The Bourne Identity
- compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2002 1 Jan
Need a vacation? For the price of lunch, you can have a whirlwind tour of Paris, Prague, Italy, and Greece in the company of an assassin who is trying to dodge bullets fired by his own employer. It's a scenic ride, but be warned:
Matt Damon plays Jason Bourne in this second film version of Robert Ludlum's famous cloak-and-dagger novel. Bourne is an assassin who has lost his memory; fishermen discover him floating unconscious on the stormy Mediterranean Sea and awaken him to a living nightmare. He doesn't know his name, his job, or his way home. He discovers right away that he has extraordinary talents for close combat and quick thinking. And he learns all too soon that he is a hunted man. Jason is an employee of the CIA, which is in far worse shape in this film's fictional reality than it is in recent headlines. His supervisor (Chris Cooper wearing a scoundrel's sneer) has aggressively assigned all other assassins on the team to hunt Jason down because he failed an assassination attempt and risks embarrassing the team. Jobs are at stake. So Bourne goes on the run, trying to stay one step ahead of his mysterious foes, enlisting the help of a monetarily challenged, German-born beauty who agrees to drive him back to Paris and, of course, falls in love with him along the way.
Doug Liman, director of Go and
The film's frenetic pace costs it dearly.
David Denby (
Check back next week for other critical responses to the film.from Film Forum, 06/20/02
Last week, Film Forum offered an early look at
Dan Buck (Relevant) looks at the film's impressive strengths. "Some films do great things that are remembered for years to come.
Only religious press critics have spent much time pondering the film's perspectives on right and wrong, and its use of symbolism. While impressed with the craftsmanship, Buck is troubled by the film's perspective on morality. "The audience is left with a worldview that trusts no one and yet asks us to believe in love."
David Bruce (Hollywood Jesus) highlights multiple spiritual illustrations. "Jason learns that he has a tainted past … he was a sinner. His past sins threaten to create separation in the only friendship he has. He needs redemption and salvation from the past to gain new life. His past sin has resulted in his present death sentence. 'The wages of sin is death.' How can he be saved? Salvation begins with a relationship with Marie (a variation of Mary) who is unconditional in her favor and kindness (grace) towards Jason. Redeeming love."
Bruce also finds meaning in Bourne's search for identity. "Jason goes on a quest for truth. He needs to know who he is, where is he from, where is he going, and who his enemy is. As truth comes to light the darkness is dispelled. The evil ones are defeated. Truth sets him free. … Ludlum has come up with a character that embodies all the fundamental questions of life. I think I had a religious experience just sitting there in the movie theater!"
Steven D. Greydanus (Decent Films) spotlights the excellent cast: "Damon succeeds not only in making his character a credible super-operative, but also in humanizing him and making him sympathetic in spite of who and what he seems to be, while Potente is equally persuasive in conveying both the fear and the attraction Jason inspires in her character. Their relationship is credible and even involving, if deeply problematic.
Phil Boatwright (The Movie Reporter) calls it "Well-crafted and intelligent (mostly) … topnotch entertainment." But he complains that it becomes "excessively violent, extremely loud, and with the usual amount of objectionable language and sexuality replacing thoughtful dialogue and romantic interludes."
Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) credits "the taut direction of Doug Liman … the crisp editing of Saar Klein … and the solid performance of Matt Damon." But he faults the scriptwriters: "Their treatment contains a fair number of plot holes and leaves a few significant questions unanswered. Such inconsistencies, however, are only momentarily frustrating and, as we choose to ignore them, the engrossing situations which the characters face will draw us back into the story."
Holly McClure (Crosswalk) calls it "the perfect movie for those who can appreciate a well-written thriller. [Liman] knows how to create and build tension in every scene. I enjoyed this intense, action-packed, satisfying thriller, and I can assure you, you'll be thoroughly entertained!"
A critic at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says, "The energetic camera work keeps apace with the narrative's quick twists and turns, and for the most part the action doesn't let up.
Ted Baehr (
Mainstream critics are split. Charles Taylor (Salon.com) raves, "Liman manages a certain tough-mindedness here without giving in to cynicism or hopelessness. …
Roger Ebert says, "Liman … directs the traffic well, gets a nice wintry look from his locations, absorbs us with the movie's spycraft, and uses Damon's ability to be focused and sincere. There comes a point at which we realize there will be no higher level to the screenplay, no greater purpose than to expend this kinetic energy. I kind of enjoyed