The Bourne Identity (2002)

Jason Bourne is the noughties answer to butt-kicking American heroes Ethan Hawke and John McClane – but how does he stack up against them?

The Bourne Identity centres on Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), a highly trained United States assassin who is found with a bullet wound and amnesia. Tasked with exposing his murky past he comes across resistance from the United States government and becomes a hunted man.

Basing the franchise on a series of books by accomplished thriller novelist, Robert Ludlum, is perhaps where the film takes its unusual strength: unlike other action movies of recent years the Bourne films are largely anti-American.

While Bourne gallivants around Europe unwinding his own mystery the CIA, in U.S. headquarters, plot to take him out. This subversion of the traditional *insert European country/villain* against America gives the film an interesting edge. And due to villainous government officials and an immoral government protection agency, the film looks on the American government and its secrets as a nemesis to audience morality; big stuff for a blockbuster.

So all this sounds great, but there is one aspect that makes this film slightly less fantastic: Jason Bourne himself. Yes, he can dazzle with his action prowess but due to his amnesia (or his personality?) he never truly engages emotionally with the audience. Matt Damon does well to play Bourne here, but with his usual charisma locked up it’s hard to get excited by his performance.

The assassins considered Bourne’s equals last a handful of minutes, sometimes seconds, during which they make unrealistic errors. An example would be Clive Owen’s assassin who is perfectly well situated with a sniper rifle but gets impatient.

This is considered the godfather of new action movies, especially in direction due to its frenetic, naturalistic style. The Bourne Identity does well to engage the audience with strong themes and action pieces while introducing a complex narrative in what could have easily been just another shoot-em-up.

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