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The Bourne Identity: Collector's Edition

Universal Studios Home Video

Starring Matt Damon and Franka Potente

Written by Tony Gilroy and William Blake Herron
Directed by Doug Liman

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Review by Dawn Taylor                    

It was with excitement and not a little bit of trepidation that I picked up the DVD of 2002's The Bourne Identity, believing it to be an in-depth tell-all about The DVD Journal's own Mark Bourne. Mr. Bourne, as you may know, is a published author and renowned raconteur. But beyond that, the man remains a mystery, a cipher, a gaudily wrapped package whose contents may be guessed at but never truly known. Surely The Bourne Identity would shine a much-needed light on this fascinating yet elusive personality.

Alas, this was not the case. The Bourne Identity, it turns out, is a pleasantly entertaining thriller starring Matt Damon as a spy who's lost his memory. It also features Franka Potente, the charming actress who starred in Run, Lola, Run.

Essentially, what happens is this: Matt Damon is fished out of the sea, full of bullet holes but lacking a memory. He also has a capsule embedded in his skin, which contains a Swiss bank account number. So he hops a train to Switzerland, finds the bank, and then leaves with an enormous amount of money and a red satchel full of spy goodies. Frankly, this is the most unbelievable portion of the entire film. I mean, it takes me an hour and a half, plus arguments with three tellers, just to cash a traveler's check — this punk kid walks in with no I.D. and is ushered into a Swiss vault. Then again, this is probably why people like banking with the Swiss. They probably have free donuts and cigars in the lobby, too.

Anyway, he loads all his safety-deposit-box swag into this red satchel — mainly a whole lot of money and several passports, including one in the name of Jason Bourne. At this point, Matt Damon attempts to set his jaw in some semblance of determination, but really ends up looking like a barista who's peeved that he's run out of sugar-free vanilla syrup for the lattes. Damon is a fine actor, and cute as a bug, but believable as a world-class secret agent, he ain't.

Bad guys immediately start trying to kill Matt Damon, who still doesn't know who he is, so he pays a young woman named Marie (Potente) $10,000 to drive him to Paris. Meanwhile, Damon's bosses back in the U.S. strut around CIA headquarters harumphing about what to do about their errant spy-boy. See, they thought he was dead, and now that they know he's not dead, instead of being happy and throwing him a nice party, they decide that he needs to be killed all over again. The bosses are played by Chris Cooper and Brian Cox, and they seem like very nice men aside from wanting to kill Matt Damon. They tell another agent, played by Clive Owen, to do the job, and he is decidedly not nice, which is where all the intrigue comes in.

The rest of the movie is all about Matt and Franka running around from the bad guys and Matt discovering that he has all these fabulous superpowers that he didn't know about, like martial arts and a mastery of languages. This is the most fun part of the movie, because this would have to be absolutely the coolest thing that could ever happen to a person. " Wow, I can speak Russian! And apparently I know 47 different ways to kill a man with my bare hands, but I didn't realize it!" It would be better than winning the lottery. Mainly because if you wanted to, you could just go find someone who did win the lottery and kill them.

*          *          *

The Bourne Identity is the very best kind of dumb action movie. It's a dumb action movie that isn't too dumb, so you can just watch it and eat a snack, enjoying the gorgeous European scenery and the running and chasing and shooting and kicking and driving, but never once do you think "Gee, this is really dumb." It seems very snappy and clever while you're watching it, which is what really counts. Later you may forget everything that happened in the film and shake your head that you bought, even for a moment, that Matt Damon was a CIA assassin — but it's a fun ride nonetheless.

Universal's DVD release of The Bourne Identity is offered in either anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) or full-screen, pan-and-scan editions. The widescreen disc has a great transfer, if a tad dark at times. It's not a sharp picture, but much of that seems to have been a deliberate directorial choice. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (available in either English of French) is superb. Extras include an informative and scene-specific (if not exactly sparkling) commentary track by director Doug Liman; four deleted scenes that aren't especially interesting; an alternate ending (which differs from the actual ending in that it takes place outdoors and there's more kissing); a slightly longer scene at the dinner table in the farmhouse; a 15-minute "making-of" featurette; a Moby video; DVD-ROM content; cast-and-crew and production notes; and the theatrical trailer.

— Dawn Taylor

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