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Review: Frantic search for identity leaves viewers asking why

AMNESIA is a very useful subject for both film and literature. A hero's search for his identity can take him anywhere, and on his journey he can encounter all dangers imaginable. Often a story about amnesia is told using flashbacks, a technique used by many writers and filmmakers to create suspense and to keep the reader or viewer guessing until the very end.
In The Bourne Identity, secret agent Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is not able to revisit his past because the CIA is trying to kill him as a result of his involvement in a failed mission. At the start of the movie he is found close to death by Italian fishermen. He is then chased from the moment he sets foot on dry land not knowing who he is. The only link he has to his past is a Swiss bank account number.


THE FUGITIVES get intimate.
photo: Courtesy of Tatrafilm

The Bourne Identity

Running time: 120 min
Starring: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Chris Cooper, Clive Owen, Brian Cox
Directed by: Doug Liman
Rating: 4 out of 10

AMNESIA is a very useful subject for both film and literature. A hero's search for his identity can take him anywhere, and on his journey he can encounter all dangers imaginable. Often a story about amnesia is told using flashbacks, a technique used by many writers and filmmakers to create suspense and to keep the reader or viewer guessing until the very end.

In The Bourne Identity, secret agent Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is not able to revisit his past because the CIA is trying to kill him as a result of his involvement in a failed mission. At the start of the movie he is found close to death by Italian fishermen. He is then chased from the moment he sets foot on dry land not knowing who he is. The only link he has to his past is a Swiss bank account number.

The film is based on the novel of the same title by Robert Ludlum. Ludlum also served as executive producer of the film. Director Doug Liman has given the 1980s novel a modern touch by setting it in the 21st century. However, do not expect any major improvements because both the plot and the dialogue are rather predictable.

Some scenes looked as though they have been taken from or made for a promotional video for the city of Paris. Most of the bird's-eye shots feature the Eiffel tower and one sequence in Paris starts on the banks of the river Seine, just beneath Notre Dame cathedral. And to make sure you know where the story is taking place, the agents in the CIA headquarters put a map on the wall of their office before they start coordinating their moves in Europe.

One of the most sympathetic characters is the female lead, Marie, played by German actress Franka Potente. She is no supermodel, rather having the face of an average young woman from the streets. Unfortunately, she does not get much of a chance to show her acting skills because most of the time she is scared and has to rely on her companion to help her out of precarious situations.

Because of the speed of the action and the many fight scenes, the film will not leave you bored. However, it may leave you wondering what the point of it all was. Of course, both the title and the plot of the film play on the notion of living a life without an identity, because 'bourne' is an old word meaning limit or boundary. In the case of secret agent Bourne, an existence on the edge of society is evoked. He is without a name, an address or an identity card, which are basic requirements for legal existence in many countries.

In the desperate search he undertakes to find his past and ensure his future, Jason Bourne stumbles over too many dead bodies and confusing red herrings. By the time the Hollywood ending comes around, you do not really believe he has found his true identity - and the film seems to have lost its.

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