The Bourne Identity
Weaponry seems to be the main focus of Hollywood's summer movie slate. From the threat of nuclear terrorism in The Sum of All Fears to the possibility of an atomic bomb falling into the wrong hands in Bad Company to The Bourne Identity, which places its vision of armaments in the form of a human being. That human being is one Jason Bourne (played by a buffer-than-usual Matt Damon), a top-secret government agent who becomes the target of an intricate CIA hit after he loses his memory.
With its trans-European setting and cool casting, The Bourne Identity is sleeker than much of the early summer blockbusters. Unfortunately though, Damon is the weakest link in a cast that includes Franka Potente (the fire-haired sprinter at the heart of Run Lola Run), Clive Owen (who made audiences take notice as the ultra-cool card dealer from Mike Hodges's memorable Croupier) and Julia Stiles. Beginning with Damon's rescue at sea (his seemingly-lifeless body is found adrift in the Mediterranean by a fishing boat), Bourne Identity works on a similar trajectory and schematic as Enemy of the State. Like Will Smith who's targeted by a pervasive and fast-acting government organization for reasons unknown to him, Damon is the focal point of a massive witch-hunt by an equally diabolical U.S. agency. And, like Smith, Damon must also unravel the why he's being chased while running like hell.
Unable to remember his own name, Damon discovers he has a host of uncanny skills (he has the fighting abilities of Bruce Lee at warp speed; he speaks a multitude of languages; and he's constantly mapping out escape routes in every room he enters) and an unusual box of goodies at the local Swiss bank-a plethora of passports, a gun, and a hefty sum of money. So what's an amnesiac to assume? Damon quickly figures out he's worked for some high profile folks and now he's their main target.
Hoping to get from Zurich to Paris unnoticed, Damon recruits a comely German with a rickety old Mini (Franka Potente) to take him across the border. The two quickly become more than just friends and, before you know it, the forgetful spy and footloose European are running scared from hired assassins and intricate wire tappings.
Though Damon's past is never fully revealed, the most disappointing element of The Bourne Identity is the fact that the film focuses most of its attention on the duo on the lam. The more compelling aspect of the film is the assassination plot launched against Damon, in which said evil U.S. agency activates a circle of European spies (who were crafted similarly to Damon) to hunt down their loose cannon. Clive Owen plays the predominant assassin of this bunch, but his role is diminished too greatly as is this element of the film.
But, with its Matrix-like fight scenes, and intricate spy gaming, The Bourne Identity teeters on the edge of boredom without ever toppling over.