The Bourne Identity (3)

 Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley


I was looking forward to this movie because I read Robert Ludlumís book several decades ago.  While it wasnít Ludlumís best (that would be The Eiger Sanction, written under the pseudonym Trevanian, which became a wonderful Clint Eastwood Movie and contained a tour de force by Jack Cassidy in a role that allegedly contributed to his untimely death), The Bourne Identity was an enjoyable read. 

Unfortunately, this review is not about Eastwood or Cassidy or Ludlum, itís about Matt Damon and Director Doug Liman. Damonís a good-looking guy whose best roll was his cameo as Private Ryan.  Maybe heís best when heís off screen and people are looking for him.  Here, however, heís on screen while people are looking for him. 

For some unknown reason, Liman apparently wanted to show a totally emotionless protagonist.  So he made a good pick in Damon whose display of emotions, in Dorothy Parkerís words, runs the gamut from A to B.  One thing you could say about Ludlumís novels, both good and bad, is that his protagonists were emotional.  Lots of italicized thoughts run throughout his novels emphasizing the fact that his hero has feelings.  Damon, on the other hand, seems totally unphased by the fact that his life has apparently only started when he awakens on a fishing boat in the Mediterranean Sea and that the entire world seems out to kill him. 

This picture has been in the can seemingly forever.  Universal kept postponing its release date.  Too bad they didnít use that time to fix things, like reshoot it entirely with a different director and a different star. 

One of the many problems, other than Damonís lack of emotion, is the fact that thereís no suspense.  This guy is so in control that you never doubt heís ever going to come to harm.  He knows everything thatís going to happen before it happens. For example, he deduces that thereís a hit man outside just because a dog is missing.   Then he finds the guy, whoís hiding in a huge weed-filled field surrounding a farmhouse in the country, with no clues.   Before a shot is fired, he knows exactly where to go to look for him.

You want more?  The fight scenes are poorly staged and unrealistic, one Hollywood Punch after another.  Damon kills his last guy in a derivative scene copied from Guilty as Sin (a pretty good Don Johnson-Rebecca deMornay thriller that virtually nobody saw).  It was ludicrous in Guilty as Sin and itís still ludicrous. 

More?  Take the car chase.  Please.  Why do directors continue to try to liven up movies with ever more implausible car chases?  Nobodyís ever going to achieve the standard set by Peter Yates in Bullitt (although William Friedkin came close in The French Connection).  The fact the chasee in The Bourne Identity is a Mini Cooper and is mostly going the wrong way on one-way streets (a cheap trick to which Yates didnít have to resort in Bullitt) should be a telling tip itís as uninvolving and unsuspenseful as the rest of the movie. 

The film makers must have been as confused as they make their audience because they explain virtually nothing.  The word sailing through your mind as you leave the theater is, huh?  And, speaking of mysteries, if you do happen to go see this, please explain how Damon discovered what he discovers at the end.  Huh? 

On the plus side, I didnít go to sleep

The End