have enough information, but not too much, and not too little. He knew how to separate the drama, action, and romance so nothing would seem mixed up, or a mess. Most of which translated to the film adaptation.

The acting was absolutely fantastic. Matt Damon correctly gave off the impression that he had amnesia, and the idea that he is a regular man with the skills of an assassin are just too precious to pass up.  The only real negative I have to say about this film is the fighting. The fighting is very clearly sped up, but there was absolutely no need to speed the fighting up, it was clearly choreographed pretty well. It may have been implemented as a style to contribute to the overall feel of the film, but I think even the movie producers noticed that it wasn’t that great of a style as the sequels changed the fighting style back to something you would normally see in a movie. This is just another example of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. People like fight scenes in films, why not make them longer? Certainly don’t speed them up in post-production.

This is the only movie in the series that actually works on its own without the need of a sequel. I can only guess that is how the book works as well, but if it doesn’t, it also makes sense in the movie universe. How could they know that a first movie would be successful enough to get sequel(s)? In any rate, it’s still a pretty good movie, you should check it out!