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The Bourne Identity


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The Bourne Identity (Movies)
The Bourne Identity (Movies)
The Bourne Identity (Movies)
The Bourne Identity (Movies)
The Bourne Identity (Movies)
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Information about The Bourne Identity

The Bourne Identity is a 2002 (18 years ago) spy movie very loosely based on Robert Ludlum's novel of the same name, and the first of three movies in the Bourne Series. It stars Matt Damon (4 walls) as Jason Bourne, an amnesiac who also suffers from PTSD, attempting to discover his true identity amidst a clandestine conspiracy within the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to track him down and arrest or kill him for inexplicably failing to carry out an officially unsanctioned assassination and then failing to report back in afterwards. Along the way he teams up with Marie, played by Franka Potente, who assists him on the initial part of his journey to learn about his past and regain his memories. The movie also stars Chris Cooper, Clive Owen, Brian Cox, and Julia Stiles.

The movie was directed by Doug Liman and adapted for the screen by Tony Gilroy and William Blake Herron from the novel of the same name written by Robert Ludlum, who also produced the movie alongside Frank Marshall (though Ludlum died in 2001 (19 years ago)). Universal pictures (wallpaper) released the movie to theaters in the United States on Jun. 14, 2002 (18 years ago) and it received a positive critical and public reaction. The movie was followed by a 2004 (16 years ago) sequel, The Bourne Supremacy (4 walls), and an Academy Award-winning third part released in 2007 (13 years ago) entitled The Bourne Ultimatum.


A crew of Italian fishermen find a man (Matt Damon (4 walls)) floating in the Mediterranean, with two gunshot wounds in his back. While treating the unconscious body, the ship's medical officer finds a device with the number of a safe deposit box embedded in the man's hip. The man wakes up, and discovers he is suffering from retrograde amnesia. Over the next few days on the ship, the man finds he is fluent in several languages and can perform uncommon tasks such as sea navigation and tying exotic knots in the ship's ropes, but he cannot remember anything about himself including his identity or why he was found in the ocean. When the ship docks in Marseilles, he sets off for Zürich to investigate the safety deposit box.

At the CIA headquarters in Langley, Deputy Director Ward Abbot (Brian Cox) finds out about a failed assassination attempt on dictator Nykwana Wombosi (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). Meanwhile in Zürich, the amnesiac is approached by two police officers for sleeping in a park, and when they attempt to arrest him, he knocks them both unconscious using advanced hand-to-hand combat.

The next morning, he visits a bank using the number that was embedded in his hip, and opens a safe deposit box to find several passports containing his picture (wallpaper) (all under different names and nationalities), large amounts of assorted currencies, and a handgun. He assumes the name from the first passport, Jason Bourne. He takes all the passports and money, but leaves the handgun. As he leaves, a bank employee calls the CIA black ops group Operation Treadstone, stating that Bourne has been sighted.

After being chased by police, Bourne escapes into the U.S. Consulate where he is again pursued by authorities. Bourne escapes and finds a woman named Marie (Franka Potente), offering her $20,000 to take him to an address in Paris. In the United States, Alexander Conklin (Chris Cooper), the head of Treadstone, assures Deputy Director Abbott that he will destroy any evidence connecting them to the field officer, Jason Bourne, responsible for the failed assassination attempt on Wombosi. He activates three "assets" to take down Bourne: Castel, Manheim, and The Professor.

Bourne arrives at the address on his passport, and after studying the apartment, he hits redial on his phone and is connected to the Hotel Regina, who recognize one of his aliases from the British passport, John Michael Kane. They tell him that Kane died two weeks before in a car crash. Whilst they are in the apartment Castel (Nicky Naude) attacks and an intense fight ensues. Bourne breaks Castel's leg and arm and interrogates him, but Castel remains silent. Marie finds wanted posters in Castel's bag with both her and Bourne's pictures (wallpaper) on them, and becomes hysterical. As Bourne attempts to calm her down, Castel uses the opportunity to jump out of the window to his death. Marie goes into shock, and Bourne swiftly escorts her from the building.

Soon afterwards, Jason and Marie travel to a train station, where Jason tells Marie to stay in the car while he stores the money in a locker. Marie disobeys and goes to buy some liquor. Jason comes back to the car to find Marie missing, but then sees her heading back from across the street. He yells at her for leaving and tries to do the right thing and convince her to go to the police to clear her name. Marie refuses. The police surround the car, and Jason makes one selfless last attempt to convince her to save herself. To prove that she will remain with him, Marie fastens her seatbelt. They get in a high-speed car chase, and eventually elude the police. They park the car in a public parking garage, and Jason tells Marie that they must leave it behind, because it links them to the Paris police and makes them easier to find. Then they get a room in a hotel, where Jason dyes Marie's red hair brown and cuts it short, in effort to make them blend in more. Marie surprises Jason with a kiss, and Jason kisses her back. Marie removes his shirt and they continue to make-out passionately as the camera pans away, leaving us to presume they have sex.

