The Bourne Identity (2002)

It’s a classic that I enjoy but am not in love with.  That really is a terrible trailer though, it doesn’t do the movie any justice at all.

The notion of teams at work in the CIA analyzing intelligence is fairly uncommon for this genre and Julia Stiles’ character also gave it depth that these movies usually lack.  The reason behind that is we are always wondering how the bad guys know where to go and how this happens or how that goes wrong.  I also enjoyed the linear (breadcrumbs) way the story actually transitions from A to B to C etc., this resolves the typically inexplicable movements of a hero.  The action was good and yet not overblown and people are right that it exists in the background of character development.  Unfortunately for most of the movie it felt like Matt Damon was either some affable kid from Boston or a blank killing machine and had to be told which to be for each scene.  The amnesia thing is a necessary evil, at least there aren’t any clones or time travel.

I do disagree that Matt and Franka had chemistry.  They had bits of chemistry at times but I wasn’t sorry to see her go and wasn’t really thrilled to see her at the end.  There is a lot that goes unexplained in this movie but the reason that supposedly works is that if Bourne doesn’t know it then why should we?  Not to ruin anyone’s viewing but a lot of folks say this is a great action series in a field overflowing with superhero movies.  I think that sort of misses the point.  This movie is a spy Cinderella movie where a normal man finds he has beyond normal abilities and gets money/papers/abilities as needed.  It’s the new era of spy movies where they are basically superheroes and/or unstoppable killing machines that must balance that power with any sense of normalcy/humanity that remains in their lives.  Their morality is revenge or vigilante justice or other but it will not typically be as an employee.  In fact, existing intelligence agencies are villainous even if they have produced said hero.

It’s a fun movie to watch but not immune to criticism.  For whatever reason, it has not only inspired quite a few downstream plots but has also pulled in a lot of viewers to this genre.  If for no other reason, that should be enough to make you watch it if you haven’t already.