|It's a shame that Robert Ludlum didn't see the completion of this movie, based on his novel, The Bourne Identity, which was originally published many years ago. This film is a superior example of what an action film can become. The right casting, ingenuity in cinematography, and a director who made his vision something definitely other than standard create some of the most exciting minutes of film put up on the screen in ages. With so many action films that are currently on the shelves at the video store having more effort being placed into their marketing campaigns than in their actual creation, it's no wonder that the genre is in a current state of "hit or miss." Just because a film has big stars and A-list talent, doesn't mean its explosions and car chases will be interesting.|
And considering the money that's thrown into many of these films, it's surprising that Hollywood would satisfy itself with putting sub-par product on the table. But that's exactly what places The Bourne Identity in a different category. The list of elements that this film has that are different from the regular merry-go-round are too numerous to list. And those differences are a welcome diversion when every other action film is a clone of the film released previous. Possibly the first noticeable change in the book of standard techniques is the appearance of the cinematography. There is a strong use of hand-held camera shots that seem to walk hand-in-hand with the dark colors that flood every scene.
Perhaps it is the fact that the film is based in Europe that makes every scene seem heavy and gray. The giant old buildings of Paris and other locations seem to loom in over the human characters of the story, making the cities seem to be characters as well. Indeed, the locations for this film seem very important in the scheme of things. There is an inherent European look to everything that bleeds over into the story and the characters. And the cast, whose roles, whether they are large or small, all make an impact on the viewer. It is as if each person cast in this film had their roles written especially for them, which is a surprise, considering this film is based on a book, meaning the characters already existed before the screenplay was created.
Matt Damon slips into his role of action hero (albeit not your standard type) with more ease than one would expect, given his past film roles. The trailers for this film were not able to convey how at ease Damon seems to be in portraying someone who knows multiple fighting techniques and all about various firearms. But never does he make the audience feel as though he were anyone else besides Jason Bourne, amnesiac spy for the United States C.I.A. Damon doesn't play "Matt Damon in The Bourne Identity." He is David Bourne. He's able to capture that character completely with a subtle performance that doesn't seem to need the regular action hero grandstanding of previous blockbusters. But subtlety goes a long way, and Damon's performance is powerful nonetheless.
And he benefits greatly from his German co-star as well. Although Bourne is not her first American film, Franka Potente gets her first large scale exposure in this film as a woman reluctant to help Jason Bourne rediscover his past, but who eventually becomes his ally. Potente's gives her role a dose of reality in that she never lets the character become the standard lady-in-distress. Her performance, like that of Matt Damon, is more subtle than showy and blends well with the dark European mentality of the film. Her reactions to the events taking place around are never what one expects, keeping her character fresh.
And Potente is helped by the quick pace of the film. Never do any of the characters stop to smell the roses. From the first frame of the film, the story rushes out at full steam. But the characters are not forgotten in favor of putting the plot ahead of them. In fact, the characters themselves propel the story along, something which usually exists the other way around in action films. But this film seeks to leave behind anything normal in favor of more interesting fare. On face value, it seems that the filmmakers put more effort into this project that one would normally see in this type of film. It doesn't resemble the usual summer movie release. And though it was originally scheduled to be released during the fall of 2001, where it might have seemed more at home, it certainly is a welcome distraction when all other films in release look so much alike.
Review by Kelsey Wyatt.