By: Muneeb Arshid
We are now two weeks away from the release of one of the most anticipated films of the summer. One that fans have been waiting since 2007 when the Bourne trilogy “ended” with The Bourne Ultimatum. Yes, yes, we had that, “Matt Damon-less” Bourne Legacy; however, many do not really like to consider that as part of the series.
Getting back to the point, the “fourth” Bourne film is almost upon us and it seems to be a good time to look back at all four of the previous films. We, of course, begin with The Bourne Identity, the film that kicked it off back in 2002, the espionage thriller that left us and Matt Damon wondering as to what his name in the movie actually was. Well, the new film is quite obvious with that fact, plainly naming the film Jason Bourne. However, for quite a while during Identity, we are actively trying to find out why this man does not know his name or of his past which, for the most part, the film is quite competent at revealing bit by bit only when it is required for the viewer to know.
Don’t discredit Matt Damon and his baby-face from not being able to carry a big action series, but right from the get-go, there is a sense of maturity from him even through the entire conceit of Bourne not remembering his own name. One of the reasons that there is credibility to his performance is because of Damon’s previous big-budget performances in films such as Good Will Hunting, Saving Private Ryan and of course Ocean’s Eleven. However, apart from him, there aren’t any other performances that are on par with Damon. Every other actor is acting at least one level below Damon but do contribute in their own way. Alongside Damon, Franka Potente plays Marie, who helps Bourne escape capture from the CIA and potentially become his lover. Chris Cooper plays Conklin, the head of the CIA black ops project, Treadstone, to which Bourne is also a member, and is responsible for trying to capture Bourne. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje plays Wombosi, an exiled African dictator who was Bourne’s target gone awry which ultimately causes the CIA to panic.
The film ultimately falls back on a run-and-chase cliché where Bourne has to use his skills to evade the CIA. However, the difference is that Bourne has no idea as to why he has all these skills yet he is able retain all memory on how to use guns, and CQC (Close Quarters Combat) etc. The most exciting aspect of the story is watching Bourne trying to recover his memory and piece together what happened during his attempted hit against Wombosi and put together what happened in the two weeks afterward. It’s the slow building of Bourne’s character that lends to the heftiness of the film and the real emotional moments where even you as the viewer is left wondering what the next step will be in Bourne’s amnesia-ridden two weeks of horror.
What doesn’t work in this film is all the stuff around Bourne, with the first being the person who is with Bourne for the longest period, Marie. Marie is someone who happens to be at the right spot at the right time just when Bourne needs her to escape from Switzerland. However, more than that, there doesn’t seem to be a proper justification for her character to be there other than to provide for a later emotional set up of Bourne’s character, not just at the end of this film, for The Bourne Supremacy. Of course, Bourne needed to get away from his outstanding situation dangling from a fire escape of a Swiss bank, but just like the improbable way that he employs to get to the ground, he also could’ve done the same trying to get out of Switzerland. Just the way that she is carried along through the film gives her an air of “why is she here?” and “Can we get rid of her now?”The character just doesn’t work in time and her place in the film.
For someone who has Swingers in their early resumé just a few years before this film, it is quite impressive as to the quality of an action as has been made now. Of course, recently, director Doug Liman has made a very well-made action film, another about affecting the mental capabilities of its lead actor in Edge of Tomorrow. So in retrospect, it is not very surprising as to the quality, but Liman’s previous work before his venture into Bourne may have cast a shadow of a doubt in many minds when this movie first came out.
Now, one of the more beautiful aspects of this film is the use of appropriate sound throughout, especially during the action sequences; to be more precise, I refer more to the lack of sound during those action sequences. It’s something you don’t exactly see in modern action films, where the action sequences are mixed with both sound effects and the bombastic action score. It’s actually quite soothing, being able to focus on the action sequence itself, and being able to focus on the sound effects as they happen, rather than being lost within the score.
So, The Bourne Identity is a very successful film in its own right, especially as the film that is the first blockbuster foray for director Doug Liman. Of course, the issues are there as action films tend to have, but they are issues that can be overlooked because of the film’s central theme to focus on Bourne’s identity crisis.
The Bourne Identity receives a very respectable grade of B+ (8.2/10).
The next review in the series for The Bourne Supremacy will be posted on Wednesday.