Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:58 - Released 6/14/02

With the intelligent twists of a spy novel, the talented eye of director Doug Liman (Go), and actors like Matt Damon, Franka Potente, and Chris Cooper, The Bourne Identity is about as effective a thriller as you could want, especially if you don't want to think too hard. It does suffer from occasional lapses in credibility, probably brought on by the inability on the part of screenwriters Tony Gilroy and William Blake Herron to include all the intricate plot elements of Robert Ludlum's novel; what results is a rather formulaic (albeit enjoyable) story about a man who doesn't know who he is but figures he must be somebody, since people keep shooting at him.

Damon plays Jason Bourne (although, to be truthful, that's just one of the half-dozen or so identities he eventually discovers in his collection of international passports), who is found unconscious floating in the Mediterranean Sea by a boatful of fishermen. Upon closer inspection, Bourne finds that he has several things embedded in his skin, like a few bullets, a "Winona" tattoo (just kidding), and a small metal pellet with the account number for a safety deposit box in Switzerland. When he opens the box, he finds the several passports mentioned, many thousands of dollars, and a gun. He also finds that showing up at the bank sets in motion a complex international plot to assassinate him led by Ted Conklin (Cooper), who is actually his boss in a highly placed CIA operation. But he doesn't know that yet.

While evading the Swiss law enforcement and various other assorted snipers, thugs, and hit men, he meets a young woman named Marie Kreutz (Potente) who seems to have her own I.D. problems. The two of them vamoose to Paris, where, according to information from the box, Bourne keeps an apartment, but soon they find that they can't vamoose to anywhere without having bad guys waiting for them, since they are up against the most effective information-gathering network in the world. Luckily, Jason also possesses, for reasons unknown to him, the ability to think, act, and react like a master's student in the James Bond Academy, sensing when danger is imminent and effectively eluding it at every turn. You know, if you don't know who you are, it's at least good to know you can beat people up. Eventually he learns his connection not only to Conklin, but to an exiled African political leader (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), but not before fending off numerous assassination attempts and endangering the lives of Marie and several others who have the misfortune to ever be in his vicinity.

This is very much a meat-and-potatoes type thriller, a satisfying "guy movie" with all the requisite elements, including shootouts, car chases, and the lead character figuring out incredibly complex things while we all just watch in wonder. Damon is as reliable as ever, and Potente is cute, sexy, and has a nice accent. What else can I say? Oh, yeah—don't forget the popcorn. ****

Copyright 2002 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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