Comfortable and Furious

The Bourne Identity (2002)

Directed by Doug Liman

Written by Tony Gilroy

Based on the novel by Robert Ludlum

– Matt Damon as Jason Bourne
– Franka Potente as Marie Kreutz
– Chris Cooper as Ted Conklin
– Julia Stiles as a white girl who transfers to an all black school and dances…

Jonny is getting older and hornier

You heard it here first. Last year when we did our Ruthie Awards we picked Franka Potente as our Future Star. The reasons were myriad but basically it boils down to the fact that Ms. Potente gives me hope that somewhere in the world a brilliant, beautiful and sexy as all hell woman is sitting around waiting for me to come and find her. All I need is $20,000. Not only that, but Franka can act as well.

So can Matt Damon, surprisingly. In fact, Damon and Potente have nothing to do with the fact that The Bourne Identity is a semi-boring middle of the road action thriller. Despite his best efforts, Doug Liman, who did a great job directing Swingers and a less great job ripping off Pulp Fiction – I mean directing Go, this movie never gets out of second gear. The action scenes are too quick to be memorable. The car chase is too reminiscent of Ronin to be original and if the CIA is really that together, why did the Twin Towers fall down?

The plot is basically that Matt Damon is some sort of CIA $30 million-dollar super weapon complete with superpowers and amnesia. He can’t remember who he is. He has a Swiss bank number implanted in his hip. There he finds lots of money and passports and a gun. After he beats up 30 or so people, he convinces Potente to drive him to Paris because he realizes he keeps an apartment there. The two survive a couple assassination attempts and then they fall in love. Damon starts learning who he is and decides that he doesn’t like that person, He decides to forget all this CIA nonsense and runs off with Franka. Of course, the evil Hollywood overlords can’t allow this, so they throw in a bunch of (yawn) action sequences where Damon kills a lot more people. After he nearly single handedly (he gets a little help from Washington) defeats the CIA, Damon tracks down Potente and they hug. Then the credits role. Too bad, though, because the screen writer (Tony Gilroy) wrote Proof of Life, which was a very decent action/thriller.

The real problem with The Bourne Identity though, is the rest of the cast. First and foremost, I don’t even believe that Julie Stiles can find France on a map, let alone single handedly run the Paris bureau of the CIA. Second, all the other CIA super-agents don’t say anything and look more like Pompidou employees than ruthless, cold-blooded uber-assassins. I firmly believe that Matt Damon could have beaten the shit out of all of them. Thirdly, Chris Cooper just doesn’t cut it in this role as the scruple-less CIA boss. We all remember how sinister this guy was in American Beauty. Instead, Cooper chose just to walk through this role. Again, too bad because if his scenes had been a bit more compelling, The Bourne Identity might have been more memorable. Er, not have been as boring when Franka wasn’t on screen.

There were some memorable parts, however. As I get older and more jaded, I tend to go more for the thriller aspect than I do for the action stuff. So, when Matt Damon rides a dead body down six floors, killing a French secret service guy on the way down, I wasn’t impressed. However, when we knew there was a sniper outside and Damon is pleading with Potente’s ex-beau to take his children down into the cellar, all the while the dude is standing in front of a window, well, that was some great tension. Like in Jaws, it was much scarier when we didn’t see the shark. More succinctly, the threat of danger is much more compelling than actually watching the danger. Of course, Damon quickly goes outside and shoots a propane tank with a shotgun.

I do have to say some more about the chemistry between Potente and Damon. It was great to watch. She managed to calm him down and force him to act instead of bluster and shout. For the first twenty minutes it looked like Damon went to the Al Pacino school of acting where “screaming for emphasis” is the entire curriculum. However, as soon as him and Franka get together, the movie gets interesting. It also gets funny, because he is a perfect straight man for Potente’s wit. My biggest gripe with these two is that their supposed love scene played out like it was edited by Potente’s mother. Throw me a bone, at least.

To me, The Bourne Identity is two movies rolled into one. When Franka Potente is on the screen with Matt Damon, I liked the movie. When I had to sit through the thoroughly clichéd CIA clowns and their tired antics (Seth Green and Jack Black did a much better job doing the same thing in Enemy Of The State) I got bored and wondered when the damn thing would end. I would even go so far as to recommend The Bourne Identity, except that for some idiotic reason, they get rid of Potente for the climax. By that point I was thinking about what I would be doing the next day at the gym, because it looks like Matt Damon has bigger shoulders than I do. I can’t allow that.

This is typically what happens when you base films on best sellers instead of literature.

Ruthless Ratings

  • Overall: 5
  • Direction: 5
  • Acting: 6
  • Story: 4
  • Re-watchability: 3

Special Ruthless Ratings

  • Number of times you realized just how rad, awesome and cool Franka Potente is: 20
  • Number of times you realized she was German: 7
  • Number of times you were impressed with the fight scenes: 3
  • Number of times you have heard Matt Damon on the radio talking about how impressed he was with the fight scenes: 4
  • Number of times wanted to race a Mini around Paris: 2
  • Number of times you realized that you tend to like movie shot in Europe: 5
  • Number of times you thought Franka Potente’s Mother edited the love scene: 16
  • Number of times you though Matt’s Boyfriend, Ben, edited the love scene: 3