Matt Damon has lost his memory! The horror!
Excuse my fake enthusiasm, but I'm trying to illustrate something about this paint-by-number film. Mainly, the film deals with Jason Bourne, played by Damon, trying to recover his memories. All he knows at the start is that he has been shot twice in the back and then found floating around in the sea. Oh, and then there's this bit about having an account at a Swiss bank. From the account, to the facts that reveal that Bourne is a CIA assassin, each piece falls neatly into place.
Too neatly. The individual scenes work just fine, and may even stand as examples of efficiency. It's only that when you string them up together that you don't have a whole. What's missing is that this process actually matters. Aside from one scene at the start where Bourne queries himself in a mirror, in various languages, and perhaps should have started using torture on his subject - well, it mainly seems like he's doing this more out of obligation than from being in some kind of personal crisis.
Soon enough, Bourne is being chased by various folk, but mainly the CIA, which now wants him dead. He teams up with Marie (Franka Potente of Run Lola Run), a fairly generic drifter who seems to hang around far too long, for reasons that turn out to be predictably romantic. I'd like to see Potente doing some interesting work in English, but Marie is hopelessly the innocent bystander, with no real depths to be plumbed.
Unfortunately, the most interesting folk to watch, Chris Cooper and Brian Cox, are locked into mostly expository roles as higher-ups in the CIA. Cooper, as usual, excels, and we don't see enough of Cox for his performance to matter, but their activities are a welcome relief from the too-pat survival instincts coming from Bourne.
The biggest problem is that, within the first five, maybe ten, minutes, we know exactly how the film fits into its genre, and the sorts of things the characters will do to resolve their circumstances. There's little actual pride after that as we march inexorably to the conclusion.
Full profile for The Bourne Identity
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