Say what you will about action movies. Say what you will about thrilling thrillers. Say what you will about Jason Bourne, a character portrayed by Matt Damon in the film adaptations of the Robert Ludlum novels. Tony Gilroy and William Blake Herron took Ludlum’s world of the CIA and trained assassins and created a fast-paced, high-energy story about a man whose lost his memory and tries to escape the world in which he was in, all the while running to find a new life for himself.
The Bourne Identity could be considered a skillful action movie in that the action scenes (fights and chases) are done well. Director Doug Liman has put together a highly efficient film where all the film elements seamlessly move together to produce a quite entertaining, enjoyable, well-acted film.
In the film, Jason Bourne (Damon), a CIA operative in a secret program trained as an assassin, is found floating in the sea and awakens with no memory of who he is or his former life. As he fights his way to discover his identity, he realizes the path to his past is much more than he thought. As the story unfolds, pieces of his past are revealed but apparently not enough to fully infiltrate his true self because two more films were warranted for the scope of this character and his past. And not only two more films in this Bourne trilogy, but a separate film (based on a Ludlum novel) with a different character, similar to Bourne (because Bourne wasn’t the only one in the program), and most recently a fifth film entitled Jason Bourne. But I am swaying off the topic just a bit and those reviews will follow in future posts.
In his quest for his identity, he enlists the help of a woman Marie (Franka Potente) he met a bank and learning he has a particular set of skills he doesn’t seem to remember how he obtained those skills. He offers Marie $10,000 to drive him to Paris. Along the way, he discovers clues about his past while evading numerous agents out to kill him because the government officials heading up the secret program believe he is a rogue operative and needs to be stopped because he seems to be a threat to the government.
In most stories of good guys and bad guys, the good guy (hero) is someone the audience is supposed to feel for. They should be cheering him on and developing a connection with him (or her) so that when the hero triumphs there is a satisfaction and a relief felt by the audience. In a story such as this, the hero is a trained assassin who goes on missions in order to save American lives, but that may not always be the case because he may not always be told the whole truth (for the sake of the mission and to protect the government and have deniable plausibility. But there might be a connection here with this particular character because as he is learning who he was, and it becomes clear he doesn’t want to do that anymore. He wants to be left alone and live a different life away from the government. This is a character driven story in that Bourne drives the action. He runs. He fights. He rests. Confronts some of his enemy. Repeat. This is a standard formula in most action films of this genre.
The action sequences are well choreographed where Bourne seems to be a one-man army taking on several assailants at once and appearing to be thinking one step ahead of his enemy at all times, which include Chris Cooper, Brian Cox, and Clive Owen. The performances were outstanding. Damon brings a sincere, energized look and feel to the character and all the actors brought something to their individual characters, which made them distinct, interesting, and entertaining and moved the story and action along. There were wonderful locations and the cinematography just added to the film and never seemed to lack in keeping it from being dull.
One might view The Bourne Identity as mindless entertainment. It might have some flaws, but I believe they would be miniscule compared to the story and action of the film. It was an entertaining, character-driven thrill ride, unlike the Taken films. Bourne just seems to do it better.