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The Bourne Identity

August 24, 2010

The Bourne Identity (2002)
Director: Doug Liman
Actors: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Chris Cooper

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Synopsis: A young, mysterious man is washed up on a fishing boat in the Mediterranean. He subsequently finds himself on the run, while trying to recover from amnesia to establish his true identity.

Review: Looking back on The Bourne Identity with a degree of hindsight, it’s easy to see how the film helped to act as a sort of watershed for the mainstream thriller and propelled it well and truly into the 21st Century. Arguably the most striking feature of the film is its sober, muted tone which is reflected in its “back to basics” insistence on the tautness of plot over pyrotechnics. Setting the action primarily in France also helped, because although thrillers have been set in Europe before, it established itself well away from the tired vocabulary of inward-looking American actioners, reflecting the complexity and expanded scope of the post-9/11 world. Liman makes great use of this new geography, setting thrilling sequences in Zurich, Paris and rural France respectively, creating vivid senses of place, and providing memorable images to compliment the more obligatory facets of car chases and punch-ups. Equally important to the action reboot was the film’s conceptualisation of its own “hero”. Rather than having a clearly delineated and identified ‘good guy’, Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne has a faceless feel, brought about partly by the literal insecurity over Bourne’s unknown past, but also by the expert casting of the actor himself. Eschewing the earnest character-acting or narcissistic grandstanding of many a Hollywood leading man, Damon has a convincing ‘everyman’ look and embellishes that with a performance that is untricksy, spontaneous and real. (November 2007)

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