Matt Damon
Franka Potente
Clive Owen
Chris Cooper
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
Julia Stiles
Brian Cox
Anthony Green

Doug Liman


Time: 118 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Action/Thriller

Doug Liman directs himself into the top tier with this action/thriller that's far and away the most ambitious project he's ever tackled. With the help of Matt Damon he launches his directorial career out of the independents and into the big leagues. That being said, the film is nothing special since the plot reveals nothing more than the spy skills of its leading man. It's the skillful direction, entrancing editing and a powerfully physical performance by Damon that keep the blasé plot entertaining. The lack of a distinct and original story is not going to help this film succeed in the summer movie race, poised as it is between Damon's compatriot Affleck in SUM OF ALL FEARS and the Spielberg/Cruise, sci-fi extravaganza MINORITY REPORT. Damon is certainly the best actor of the trio. Able to disappear into a character with more ease than Cruise and actually able to carry a movie unlike Affleck, who always seems surprised to be playing with the big boys.

Damon has an authority onscreen that makes it clear he knows what he's doing and that his career is no accident. He shoulders the burden of action star well as the black-op agent Jason Bourne, a man trying to stay alive long enough to recover his identity and the reason why someone wants to see him dead. His past is a mystery, though after a few explosive encounters it becomes clear to him that he's no ordinary man. He not only assesses his surroundings with pinpoint accuracy, but is a major physical threat as well, ending every aggressive encounter decisively and painfully for his foe. Stuck in a bind, he bribes Marie (Potente), a woman with problems of her own, to drive him to Paris to the one place he knows he had a home. The multiple passports of various nationalities and names proves this might not be where he really lives, but it's the only lead he's got. While he's trying to figure out his past, his boss Conklin (Cooper) is trying to wipe out his future. Bourne apparently failed in his last mission and is now an embarrassment to the operation. What that operation is exactly is never really explained, but let's just say it's a secret government group looking for additional funding that can't afford a mistake of this magnitude.

"How could I forget about you? You're the only person I know."

If Conklin can't eliminate Bourne, his career is finished. His boss (Cox) is none too happy about the situation, since he wasn't made aware of the groups activities and is now potentially responsible for the mess. Conklin uses every resource in his power to eliminate Bourne, sending agent after agent to get the job done. Unfortunately for him, Bourne is able to stay one step ahead of them. He may not know who he is, but he sure remembers how to protect himself. Marie doesn't quite know what to do, but it becomes apparent very quickly that her initial greed has placed her in grave danger with Bourne her only chance for survival. They form a believable team as they race across France trying to uncover the mystery behind Bourne's special skills. Once she finds out who he really is she begins to regret falling in love with him, but by then it's too late. She's now caught in a web of intrigue only his expertise can pull them out of. Damon is more than credible as this super agent, who does what he must to survive.

The film sort of falls apart at the end, since the story has nowhere to go once he finds out about his past purpose in life. There's the big confrontation with his boss, which is not as intense as it should be because we already know the answers to his questions. What is revealed is a man who rejected his training, but is forced to rely on it one more time to get out alive. While the film focuses on Damon and his struggle to solve the mystery, it's exciting, intriguing and fun. All the sequences that take place at headquarters containing Cooper and his staff seem out-of-place and hokey. The writing is terribly boring, over-the-top and unoriginal. The look, style and energy is so drastically different from the scenes with Damon that you can't wait for them to be over. Cooper does an admirable job, but his character is neither frightening nor compelling. In fact, we find out less about him than Bourne and that's not a good thing. Damon's intense performance is at the heart of this thriller, giving his role depth, integrity and intelligence, considering he's a trained killer whose actions are far from admirable throughout most of the film. Granted he's merely trying to protect himself, but he certainly isn't your regular hero.

Franke Potente more than holds her own with Damon, proving her breakout role in RUN LOLA RUN was not a fluke. Her honest, clever and quirky turn gives the film much needed energy and panache. She may be playing just the girlfriend role, but she turns it into a show piece, giving her character strength and honor. Hopefully, this will bring her to the attention of the powers that be. She deserves to be a bigger star. If you're a fan of Julia Stiles, don't blink or you'll miss her. I can't imagine what made her take such an inconsequential role. Someone must have told her it'd be a good career move to be in a summer blockbuster. That's true if one has more than 10 minutes screen time or a role remotely integral to the plot. Better luck next time. Liman spices up the usual action sequences with great visual style and quick-as-lighting editing. He moves the camera around to capture the action from every angle, making it feel more exciting than it might otherwise have been. Though the film contains some stunning hand-to-hand combat scenes and an out-of-this-world car chase through the side streets of Paris – in the lamest, yet most efficient automobile to ever be used for this purpose – this is more thriller than action adventure.

Bourne's final escape is as breathtaking as it is silly. Which pretty much sums up the whole experience. As summer movie fare, this is better than most entries. A solid film with good acting, an interesting enough story and decent thrills. Will it stand up against the test of time? Probably as the film that launched Damon's true leading man status, but it most likely won't be honored on any "Best Lists," as entertaining as it may be.

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