Children of Bond - The Bourne Identity
Bourne Identity is a 2002 action-thriller film based on Robert Ludlum's
1980 novel. It was directed by Doug Liman. This story had previously
been done as a miniseries with Richard Chamberlain as Bourne. I gather
that the writer of this 2002 film didn't even bother to read the novel
- so it probably wasn't the most slavish adapatation. It was more the
concept of The Bourne Identity that the makers of this film liked. They
wanted to do their own thing with that concept - as opposed to a strict
translation of the book.
film begins with Italian fishermen rescuing a man who is floating inert
in the Mediterranean Sea. The man turns out to be American but he is
suffering from amnesia and has no idea who he is. A laser projector
found upon him gives the number of a safe deposit box in Zürich so the
amnesiac man decides to travel there and investigate. The safety
deposit box reveals money in various currencies, numerous passports
with different names, and a gun. He decides to take the passport
bearing the name Jason Bourne. Our amnesiac hero is still pretty
confused - although that safety deposit box probably should have tipped
him off to the fact that he might be a spy!
enlists the help of a young woman named Marie Kreutz (Franka Potente)
as he seeks to find out who he really is. It transpires that Bourne is
a product of Treadstone - a black ops project intended to train and
deploy elite assassins. This would explain why Bourne is a martial arts
expert who can drive like James Hunt and handle a gun like Clint
Eastwood in a Spaghetti Western. Bourne's troubles have only just begun
though because Treadstone have become aware of his existence. Bourne
had failed in an assassination attempt against an exiled African
dictator and Treadstone now plan to terminate him. To this end they
activate a number of assassins to kill him.
Bourne Identity (and its first sequel) were patently the biggest
influences on the reboot of the James Bond series that arrived in 2006.
Bourne is a very different character from Bond. He is not prone to
quips or seducing women and doesn't have much of a taste for the high
life. He's a bit of a blank to be honest. James Bond is a loyal servant
of Her Majesty (which will obviously have to be changed to HIS Majesty
going forward) and a blunt instrument for his government. Bourne, by
contrast, has no loyalty to the establishment and operates as a lone
wolf. Bourne doesn't trust his own government - and for good reason
because their covert agencies are usually trying to kill him.
government spy racket is murky, corrupt, and dangerous in the Bourne
films. The good thing about The Bourne Identity though is that it
doesn't hammer you over the head with this theme. It simply uses this
premise as the basis to deliver a satisfying and sleek action film.
What really got the attention of EON back in 2002 was that The Bourne
Identity cost $80 million less to make than Die Another Day but turned
out to be a lot more exciting and coherent.
Another Day has two luxury gadget laden cars firing missiles at each
other in a winter wonderland. The Bourne Identity on the other hand has
Matt Damon driving a battered Mini Cooper through the streets of Europe
being chased by the police. The car chase in The Bourne Identity cost
considerably less money than the one in Die Another Day but guess which
one of these car chases is the most fun? It's no competition. The car
chase in The Bourne Identity is fantastic and has not a gadget in
The Bourne Identity
showed that you could strip away the CGI and outlandish trappings but
still make a terrific spy thriller. The film also put us at the heart
of the action much more than Bond movies had done of late with hand
held-cameras and tightly shot fight scenes. The fight scenes in The
Bourne Identity are enjoyably violent and superbly staged. They were a
huge influence on the violent close quarter fights we got in Casino
Now, not to say that
Bourne wasn't partly inspired by Bond in the first place. The Bond
series hasn't been short of good tough fight scenes. Sean Connery's 007
had memorable scraps with Red Grant and Peter Franks. Bond's fight with
006 in GoldenEye was pretty good too. The Bourne Identity also takes
inspiration from classic Bond films in the way that Bourne has to use
his wits to get out of dangerous and tricky situations. Bourne slowly
being cornered from all sides at the Embassy is somewhat reminscent of
the way that Bond in OHMSS constantly finds himself surrounded by
baddies in the snow frosted town just before Tracey turns up again.
thing that helps The Bourne Identity too, and it is something which a
lot of modern Bond films seem to lack, is that Matt Damon has a nice
believable sort of chemistry with his leading lady Franka Potente.
Potente is obviously not supposed to be anything like a Bond Girl
because Marie is just an ordinary bystander who ends up helping Bourne.
Even so, The Bourne Identity shows that you don't neccessarily need to
cast the FHM model of the month as the female lead if you make a spy
The Bourne Identity is
not as much fun as the very best Bond films of yesteryear and has quite
a sullen, even bleak sort of noir atmosphere (humour is thin on the
ground) but the locations are authentic and the action delivers. The
music is terrific too. There's a good cast here with actors like Julia
Stiles and also Clive Owen as a hitman sent to kill Bourne. Brian Cox
is the dodgy CIA boss and deploys that same American accent he seems to
do in everything. One of the good things about the film is you end up
rooting for Bourne because he's quite vulnerable as far as action
heroes go. He's on his own and often has no idea what is going on.
Damon (who only got the part because big names like Brad Pitt and Tom
Cruise turned it down) makes a surprisingly good action hero here.
Bourne isn't a muscle bound lunk jumping off cranes or equipped with
ingenious gadgets. He's just someone who has been expertly trained to
be a deadly assassin. This makes the character feel much more realistic
than Bond. The emergence of the Bourne films was a double-edged sword
as far as the Bond franchise goes. The Daniel Craig era used the
influence of Bourne to its advantage with the success of Casino Royale
but then to its disadvantage in Quantum of Solace.
of Solace was influenced by the Paul Greengrass directed Bourne sequel.
Greengrass is notorious for his particular camera style. This is best
described as shakycam.
couple more films of this the obstreperous ADD camera antics of
Greengrass got a bit tiresome and old. The success of The Bourne
Supremacy was the catalyst for the preposterous editing style of
Quantum of Solace. The lesson was simple. Bond benefits from some of
the leaner, tougher action of Bourne but should definitely not try to
copy the editing style of Paul Greengrass. It just doesn't suit Bond at