Bourne Identity
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The Bourne Identity

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There has always been a certain fascination of the movie going public with the spy thriller. This highly specialized genre allows us in the audience to experience the thrill a minute life, the action and romance of the spy while sitting safe in their seats. As such we the viewers can forgive little flaws like an almost complete lack of plot. Basically, the film begins with a man (Matt Damon) being fished out of the water in Marseilles in an almost complete state of amnesia. He has been shot and left for dead but a capsule is located below his skin that contains the secrete number for a Swiss bank account. Once there he finds he has a small fortune and a mysterious red bag. One of the names contained on the numerous passports in the bag was Jason Bourne, the name now adopted by the healing man. He hires a gypsy woman Marie (Franka Potente) to drive him to Paris and the stage is set for almost non-stop action. You see, the CIA, has discovered that Bourne is alive and for the sake of security he must be terminated. Little is provided in the way of motivation. This is a typical survive at all costs flicks as our hero kicks, hits and runs out of danger. Bourne is a very dangerous man, one trained in all the marital arts, several languages and almost inhuman powers of observation. Not since James Bond has such an individual been seen.

There are plot holes here big enough to drive a Hummer through but I found myself so caught up in the action that I really didn’t care all that much. Why carry a very obvious red bag with you all the time when trained killers are after you? While many spy films try to make more out of themselves than necessary here we get what was advertised, action, a little more. Since one very valid reason for a movie is to entertain the audience and let us forget the real world for a couple of hours, this flick delivers. Back in 1988 there was a production of the Bourne Identity staring Richard Chamberlain but it is difficult to consider this flick a remake. Instead, it truly re-imagines (a greatly overused term but one that applies here) the original Robert Ludlum tale. Where the television treatment was much tamer, here all stops are pulled for pure unadulterated action. This is what we expect out of a summer blockbuster, something to take us away from reality, from reports of war and mayhem and let us find a couple of hours of thrills.

I have to admit, Matt Damon would not have been my first choice for the role of Jason Bourne. Then I remembered him in the Talented Mister Ripley, another film were Damon had to present a character that display intelligence and the ability to think on his feet. Here the role fits him very well. Franka Potente is best known in America for her role in Run, Lola, Run. Here she adds to the action, capable of participation rather than being the all too typical beautiful damsel in distress. Brian Cox plays Bourne’s former boss Abbott with his typical flair. He is with out a doubt one of the finest character actors around and always adds just the right flavor to the film. Much to her credit the young rising star Julia Stiles takes on a smaller role here but is excellent. It’s good to see a talented performer agree to a non-staring role rather than take on the lead in a really bad flick. Although her role as not really necessary it was fun to watch.

Director Doug Liman may not have a lot of films to his credit but what his has always displays his versatility and talent. Bourne is a departure from his other films such as Go and Swingers but he carries over his respect for his craft. For one thing he does not resort to the ultra quick paced editing that makes so many action films into what looks like an extended music video. He takes time with each scene, allowing the audience to get into the film. He takes the viewers to the edge of excess and then moves on before crossing that line. In uses slower paced scenes to allow the audience to catch their breath before the next thrill begins. Like a roller coaster where there is a valley before moving on to the next wonderful drop. Liman also knows how to use music in his films. The score augments the action instead of trying to overwhelm it. Liman to some extent does over do the use of the blue filter but again, it can be forgiven. The scenes are well balanced, the action almost believable and the actors are given the chance to develop some chemistry, all a tribute to the skill of this director. He does infuse some of the modern, post 9-11 fears of the audience into the flick giving us something to become emotionally invested in. Liman’s films are usually a bit odd, off the beaten track but here he scores with an almost pure adventure.

This is the second DVD release of this film. This ‘explosive extended’ edition is worth it. Featuring a new opening designed to fit into the current political state of the world the re-edit is a bit more ‘Hollywood’ friendly but maintains the pacing of the original. I actually did prefer the theatrical opening and ending but this version will satisfy. Too bad they didn’t use seamless branching to give us a choice. The extras are better than normal here and are on the verge of spectacular. There are deleted scenes, interviews with Damon and Potente and a look back at the career of the late Robert Ludlum. There are several interesting featurettes including a look a clinical amnesia and a detailed explanation of the anatomy of a fight scene. There is even a featurette that considers the talents required by a real world spy. The Dolby 5.1 audio will boom through the room; be sure you have your receivers set lower than normal for this disc. The anamorphic 2.35:1 video is near perfection. Between the two you have an excellent visual and audio experience. This is the kind of film to invite friends over, make some pop corn and sit back for a two hour ride.

Posted 7/16/04

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