Meanwhile, Conklin plants a body in the morgue in an attempt to fool Wombosi into thinking Kane is dead, but Wombosi recognizes that the body is not his assailant. Using a sniper rifle, The Professor (Clive Owen) assassinates Wombosi in his home. Bourne investigates the incident and concludes that he was an assassin prior to his amnesia. He and Marie leave the city and travel into the French countryside to stay at the house of Eamon, a friend of Marie, where Jason decides that he wants to live a normal life and no longer wants to be who he was.

In the morning, The Professor comes to kill Jason. Bourne uses a shotgun to blow up a propane tank and cloud the view of the sniping Professor. After a brief standoff in a crop field, Bourne shoots The Professor twice with the shotgun and interrogates him briefly, and The Professor reveals their mutual connection to Operation Treadstone before he dies from blood loss.

Bourne sends Marie away for her own safety. She doesn't want to leave him, having fallen in love with him. He has grown attached to her as well, but he insists. He contacts and meets with Conklin, and plants a tracking device on Conklin's vehicle to discover the location of Operation Treadstone's safe house in Paris. After following the vehicle, he gains access to the Treadstone's safe house where Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) and Conklin are.

Bourne holds Conklin and Parsons at gunpoint, and begins to remember his last mission through successive flashbacks. He was on Wombosi's yacht executing his plan to make the assassination look like one of his own crew members had shot him. He places a gun to the back of Wombosi's head, but before he pulls the trigger, Wombosi sees him, and Bourne looks around the room and sees Wombosi's sleeping children, including one child in Wombosi's lap, awake and looking at Bourne. Stricken with an attack of conscience over executing a man in front of his children, Bourne tries to leave the boat, but is shot twice in the back by one of Wombosi's bodyguards before jumping overboard. Bourne loses consciousness and is discovered by the fishermen.

Bourne tells Conklin that he is leaving Treadstone and warns him not to try to follow him. Conklin reveals he has a radio in his pocket transmitting. After knocking Conklin unconscious, Bourne leaves Nicky unharmed, has a shootout in the stairwell with several CIA officers, and escapes into the night.

Abbott decides that Treadstone should be closed down for good, and has Manheim (Russell Levy) assassinate Conklin. Abbott goes before an oversight committee and explains Treadstone as an ineffective assassin-training program, then immediately shifts the focus of the hearing to an idea for a new project codenamed "Blackbriar". Sometime later, Jason finds Marie renting out scooters to tourists in Mykonos, Greece, and the two reunite.


  • Matt Damon (4 walls) as Jason Bourne: an amnesiac assassin out of Paris who is being pursued by his former employers.
  • Franka Potente as Marie Helena Kreutz: a Bohemian German traveller helping Bourne, who in the middle forms a relationship with him.
  • Chris Cooper as Alexander Conklin: the coordinator of Treadstone and Bourne's immediate superior.
  • Brian Cox as Ward Abbott: a CIA Deputy Director and Conklin's immediate superior.
  • Clive Owen as The Professor: a Treadstone operative based in Barcelona.
  • Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Nykwana Wombosi: a deposed African dictator who was Bourne's last target prior to his amnesia.
  • Gabriel Mann as Danny Zorn: Conklin's assistant and a key member of Operation Treadstone's control team.
  • Julia Stiles as Nicky Parsons: a CIA field operative coordinating logistics for agents; she operates out of Paris
  • Nicky Naude as Castel: a Treadstone operative based out of Rome.
  • Russell Levy as Manheim: a Treadstone operative based out of Hamburg.


Director Doug Liman stated that he had been a fan of the source novel by Robert Ludlum since he read it in high school. Near the end of production of Liman's previous movie Swingers, Liman decided to develop a movie adaptation of the novel. After more than two years of securing rights to the book from Warner Brothers and a further year of screenplay development with screenwriter Tony Gilroy, the movie went through two years of production. From the onset of filming, difficulties with the studio slowed the film's development and caused a rift between the director and Universal Pictures, as executives were unhappy with the film's pacing, emphasis on small scale action sequences, and the general relationship between themselves and Liman, who was suspicious of direct studio involvement. A number of reshoots and rewrites late in development and scheduling problems delayed the movie from its original release target date of sep. 2001 (19 years ago) to Jun. 2002 (18 years ago) and took it $8,000,000 over budget from the initial budget of $52,000,000; screenwriter Tony Gilroy faxed elements of screenplay rewrites almost throughout the entire duration of filming. A particular point of contention in regards to the original Tony Gilroy script were the scenes set in the farmhouse near the film's conclusion. Liman and actor Matt Damon (4 walls) fought to keep the scenes in the movie after they were excised in a third-act rewrite that was insisted upon by the studio. Liman and Damon argued that, though the scenes were low key, they were integral to the audience's understanding of the Bourne character and the film's central themes. The farmhouse sequence consequently went through many rewrites from its original incarnation before its inclusion in the final product. Other issues included the studio's desire to substitute Montreal or Prague for Paris in order to lower costs, Liman's insistence on the use of a French-speaking movie crew, and poor test audience reactions to the film's Paris finale. The latter required a late return to location in order to shoot a new, more action-oriented conclusion to the Paris story arc. Damon described the production as a struggle, citing the early conflicts that he and Liman had with the studio, but denied that it was an overtly difficult process, stating, "When I hear people saying that the production was a nightmare it's like, a 'nightmare'? Shooting's always hard, but we finished."

