Cert: 12A Runtime: 119 mins Director: Doug Liman Starring: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Clive Owen, Chris Cooper and Brian Cox
How could I forget about you? You’re the only person I know
As The Bourne Legacy is out this week I thought we should re visit Jason Bourne.On a stormy night, a young man is pulled out of the Mediterranean Sea by the crew of a fishing boat. Thinking the young man is dead, a curious fisherman with a scalpel finds two bullets in his back and a miniature laser device in his hip. The laser reveals a Swiss bank account number. But our wet hero isn’t dead, and soon finds himself in Zurich. In the bank vault the young man discovers his name, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon). In addition, he finds a baffling pile of different passports, all with his picture, and a huge pile of cash. In the U.S. Embassy, Jason Bourne discovers his love interest and travel partner, Marie (Franka Potente), along with the fact that someone wants to kill him. Armed with a bag of money and mysterious martial arts skills, with Marie by his side, Bourne scours Paris for clues about his identity and past life… and finds himself in the middle of two assassination plots masterminded by the CIA.I was pleasantly surprised with the Bourne Identity.Very rarely do I get to watch a movie that surpasses my expectations.First of all can I say that there are so many films out there that have the same regurgitated ideas and plot lines.Not many of which have any originality.I have grown extremely tired of the typical formula spy film like Bond, or the juvenile stunt exhibition “Triple X.” There have been a bare handful of spy films that feature relatively realistic spy thrillers, especially recently with a concentration on spectacular movies that have less substance than cotton candy.
Besides “The Bourne Identity,” “Ronin” is the only spy movie I can think of that didn’t feature skydiving, bungie jumping, skiing downhill while shooting innumerable bad guys, laser pens, cars with ejection seats, or silicone breasted women with names you’d be vaguely embarrassed to say in front of your mother. Most of the crap that passes for an espionage film has no plot or reason for existing other than to meet a quota of explosions and cleavage in order to draw the summer action film crowd.While “Bourne” does not have a particularly deep plot, it is consistent and focused. The focus is entirely upon Bourne and how he is to deal with having no memory of his past, being hunted without knowing why. Some people have complained about being confused by the movie. I for one, do not need to have everything spelled out since in many cases this smacks of unreality in the first place; the essence of espionage is drawing conclusions from very sketchy information. If you can’t handle a little of that, you probably should stick to Disney films or TV’s Scooby Doo where everything is explained in the end. We never find out about what is in the case in “Ronin” and I can live without some information being filled in about Bourne’s past.To those who have moaned about the incompatibility of the book and the movie, seek help. There are probably several things that work in the book that would either be boring and take too much screen time to explain, or would be viewed as cliche to modern screen audiences.
As for realism, most of the action scenes are believable, no super-gadgets are to be seen, no incredibly lovely models fall madly in bed with Bourne, and the hero shows definite signs of physical vulnerability despite a very high level of training and competance. As someone who has trained in martial arts for over 10 years, unrealistic fight scenes are a pet peeve. The fights in “Bourne” are fast, nasty, and very realistic while still being entertaining for the layman. (And yes, taking a gun away from some idiot who is standing well within your striking radius without getting shot is definitely doable, though I had serious doubts until we tested it for ourselves with plastic dart guns in the dojo several years ago).While not being perfect, “The Bourne Identity” is, simply put, several grades above the typical spy film. Being focused on an individual level rather than involving itself huge political ramifications lends it another layer of respectability rather than detracting from it as some comments have implied since it remains a human problem on a comprehensible scale. The mysteries that are left are bigger mysteries for Bourne than us, and I think should be viewed as intentional omissions rather than loose ends. The implausibilities are kept to a minimum and the realism to as high a level as possible while still being spectacular enough to meet the expectations of the genre.