On Second Thought: “The Bourne Identity”

Spy films or anything to do with spy’s is fun. Maybe it’s because there’s always always a sense of danger and intrigue, even glamor. Whatever it is, most story’s about spy’s seem to captivate audiences, and the more compelling and complex they are, the more one is willing to stick around until the conclusion. If it’s part of a long running franchise, well, the end may not be as final as you thought.

The Universal Pictures film. “The Bourne Identity”, is a slow burner thriller that delivers in ways most other thrillers can’t.

This action film stars Matt Damon (upcoming “Jason Bourne”, “The Martian”), Franka Potente (“Dark Matter”, “The Conjuring 2”), Chris Cooper (“Demolition”, “11.22.63”), Clive Owen (“The Confirmation”, “Last Knights”), Brian Cox (“War & Peace (2016)”, “Penny Dreadful”), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (upcoming “Suicide Squad”, “Concussion”), Gabriel Mann (“Rush Hour (TV series)”, “Ray Donovan”), Walton Goggins (“Vice Principals”, “The Hateful Eight”), and Josh Hamilton (upcoming “Manchester by the Sea”, “Madam Secretary”).

The film was directed by Doug Liman (upcoming “Reckoning with Torture”, “Edge of Tomorrow”) and written by Tony Gilroy (“The Bourne Legacy”, “State of Play (2009)”) and William Blake Herron (“Agent X”, “Ripley Under Ground”). The film is based on the novel of the same name by Robert Ludlum.

The film originally opened on June 14, 2002.

Since I haven’t tortured myself enough this week, let’s throw in some Jason Bourne! Why not? One film series isn’t not, let’s try two. If you’ve kept up mildly with the various ads that flash across your TV screen during any given program, you’ve no doubt seen TV spots for the newest entry in the “Bourne” franchise! It’s another sequel, in a week full of discussing reboots and sequels, but one I’m oddly very excited about! It’s been some time since we actually saw Jason Bourne, so who know’s what he’s been up to and what new questions have arisen that need answers? Whatever they may be, it looks like this film will be worth the long wait, and the fact that it’s yet another sequel in a long run film franchise, makes the stakes so much higher. If it isn’t top notch, I’ll be supremely disappointed.

What I’m not disappointed in, but a little surprised by, was this film. As is a common theme it seems, it’s been some time since I last saw this film. I pretty much have passed up every opportunity to see it, until now, and I must say I think it was worth it. I feel like I’ve also learned a few things along the way.

I mainly learned, that while this film’s pacing seems strange, especially for a thriller, it’s used so well. It’s one of those rare instances when a film creatives know how to explore characters and make the film a fully character driven film. This primarily applies to Damon and Potente, but does apply a bit to the CIA characters and all that they’re doing. Typically this slow down is just that, to slow things for a moment and let the audience and characters take a breather. Otherwise, how would you ever learn anything, especially if it’s important to the plot? In this case, this really isn’t how it feels at all. It’s organic. I got a very good way into everyone, and could like them, hate them, or like their work ethic. It just depended.

One of the big driving forces behind this exploration and acceptance of characters, is the mystery surrounding Damon’s Jason Bourne. Who is he? That’s the central question, and it’s what drives everything. So, since he doesn’t know and you don’t know, you’re thrust in, in a different way, but still a rewarding way. Potente gets a similar type of treatment, and it’s what makes these characters so memorable. It’s what makes this world so complex, because you’re also trying to figure out what the hell the CIA is up to, and why it’s important to kill Bourne. When you think about these characters, at least right now, it’s largely a character study. It’s a different way to go, a risky way, but it certainly worked and paved the easy for two phenomenal sequels. I can’t include the third sequel, as it’s kind of in its own little category. Sorry.

Within this character driven story, you get one big, complex mystery. From the moment Damon comes on screen, you’ve got questions. Then, you go on the journey and see that there’s a lot that needs to be explained. I know I just finished talking about mystery, but here, it’s about the way it was used, or at least I hope it is, as opposed to how it comes about because of the character driven story. Every mysterious bit in this story was perfectly handled. You constantly got just the right amount of intrigue, answers, and then more questions. This goes for all the characters. Nothing was ever quickly or plainly explained. I found that I was having to do a bit more work than expected. It was a welcome surprise, because otherwise all I’d be doing is enjoying the amazingly choreographed fight and action sequences! Which isn’t a bad thing, mind you. This makes the film smarter. It makes the story worth following, and because you’re drawn in more, you understand all of the complex emotional components. It’s what makes you care about the characters more than most other thrillers or action films allow.

All this character and mystery building is wonderful, but you can’t ignore a key component that this franchise is known for. The action. While the action itself was also borne out of a character driven element, it was executed in a way that would satisfy those looking for some quick rushes and original ideas. This film delivers, and I must say, set some kind of bar for originality and intensity. There isn’t a single sequence or fight that I don’t love. The car chase is exhilarating! Damon engaging in hand to hand combat fights is just in your face. You’re there. Any closer and you could probably wind up with a few bruises. My favorite is when Damon’s facing off with the first assassin and ends up grabbing a pen as his weapon. It’s nonstop! The upside, I feel, is that this action isn’t there to just have big explosion or deadly crashes, with destruction on all sides. Again, character is what seems to drive this. There’s a purpose for it all, and not because the writers said so. Having this and knowing all the other elements, this film comes together unlike most other action thrillers.

Of all the things that I’m a a it surprised by, it’s that this film’s story seems too simple. It isn’t, but given that you spend the entire time looking for a man’s identity, and avoiding the CIA, who is trying to kill you because of this unknown identity, it’s a pretty basic story on the surface. Granted, when you think a bit more, it is the first film. You’re being introduced to a world you and Damon know nothing about. I like spy movies and thrillers as much as the next person, and while this film does thoroughly entertain me, it can’t completely override this one thought. I’ve discovered that in evaluating films the way I do, more often than not, some pesky little thought will find its way through. While it makes me question everything I just said, there’s no way for me to complete cite it as wrong. I hope this single thought doesn’t ruin this film and the others for me, as that would be a big shame.

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