The Bourne Identity

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By Mark Ramsey | 2002/06/16

Matt Damon is floating face-up in the Mediterranean with two bullets in his back. The beginning of The Bourne Identity or Minnie Driver’s vengeful dream come true? You be the judge, but the answer is likely to be “both.”

Says USA TODAY: “The Bourne Identity is what summer screen escapism used to be in the decades when it was geared more to grownups.” Translation: If you think Doris Day is the cat’s meow, you’ll love The Bourne Identity. Listen closely, Scooby fans, and you can hear the suits at Universal groan: “Ruh Roh!”

bourneidentity_holdhead.jpgAs a ship’s doctor removes the bullets from Matt’s back and Ben Affleck from Matt’s side, he also finds a tiny laser pointer embedded in his hip. Is Matt doing multimedia presentations with his privates? A “short” one, maybe. Perhaps he requires laser guidance when he pees? Some questions are best left unanswered.

Matt’s alive, it turns out, but he doesn’t know who he is. Here are some clues: It looks like he gets frequent haircuts and spends a lot of time in the gym. If he has a pronounced appreciation for floral and interior design, then call this mystery solved, girlfriend!

Matt may not know who he is, but he knows everyone is out to get him. In fact, the entire U.S. intelligence apparatus is directed squarely at terminating our boy – or at least stabbing him in absentia with colored pins on a map of France on the wall at CIA headquarters in Langley.

This movie is full of questions:

“Who pays $20,000 for a ride to Paris?”

“Who has a bank deposit number implanted in his hip?”

“Who has a safe deposit box with five passports, a gun, and a wad of cash?”

For God’s sake, a spy, a spy, a spy! I wasn’t bourne yesterday.

Here’s a problem with this movie: Matt can fight like Bruce Lee. He’s Good Will Killing Machine. In fact, he’s such a lethally effective spy tool there’s never a moment you suspect anyone can take him out. When the hero is so obviously bulletproof, the thrills go limp.

And his super-prowess is not strictly physical. It takes him all of two seconds to pick up a new girlfriend in Switzerland – although a big wad of cash and a promised intro to Ben help.

bourneidentity_mattsurrounded.jpgIt’s not long before Matt and his new squeeze are on the run – off an a picturesque spy’s-eye tour of Europe. They hopscotch the globe – Switzerland, Paris, Greece. This requires a lot of chalk and a lot of sidewalk! They speed through the city in a beat up red lunchbox. Why chase this tiny car? Just stick out a foot and trip it!

Always the doting boyfriend, Matt colors and cuts his girlfriend’s hair. He’s the José Eber of espionage! Evidently, this is an erotically-charged experience for her – even if the end result looks like latter day Judy Garland.

“Fabulous!” gushes Matt.

Matt makes a great super-spy, but just try to buy Julia Styles as an adult! Why, the girl can’t even dance! But there she is, the CIA’s designated asset in charge of desktop publishing, hiding in a room full of computers in a Paris flat. Julia’s dialogue consists of a dozen ways to say “I’m on it!” That’s ten things I hate about supporting roles in big-budget movies.

So The Bourne Identity is for adults. Whatever. But why does “adult” need to equate to so very un-ironic and old-fashioned? Even the considerable talents of director Doug Liman can’t pack this story with more action than its leisurely structure supports.

Is this a good movie? Sure. But take my advice: If you’re under 30, bring a GameBoy.

The Bourne Identity is the kind of flick you leave feeling much cooler than when you entered. You ARE an omnipotent super-spy! Then you get in line at the supermarket behind somebody who decided this was the day to exile months of exact change from their pockets, and you realize your real-life omnipotence is measured in parts-per-million.

And it’s only a movie after all.


Photos Copyright ©2002 Universal Pictures

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