The Bourne Identity (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner09/04/2002

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 117 mins

Exciting thriller with an old-fashioned feel to it - impressively directed by Doug Liman and well acted by its two leads.

Usually, when a film takes as long to come out and goes through as many reshoots and redrafts as The Bourne Identity has, the signs are Not Good. However, The Bourne Identity turns out to be the exception that proves the rule, because, despite its two-year shooting schedule, director Doug Liman has knocked out a cracking thriller that will single-handedly restore your faith in Matt Damon.

Damon plays Jason Bourne, a man who, in the impressive opening scene, is found floating in the ocean, riddled with bullet holes. When he comes to, he finds he's lost his memory, and all he has to go on is a laser-projection of a numbered bank account that the ship's surgeon has dug out of his hip.

Flipping Great Wodges of Cash

Once back on dry land, he nips along to the bank and finds a gun, a pile of passports with different names and Flipping Great Wodges of Cash. And then people start trying to kill him, at which point he hooks up with Franke Potente's mini-driving Innocent Bystander and the two of them go on the run, while trying to figure out just who Jason is.

There are two main surprises in the film. The first is that Matt Damon can cut it as an action hero (unlike best buddy Ben Affleck in The Sum of All Fears, for example). He does a sterling job here, convincingly portraying the balance between the increasingly shocked 'nice guy' he seems to be and the cold-hearted killing-machine his actions lead him to believe he really is.

Dodgy Hair-Cutting

Franke Potente (from Run, Lola, Run) is also good here, in the better than usual love interest role. There's also a real chemistry between the two leads, particularly during an otherwise amusingly dodgy impromptu hair-cutting moment that leads to a genuinely erotic onscreen kiss.

The support cast are good, too, particularly Clive Owen as a deadly hitman sent to kill Bourne - his final scene is one of the film's many highlights. Also noteworthy are Julia Stiles (whose part seems sadly underwritten - she's either in the sequel or she ended up on the cutting room floor), and the always-reliable Chris Cooper and Brian Cox as the CIA bigshots pulling the strings.

Action!

The second surprise in the film is that director Doug Liman (previously known for Swingers and Go) proves so adept at handling action sequences. The fight scenes are well handled (with impressive sound effects) and the stunts, in particular, are -or at least appear to be- refreshingly CGI-free, all of which adds to the old-fashioned (in a good way) feel of the film. There's also a spectacular car chase involving a mini, as well as a jaw-dropping moment on a staircase that is worth the price of admission alone.

What really raises the level of The Bourne Identity, though, is the fact that some thought has obviously gone into its direction. This is apparent in the various little throwaway moments throughout the film, such as the amusing scene between Damon and Potente in the car, immediately after the car chase.

In short, The Bourne Identity is an excellent thriller and is well-worth checking out. In fact, along with Insomnia, the release of The Bourne Identity means there are currently two decent Hollywood thrillers currently on release, a situation that is normally unheard of. Enjoy it while you can - it won't last...Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 01/08/2014 00:40

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