The Bourne Identity

cast: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Chris Cooper, Clive Owen, and Brian Cox

director: Doug Liman

113 minutes (12) 2002 Universal VHS rental
Also available to rent on DVD
[released 10 February]

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Steven Hampton

I don’t really like Matt Damon. I think he’s a blank-faced, unappealing actor and a rather charmless leading man so, of course, I was a bit dubious about reviewing this. However, I do like James Bond movies, and there is no escaping the fact that the central character of this mystery thriller, Jason Bourne, has many similarities to Britain’s 007, starting with the same initials. Clearly, The Bourne Identity is the bland Mr Damon’s bid for Hollywood action hero status, and his performance as the troubled amnesiac with an ironically anonymous past is both tolerable and adequate, if not exactly realistic or surprising, for such hokey subgenre material.
Based on a novel by Robert Ludlum, this was previously adapted as a two-part TV movie in 1988, starring Richard Chamberlain and Jaclyn Smith, directed by Roger Young. This big screen remake from Doug Liman (maker of Swingers and Go) maintains a good pace for much of the running time, yet there’s little here of significance, genuine intrigue or atmosphere, and so the result is nothing more or less than another conventional genre thriller. Bourne is only one identity for this international spy but whatever name he goes under, he’s highly trained, endowed with awesome espionage skills and lightning-fast reflexes, which come in very handy, thank you, when he is declared an AWOL liability by his CIA boss, and other field agents are despatched to track and kill him.
That’s about all you need to know as far as the plot is concerned. His sidekick is played by Franka Potente (star of the hugely entertaining Run Lola Run, 1999), Brian Cox is on hand as one of the spymasters back at HQ, our hero’s only friend in the hostile world of undercover spooks, and Clive Owen has a minor but telling role as one of the hitmen sent gunning for MIA agent Bourne. There are some amusing stunts and car chases, but unless you are one of those strange people who found Noyce’s The Saint (1997) unbearably exciting, this has precious little to offer.