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THE BOURNE IDENTITY

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Chris Cooper, Clive Owen, Brian Cox, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
Director: Doug Liman
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Universal
Features: See Review
Length: 119 Minutes
Release Date: January 21, 2003

ďEverything I learned about myself I want to forget.Ē

Film ***

With The Bourne Identity being one of the surprise hits of last summer, itís fair to say that a new action hero was definitely Bourne. Or maybe on the other hand, the fact that it was a hit wasnít much of a surprise, since the film was adapted from Robert Ludlumís hugely popular spy novel series. The fact is when a movie is released in a time of harsh competition, you never know how itís going to fare, and before its release, I myself didnít expect the film to become a hit. Boy, I had never been more wrong in my life.

First off, even though Iím clearly a fan of Matt Damon, I could never really see him in an action role, and this case taught me very clearly not to judge something until you see it. After seeing him execute some unique combat skills in this movie, Damon illustrated one of the most unexpected surprises of the year. In addition to mastering the action of the movie, he created a memorable character in the process, that of Jason Bourne. Another skeptic element was the fact that the director, Doug Liman, had been known as director of independent fare such as Swingers and Go, and itís not everyday that a filmmaker who specializes in low budget films suddenly switches gears for an action thriller with a much bigger budget. Once again, I was surprised by how well Liman crafted the movie.

What makes The Bourne Identity so distinctive in terms of spy movies is that this movie is more of an involving character piece that happens to be surrounded by outlandish action sequences in lavish locations. The strength of the story concerns its lead character, because when we first meet Jason Bourne, he has a case of amnesia, having no idea who he is or why he is capable of such high level physical and mental skills. As the movie opens, he is rescued from the sea by a fishing boat. The captain of the boat removes two bullets from his body, and soon Bourne, or whoever he is, regains consciousness. Having no idea of who he is, he intends to find out. It leads him to Switzerland, where he has a bank account. Bourne discovers this through a capsule that was embedded under his skin while on the boat.

Soon, Bourne has people on his tail and he needs a way out of the city. He runs into the equally desperate Marie (Franka Potente), who heíll pay a quick $10,000 just for a ride to Paris. Meanwhile, back at CIA headquarters, where itís clear that Bourne was employed, superiors learn of the manís sudden survival, and a stern high level boss (Chris Cooper) intends to have the subject wiped out, even if it means alerting all agents available in Europe. It turns out that Bourneís last mission, which involved the assassination of an African leader, failed when he was caught in enemy hands. Now that he has turned out to be alive, the CIA canít afford him to be alive.

The action scenes in the movie are among the most outstanding of the year. Even in the fight sequences, inventive techniques are used such as when Damon fights an opponent with a pen, and later when he uses a dead corpse for safe landing while plummeting several stories and taking another enemy out with a gun simultaneously. A standout moment is indeed a high speed pursuit through the streets of Paris that is indeed one of the best chase scenes since De Niro and company wreaked havoc in Ronin. I especially loved the sequence where Bourne dukes it out with an enemy sniper at a farmhouse.

Sharply crafted and skillfully paced, The Bourne Identity succeeds in both delivering high energy action scenes and creating a memorable character in the lead. Thatís a rare kind of hybrid mix you would find in any movie, let alone a spy thriller. It seems that as a result of this movie, Matt Damon will be placed in the same ranks of Tom Cruise, Pierce Brosnan, and Vin Diesel, as one of the top secret spies of the movies.

Video ****

One of the strengths of The Bourne Identity is in its style and sets, and Universal has delivered an astonishing transfer of the movie in one of the first great looking discs of 2003. Complete in anamorphic beauty, the picture is consistently sharp and clear as can be. The many lavish sets, including those in Switzerland and Paris, stand out incredibly well in this presentation. No picture flaws whatsoever, as sharpness and clarity claim the quality of the transfer all the way.

Audio ****

For movies in the spy genre, the audio area can never go wrong, and such is the case with The Bourne Identity, where the 5.1 mix is perfectly put to extremely good use. All areas, including dialogue, music, and action scenes, are delivered in high aural quality in a presentation that doesnít falter whatsoever right from its opening scenes. Music, aside from its music score, consists mostly of fast techno beats, which is heard in pure, dynamic form.

Features ***1/2

Some good bonuses here, as the disc includes a running commentary from director Doug Liman, several deleted scenes, including an alternate ending, a featurette titled ďThe Birth of The Bourne IdentityĒ, a music video for the Moby song "Extreme Ways", a trailer, and DVD-Rom content.

Summary:

The Bourne Identity makes for both a high powered action thriller, as well as one of the first terrific discs of 2003. Itís a ride so enthralling, that itíll make you want to experience more adventures with Jason Bourne.

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