In 2002, after the attacks of the September 11, 2001 in New York City, Universal Studio had a problem on its hands. Would the new spy thriller film The Bourne Identity, a fresh take on the spy genre inspired by a novel by Robert Ludlum continue to be relevant in a world where terrorism became a more important preoccupation than other security concerns for audiences? The film was completed just weeks before September 11, 2001 and featured Matt Damon as Jason Bourne, an amnesiac assassin trying to find out who he was with the help of Marie (Franka Potente), a German student caught in his path and because of that also on the run from the Central Intelligence Agency. The film was a success with audiences and no edits were needed to alter the beginning and end.
Unlike other films of the genre, like the James Bond series, The Bourne Identity was focused on character development and two strong protagonists who grew to love each other as the film progressed. The conspiracy surrounding them was strong and there were a lot of confrontations with opponents with enough international intrigue layered on top of the story. One innovation of the story was the close spaced fighting techniques used by Bourne to fight opponents. Director Doug Liman who had fought for years to adapt the novels to film also relied on a handheld camera technique for many action scenes making the film closer to viewers’ points of views. And of course there was a solid sound track anchored by musician Moby’s Extreme Ways song that gave a strong identity and charm to the film.
The film has not aged a single day and is still, in my opinion one of the best spy thriller ever shot. Damon used a range of emotional cues to explain his character and his confusion about who he was and what was the right thing to do. Yet, as a tactician he was incredible and slowly rebuilds his past and found out how to stop his CIA enemies. The film has been hailed as a revival of the soy genre without the corny gadgets used in the Bond series and heavy humour and incredulous plot twists. Bourne’s world was totally real and the predicament of the protagonists was possible. Of all the Bourne films it was the closest one to the original novel borrowing more than the title. Bourne was born.