J.D. Lafrance
The Bourne Identity (Special Edition) DVD Review

The Bourne Identity (Special Edition)

June 6, 2004

Director: Doug Liman,
Starring: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Chris Cooper, Clive Owen, Brian Cox, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Gabriel Mann, Walt Goggins, Josh Hamilton, Julia Stiles, Orso Maria Guerrini, Tim Dutton, Denis Braccini, Nicky Naude, David Selburg, ,

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DVD Review

J.D. Lafrance

We open with a common hook, someone who has lost their memory and doesn’t know who they are. This time it’s Matt Damon as Jason Bourne. He is found floating unconscious in the rough Mediterranean Sea, when picked up by a boat and nursed back to health by the men aboard. That’s the start of this movie and you’d be forgiven for thinking that was true. In actual fact, by selecting the extended version of the movie you get a whole new opening and alternate ending. Even with the new beginning the enigma remains the same as we follow the events of Bourne trying to identify himself. In the process he finds that he is in possession of highly capable self-defence skills and owns passports to several different countries under various aliases.

It all sounds a little ‘A Long Kiss Goodnight’ and anyone who is paying attention will have solved this mystery, or at least have a pretty good idea what’s happened within the first twenty minutes. It’s at this point that we are introduced to Franka Potente (Run Lola Run) as Marie – the love interest. The term ‘love interest’ is used very loosely, as her character seems as redundant as the high amount of lengthy expositional scenes, which leads to questionable pacing throughout the film.

After the success of popular cheap indie films, Go and Swingers, director Doug Lilman has finally been given a budget to work with, and praise to him for splashing out on expensive and clichéd explosion and gun fight action scenes. This approach leaves the moments of high interest in the film feeling very thin and suffering by coming too little, too late.

We’re then faced with an attempt to try and steal the audience away from their slumber, by mundanely treating them to every car chase gimmick in the ‘Car Chase for Dummies’ guidebook, including driving through back streets, one-way traffic and even through a sheet of glass. The lack of a soundtrack does not help brake the tedium during these ‘action’ scenes or the dull dialogue being drivelled into the viewer’s ears. Even the hand-to-hand combat is unintentionally comically choreographed, as proved in one scene where Matt Damon uses a common thug as a surfboard, jumps down the centre of a circular stair well and in turn uses him to brake his forty foot drop.

Doug Lilman does prove that some of that Indie talent is still lurking about. There has to be credit given for his use of high and low camera angles to great effect in the sequence where Bourne is trying to escape from the US Consulate building by scaling the outside walls. However the script let’s him down with the groan-out-load predictability of the clumsiest love scene ever committed to film. The participants Damon and Potente look as uncomfortable here as they do together through most of the movie and leave it to Chris Cooper (Seabiscuit) to steal the show and all the best lines (not that there are many) like “I want Bourne in a body bag by sundown”.

Special Features

How a dull and un-engaging spy thriller like this ever gathered a following of fans, I’ll never know, but it did and any fan will want this special edition. It promises a lot on paper but it does fail to deliver as effectively as hoped. Most of the featurettes like Interviews Scriptwriter, and analysis of Bournes’ amnesia, don’t even amount to five minutes each and don’t tell you anything that you couldn’t have worked out by actually watching the film.

There is a nice but really short documentary about Robert Ludlum who wrote the original Bourne novels and four deleted scenes that remain as uneventful as the film itself. The most exciting feature is the alternate opening and ending, but they hardly have any relevance to how the film plays, although the ending does try to flesh out Brain Cox’s role but whether it works or not will come down to the individual’s opinion.

I remain uninterested in the upcoming sequel The Bourne Supremacy (there is a quick look at it on this Special Edition) and shudder at the thought that The Bourne Ultimatum looks likely.


J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance


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