Wednesday, May 03, 2006


RATING: ****
RUN TIME: 119 min.

One has got to say this; THE BOURNE IDENTITY is one of the most intelligent action movies to come out of Hollywood in this age where action movies mean a lot of explosions and real fast cars chasing each other in the streets of a city. James Bond movies have gone incredibly soft with little or no brain in them and the second installment of the MISSION IMPOSSIBLE franchisee is simply put dumb. In the middle of this came a “A New Breed Of Secret Agent” by the name of XXX. That movie set new standards for dumbness. And just when I thought that those good old fashioned thrillers have become extinct comes THE BOURNE IDENTITY. It is a nod to those good old action thrillers and much more.
THE BOURNE IDENTITY is based on late Robert Ludlum’s thriller by the same name. In fact Mr. Ludlum is the executive producer of the movie. But the plot has been greatly revised so as to look relevant in today’s times. At the same time the movie could be placed in the 60s and still would a piece that belongs to that generation. That is what I was amazed at. The movie could be placed in any decade and it would still look in tune with those times.
The movie starts off with a group of sailors in the Mediterranean Sea picking up a floating body. This was the part that was a bit of an eyesore. That was the problem with the novel as well. How could a living body float in the water without any gear to enable that? Anyways that was the plot and we just cannot think too much of it. Otherwise the whole movie would go for a toss.
The sailors pick up the body and treat him. It turns out that the person suffers from temporary amnesia and has just a Zurich Bank Account Number in his back. Now he has got to know who he is and why people are after him. That is the whole premise of THE BOURNE IDENTITY.
The performances are uniformly spectacular. This is what we can come to expect from a cast that boasts of so many seasoned performers.
Franka Potente (RUN LOLA RUN) as the Jason Bourne’s love interest is wonderful. She brings a strange mixture of vulnerability and smartness that I doubt many actresses could have achieved.
Chris Cooper (AMERICAN BEAUTY) as CIA agent Conklin is just perfect. Every time I see this actor, it amazes me. I have written time and again that actors like Cooper, William H Macy, Brian Cox don’t get the recognition they deserve. Cooper looks and performs like you imagine a weary old cold war soldier. This actor immerses himself in every character I watch him play and I have never seen any hangover of one part over the other.
Brian Cox (MANHUNTER) has precious little to play but he is authoritative as always. I still maintain that he was a better Hannibal Lektor as compared to Mr. Anthony Hopkins who was a bit showier. Cox beautifully slips into the part as we have come to expect of him.
The talent that has been wasted is that of Clive Owen. He has absolutely nothing to do apart from looking stern and straight behind his glasses. His character doesn’t even carry forward into the sequels. Anybody could have played that part.
But the kudos are for Matt Damon. He brings a depth to the character that few can bring. Matt Damon is one of the finest actors of this generation. He is right up there with the very best of his generation. In fact I would go on and say that when his time comes he would be one of the finest of all time. Not many actors could have brought such maturity and coolness to the role. Tom Cruise was at best average in the MISSION IMPOSSIBLE series. And that guy has been around for quite a while now. It was rumored that Brad Pitt was originally considered for the part. He would have been good, but nowhere as good as Damon. Damon has the unique gift of conveying without saying a single word. From the current crop I know only Christian Bale who can do that. Damon is cool, calculative and humane at the same time. Many actors in similar roles act by numbers. Mr. Brosnan would be a character by the scene. What I mean by that is that if the scene were emotional he would act emotional, if it were cool he act all stylish and cool regardless of his character. Such characters are nothing but caricatures. But no such mistakes by Damon. He is Jason Bourne. It is as if he was born to play Jason Bourne. And when you watch him in Ocean’s Eleven it all changes. He is a great actor and this is one astonishing performance from him.
The screenplay by Tony Gilroy (THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE, PROOF OF LIFE) is quite a revelation for a summer action blockbuster. A-thrill-a-minute plot, awesome character development, and fast action really make this movie a joy ride. The dialogues are witty and intelligent without ever being theatrical or campy. Mr. Hunt and Mr. Bond, please make note.
Director Doug Liman (SWINGERS) has injected fresh blood into this genre. Spy thrillers were fast becoming outdated with little or no interest in the plot. But this makes no such movie. It is just like those good old spy thrillers Mr. Liman seems to have a problem with background scores as they seemed to be out of place with the action. But that is a small problem in what is otherwise a wonderful action movie. The action scenes are fast with a nod to martial arts, and the last shootout scene involving Bourne and The Professor is just out of the park. The action scenes are just what the plot and movie demand and not just for the sake of blowing up stuff.
It is just so cool that a dying genre has been infused with fresh blood. Jason Bourne is here to stay.


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