Matt Damon is a beautiful creature. We all know this, right? Of course we do. Now imagine him as a totally ripped assassin with amnesia who's trying to figure out who he is and why people are chasing him around France. And there you have the basic plot of The Bourne Identity. Everything else--the new, weird girlfriend (Franka Potente, who you should also check out in Blow); the brainy, mysterious other assassin (Clive Owen in all of his rough-hewn glory); the shady politician (Brian Cox, delightfully despicable as always); and the embattled head of the assassin team (one of my perennial favorites, Chris Cooper) are just super bonuses for the viewer.
Now, for those of you who haven't seen The Bourne Identity, you should probably go watch it right now, especially if you have any interest whatsoever in action films, because this is a good one. Doug Liman, the man behind Mr. and Mrs. Smith, directed Identity, the first in a series of three films (The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum were helmed by Paul Greengrass of United 93 fame), and Liman does an admirable job, whether he is speeding up film to heighten the impact of a punch or quieting things down to catch the first tender kiss between Bourne and Marie, his sort-of-willing accomplice.
The highlight of the film is definitely the car chase, one of the best I've ever seen.: Bourne eludes French police in cars and on motorcycles by swerving down roads (and sidewalks, and stairs) in a Mini, which is something that could only happen in Europe--if you tried to show a Mini careening down a street somewhere in America, people would probably just laugh at the cutesyness of it all (with the exception of The Italian Job, which used updated Mini Coopers to good effect in 2003). In fact, all of the action sequences in the film are very well shot and edited, making it a visual treat, and the aforementioned actors all turn in solid performances, especially Owen, whose understated death scene brings a certain level of gravity to what, in a normal action film, would probably be gratuitous and nothing more.
But ultimately, you should watch the movie just because it's worth it to see Matt Damon's face for a couple of hours.
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