Liman's directorial method was often hands-on. Many times he operated the camera himself in order to create what he believed was a more intimate relationship between himself, the material, and the actors. He felt that this connection was lost if he simply observed the recording on a monitor. This was a mindset he developed from his background as a small-scale indie movie maker.

Liman approached a wide range of actors for the role of Bourne, including Russell Crowe and Sylvester Stallone, before he eventually cast Matt Damon. Liman found that Damon understood and appreciated that, though The Bourne Identity would have its share of action, the focus was primarily on character and plot. Damon, who had never played such a physically demanding role, insisted on performing many of the stunts himself. With stunt choreographer Nick Powell and trainer Jeff Imada, Damon underwent three months of extensive training in stunt work, the use of weapons, boxing, and eskrima. Damon eventually performed a significant number of the film's stunts himself, including hand-to-hand combat and climbing the safe house walls near the film's conclusion. Franka Potente's performance in Run Lola Run prompted Liman to approach her for the part of Marie Helena Kreutz. Liman desired to cast an actress who was unfamiliar to American audiences yet would be a suitable opposite for the Bourne character. Filming took place in Prague, Paris, Imperia, Rome, Mykonos, and Zürich; several scenes set in Zürich were also filmed in Prague.

The acclaimed car chase sequence was filmed primarily by the second unit under director Alexander Witt. The unit shot in various locations around Paris while Liman was filming the main story arc elsewhere in the city. The finished footage was eventually edited together to create the illusion of a coherent journey. Liman confessed that "anyone who really knows Paris will find it illogical", since few of the locations used in the car chase actually connect to each other. Liman took only a few of the shots himself; his most notable chase sequence shots were those of Matt Damon (4 walls) and Franka Potente while inside the car.

The inner workings of the fictitious Treadstone organization were inspired by Liman's father's job in the National Security Agency (NSA) under President Ronald Reagan. Of particular inspiration were Liman's father's memoirs regarding his involvement in the investigation of the Iran-Contra affair. Many aspects of the Alexander Conklin character were based on his father's recollections of Oliver North. Liman admitted that he jettisoned much of the content of the novel beyond the central premise, in order to modernize the material and to conform it to his own beliefs regarding United States foreign policy. However, Liman was careful not to cram his political views down "the audience's throat". There were initial concerns regarding the film's possible obsolescence and overall reception in the aftermath of the sep. 11th attacks, but these concerns proved groundless.


The critical reception of the movie was largely positive, with the movie review collection website, Rotten Tomatoes, giving the movie an 83% approval rating. Roger Ebert gave the movie three stars and praised it for its ability to absorb the viewer in its "spycraft" and "Damon's ability to be focused and sincere" concluding that the movie was "unnecessary, but not unskilled". Walter Chaw of movie Freak Central praised the movie for its pacing and action sequences, describing them as "kinetic, fair, and intelligent, every payoff packaged with a moment's contemplation crucial to the creation of tension" and that the movie could be understood as a clever subversion of the genre. Charles Taylor of acclaimed the movie as "entertaining, handsome and gripping, The Bourne Identity is something of an anomaly among big-budget summer blockbusters: a thriller with some brains and feeling behind it, more attuned to story and character than to spectacle" and praised Liman for giving the movie a "tough mindedness" that never gives way into "cynicism or hopelessness". Ed Gonzalez of Slant Magazine also noted Doug Liman's "restrained approach to the material" as well as Matt Damon (4 walls) and Franka Potente's strong chemistry but ultimately concluded the movie was "smart but not smart enough". J. Hoberman of The Village Voice dismissed the movie as "banal" and as a disappointment compared against Liman's previous indie releases; Owen Gleiberman also criticised the movie for a "sullen roteness that all of Liman's supple handheld staging can't disguise". Particular acclaim was directed toward the film's central car chase which was described as an exciting action highlight and one of the best realized in the genre.

In its opening weekend, The Bourne Identity took in (USD) $27,118,640 in 2,638 theaters. The movie grossed $121,661,683 in the United States and $92,263,424 elsewhere for a total worldwide gross of $214,034,224.

Awards and nominations

  • 2003 ASCAP movie and TV Music Awards
  • 2003 Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA
  • 2003 American Choreography Awards
  • 2003 Art Directors Guild


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