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Matt's The Bourne Identity Review

Updated on October 6, 2014

I was about 16 years old when The Bourne Identity first hit theaters.  I saw it, of course, and I loved it.  Having just revisited the film, I’m now struck by a lot of elements that I missed, and where The Bourne Identity fits in the context of Film History.  At first glance on paper, this film looks like a typical spy thriller with a great performer in the lead role, and directed by a rookie director Doug Liman.  Liman only had four other projects on his resume before directing The Bourne Identity.  That turned out to be irrelevant.  The Bourne Identity is a beautifully crafted and well executed work of art.


- This film owes a huge debt to Ronin (1998). As Ronin is also a brilliant action film, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Particularly the famous car chase through the streets of Paris, is clearly inspired by a similar sequence in Ronin.

- The pacing and general feel of the film is quite reminiscent of 1990s cinema. There is a huge emphasis on characterization and performance. The storytelling comes before the spectacle, something we see less and less of as the 2000s decade wore on.

- The action sequences were nowhere near as frenetic as the typical 2000s action scene. Techniques used by Paul Greengrass in The Bourne Supremacy (2004) would both polarize the audience, and be highly influential in the action genre. So unlike The Bourne Supremacy, or the Bourne Ultimatum (2008), you’ll find no shaky camera work in this film. The camera is rock-steady from start to finish. As a result of that, viewers will have absolutely no trouble seeing what’s going on in the various scenes.


- Matt Damon really is a safe bet. No matter what movie he’s doing, he is always great to see on screen. His performance as Jason Bourne is now iconic, and it speaks for itself. It is brilliantly down to earth and believable, but it’s also subtle and tempered. He never takes the performance over the top – which could have happened easily – but he doesn’t underplay the emotional part of the character either. Bourne’s emotions may often be repressed, but they are always there. That is not an easy thing to pull off, but Damon does it beautifully.

- The other really great performance in the film is Chris Cooper as Conklin, the man chasing after Bourne. Not an easy part to play because we find out nothing about Conklin’s personal life, but Cooper manages to bring a lot of fire to the part. His scene with Damon at the end of the movie is particularly memorable.

Music, Cinematography and Special Effects

- The music in this film was composed by John Powel. Certainly, he comes up with a memorable theme for the film, and the music does work to enhance the film in all the right places. It does not however fall into the category of movie scores that stand on their own as musical pieces.

- The Bourne Identity was beautifully shot. Lots of variety of both urban and Rural locations, and even during the action sequences, we never lose a sense of where the characters are.

 - The Bourne Identity is not really a special effects film. The action sequences were well conceived and believable. Special effects is actually a dangerous category for most films, because of advances in technology can cause films to age badly. That is far from the case here, at 8 years of age, The Bourne Identity stands up very well.

The Bottom Line

The Bourne Identity is a very good movie, even if it isn’t a masterpiece.  What it is though is a solid, riveting piece of filmmaking, a balancing act of emotionally complex performance, and action that is rarely seen in movies today.  I highly recommend it. (8/10)

For those who have seen The Bourne Identity, what did you think?

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      Laure 2 years ago

      Since I have a completely opposite view of the movie, i better explain a bit. First I went into the movie having read and loved the books. Most of my critic comes from this fact. If they had done almost the same movie, changing a few key plots belonging to the book and naming the movie differently I would have liked it. But if you're using that name and that story, don't use a third of it. I went to see an onion with many layers of discoveries before finding the truth of who is Jason Bourne. I got an apple. And some of the differences they did between the book and the movie were things I wanted to see: JB real identity, Marie who get him back from his despair and brings logical facts to why he cannot be a simple killer...