Mission: Impossible III" flirted with the style (and hopefully will continue to do so) and we certainly failed to make a good franchise out of the eye rolling "XXX", but we've tried. The best attempt at making our own version of the super spy was in the form of "The Bourne Identity", a high octane modernized spy film that fleetingly blends charm and kick-assery. A highlight for modern action films in this country.
Jason Bourne (Damon) wakes up in the middle of an ocean, two bullet boles in his back and a mysterious bank account number stitched in his hip. Turns out, he just might be a spy, but a nasty case of amnesia prevents him from remembering much anything past speaking English (and various other languages). As he trots across Europe trying to remember his trivial past, he forms a romantic relationship with a young woman Marie (Potente) and fights off a slew of assassins. What a horrid way to wake up.
Despite having a relatively B-grade spy plot (government killer wakes up with amnesia?), the movie is played to a certain realism with a belief in what is happening. It works. The director, Liman, plays with the story a lot giving it a modern flair that brings Bourne to an an almost human like standard, rather than the indestructible spy, and ignites the rather story heavy script with enough solid action sequences to make most mainstream fans enjoy it. You get fist to cuff fights, car chases in tiny European vehicles on tiny European streets, snipers (one played by the awesome Clive Owen), and your usual spy back stabbing double crosses. It's everything one could want with a spy film done with a modern eye that makes it work with snazzy efficiency.
It is pretty obvious that "The Bourne Identity" wanted to be America's spy franchise. The film is undeniably charming with Damon in the lead role and it's clever (but not without enough kick ass moments for those not willing to think too hard) plot. It's got a romantic sub plot that works for what it is (although certainly forced in moments) and a great villainous line up to counteract our heroic protagonist (including Brian Cox and Chris Cooper). One could run for 10 movies with the ideas presented here.
If you love spy movies, "The Bourne Identity" is a must see. For American standards in the genre, its an ace in the hole and a great way to kick off a great fun franchise. Amazing action, clever plot work, a fun and charming lead character, and just enough light heartedness to really appeal to that wide audience. What more could one ask for from this film?
Written By Matt Reifschneider