The Bourne Identity Review
A part of me felt that I had just viewed a film that came from the first draft script of Enemy Of The State. That script had then gone on to a concept change before becoming the excellent, cat and mouse spy-thriller that the Will Smith vehicle was. Here, we are given A-list Hollywood superstar Matt Damon, in his first solo-headliner (with doubtless more to come), and we go along with our amnesiac friend as he tries to put together the who’s, the when’s, and the why’s? We begin on board a shipping vessel in Europe, whose crew see a distress beacon flashing on a floating body in the ocean. Bringing the body on board, they find the man to be alive, albeit with two bullet holes in his back. The man has no clue as to how he got there, or where he came from, but stranger still buried underneath his skin, they find a laser pellet that when pressed displays a bank name, and a bank account number.
The opening intrigues to a level where the viewer cannot but be totally engrossed. The unfortunate thing is that when the film, and it’s main character stay ‘out of the loop’, and in a state of ‘what the hell’s going on’, it works terrifically well in taking the audience along for the ride. However, what is to come, when the first half of the film is over, is just too formulaic. It isn’t as if the first half of the film is totally original, I’ve mentioned why it isn’t, and the general ambiguity is pretty much standard, straight out of the book, executed cinema. However, Doug Liman’s direction in the early part of the film is assured, knowing that if he keeps the questions coming, he can keep the audience interested. The less information shared with the character and the audience, the more engrossed and drawn into the story, we are. As the film goes on and more of what was unknown becomes known, the less it works on a technical level, and the more you see the cracks in its silver lining.
Matt Damon is excellent throughout, displaying some assured acting skills (of which we already knew he had), and brains over the action-hero persona brawn. He looks as unsure and confused as the audience feels throughout the film, and gives the character a human aspect (complaining of tiredness, headaches etc.) Writers Tony Gilroy and William Blake Herron, have to be commended for creating a character with depth, and adapting that character well, from the novel by Robert Ludlum. Damon is ably supported by Franka Potente, (most famous for the redhead, in the excellent three plot pronged Run Lola Run), who shares a lot of screen time with him. From her performance here, it wouldn’t be surprising if she turns up in many Hollywood productions in the future.
Liman keeps things energetic, and early on very exciting with a superb car chase, and a wonderfully choreographed man-on-man fight, but the early promises fizzle away to formulaic plotting and cliché. The film runs out of legs by the end (it’s thirty minutes too long), which does take away from its engrossing start. It isn’t a bad film by any means, but by the finale, it does prove itself to be a very ordinary one.