A scene from 'The Bourne Identity'
Courtesy Photo
3 stars 121 minutes | Rated: PG-13
Opened: Friday, June 14, 2002
Directed by Doug Liman

Starring Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Clive Owen, Chris Cooper, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Julia Stiles, Brian Cox

This film received an honorable mention on the Best of 2002 list.


Best (and smartest) action movie of 2002. Don't miss it.

   RELEASED: 01.21.2003
   RELEASED: 07.20.2004
07.20.2004: There are now two editions of this DVD, and which one you want depends on your taste in bonus material.

The Collector's Edition issued in 2003 and possibly to be discontinued soon, includes a rather academic commentary track by director Doug Liman that would be of interest mostly to other filmmakers. But he does talk a lot about making the movie smart and making Bourne calm and collected under pressure, which is also what makes the movie different and better. His commentary also includes a lot about himself and his father's memoirs about working on uncovering the Iran-Contra scandal -- but he never adequately explains who is father was -- and other incomplete thoughts: During the fight in Bourne's apartment, when the bad guy comes through glass, Liman says, "The initial shot that I did didn't work, but luckily I came up with a pretty simple fix to it" -- but he never says what that fix was! He also talks quite a bit about reshooting the ending -- but the ending he talks about is not the one included on this disc. Very aggravating.

The 2004 Extended Edition, issued in conjunction with the theatrical release of the sequel is equally aggravating as it does have this alternative ending (and a beginning that goes with it), but no commentary! The new disc also includes slew of new goodies, like interviews about the filmmakers' content concerns post-9/11; a great, interactive sound-design feature and a so-so one about the fight scenes; an homage to Robert Ludlum; and interviews with writer Tony Gilroy and with a CIA agent (about the film's realism).

The 2003 edition includes a trailer, the 2004 edition has a 15m, standard-issue "making of" that uses a lot of the same interview footage as the featurettes. Both have the same deleted scenes.

So what to do? Beats me. Maybe wait for a box set when the sequel comes out on DVD and hope they've included everything this time.


BUY "Collectors"
BUY "Extended"
2.35:1 ratio; 5.1 Surround
DUBS: French
SUBS: English, Spanish (+ French on the Extended Edition)
Very crisp

DVD RATING: **1/2 (both versions)

Read our interview with Franka Potente Read our 2001 interview with actress Franka Potente


 LINKS for this film
Official site
at Rotten Tomatoes
at Internet Movie Database
The intelligent spy thriller is 'Bourne' again in brilliant, action-packed adaptation of savvy Ludlum novel

By Rob Blackwelder

There's nothing more satisfying during a summer of event movies than to discover a spy thriller like "The Bourne Identity" that's packed with just as much intelligence as action.

Adapted from the slick and savvy novel by the late Robert Ludlum (whose two sequels are waiting in the wings), the picture stars Matt Damon in a sharply focused performance as a mysterious man found floating in the Mediterranean Sea with two bullet holes in his back and a wicked case of amnesia.

He speaks several languages ("Stop messing around and tell me who I am," he admonishes himself in a mirror in German and French). He possessed lethal instincts and martial arts skills, which he discovers much to his own surprise when he takes down two police officers who harass him after he's come ashore in Prague. He knows somebody with a lot of clandestine power is trying to kill him, and his only clue to their identity and his own is a tiny laser pen found embedded under his skin that projects an account number at a Swiss bank -- where he discovers a safe deposit box packed with cash, forged passports and a gun.

Directed by the understated and resourceful Doug Liman ("Swingers," "Go"), this is a film in which even a seat-gripping car chase through the streets of Zurich bristles with brain power as Jason Bourne (he got his name off one of the passports) out-foxes a dozen police cars by maneuvering a Mini Cooper at break-neck speeds down crowded sidewalks and a flight of narrow stairs.

Yet one of the movie's best scenes is the 30 seconds or so after he hides the car in a parking garage following the getaway. In a moment when any other action movie would opt for the clever quip ("I hate Zurich traffic!"), Bourne and the German girl he's offered $20,000 to drive him to Paris ("Run Lola Run's" fantastic Franka Potente) sit silently and let their adrenaline subside while they mentally regroup, realizing they have to abandon the car and wipe it clean of their fingerprints.

In the mean time, Liman takes us to CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., where a supervising agent played by Chris Cooper ("American Beauty," "October Sky") is holed up in a bare basement office, desperately trying to figure out what Bourne is up to while taking heat from above for risking exposure of a clandestine mission. It turns out our hero blew an assignment to kill a former African dictator who was writing a book on the CIA that was going to name names. Now the target has gone public with accusations and Cooper thinks his man has gone rouge, so he's activated every Agency assassin in Europe to track him down and take him out.

Liman and Damon do a brilliant job of tapping into Bourne's frustration and the tingling instincts that keep him alive as he hunts for answers. You can almost see the wheels turning in his head during a daring, wall-crawling escape from a U.S. Embassy during an early scene in which he's still disoriented but aware enough to realizes he's being flanked by guards.

The director practically reinvents the modern fight scene, bringing excitement to shoot-outs and mano-a-mano martial arts showdowns in a way that is as methodical and unhurried as the fights themselves. He never resorts to MTV-style editing, and uses the film's score of energetic electronica (by often-experimental composer John Powell who scored "Face/Off," "Antz" and "Shrek") as the background track it should be.

Like "Ronin" and the first "Mission: Impossible" film, "The Bourne Identity" is a complex espionage-fueled action flick that respects the viewer enough to let you connect some of the dots yourself. As the plot thickens and assassins on Bourne's trail are directed through a nervously inexperienced dispatcher (Julia Stiles) in a Paris safehouse, screenwriter Tony Gilroy ("Dolores Claibourne," "The Devil's Advocate") doesn't spell out every little detail. He trusts you to figure out how Bourne tracks his attackers back to the safehouse and tricks Cooper into coming to Paris and showing his cards.

Best of all, Liman lets the characters drive the story, with tense, suspenseful and emotional moments between Damon and Potente (who is much more than the traditional cinema spy's arm ornament) given as much weight and screen time as the tense and exhilarating stunt scenes.

Nothing feels contrived in "The Bourne Identity," even during the few scenes that raise questions (how does Marie know a body at the Paris morgue has been identified with one of Bourne's aliases?). And with the exception of a slick, screen graphic-intensive introduction of the assassins out to get our hero, the picture hardly feels like Hollywood at all. The European locales are not presented as postcards and Cooper's realistically dreary basement CIA office looks like anything but the production designer's high-tech wet dream you get in other spook movies.

I'm a big fan of the spy genre, and don't get me wrong -- I love James Bond flicks. But I'd take this kind of sensational, cerebral thriller over cartoony gadget- and stunt-driven pictures any day of the week.


Extended Edition

Collectors' Edition

or Search for

Unlmited DVD rental
$20 a month


powered by FreeFind
SPLICEDwire home
Online Film Critics Society
All Rights Reserved
Return to top
Current Reviews
SPLICEDwire Home