BIG BOURNE IDENTITY SPOILERS
The Bourne Identity
did have a few flaws, flaws which kept me from upgrading it to high steak knives territory (8) or even Cadillac (9). I agree the ending was a bit too pat, and I didn't really like the revelation of Bourne's pre-amnesia character choosing to no longer be an assassin because he had to kill a man in front of his kids (I'm sick of the lazy screenwriting crutch of exploiting "kids" as motivation, doing everything "for the children"). I also was never really sure of the dynamics between Gabriel Mann, Brian Cox, and Chris Cooper, so the entire "program" that Cox was presenting to Congress or whatever made no sense to me. It all seemed like one giant McGuffin.
But those problems aside, I really liked everything else. It was suspenseful, well-paced, and intentionally funny in a lot of places -- but also unintentionally funny in a few cases, such as Julia Stiles delivering the line "we'll have satellite download in 30 minutes!" I've given Stiles so many chances, but damn she has to be one of the worst actresses working in A-list Hollywood. Her performance was embarrassing (like when she freezes after the power goes out, stiffening her hand in front of her), and her character was completely pointless. Does anyone know what the hell she was doing in the film?
Damon and Potente were wonderful -- Damon, playing the titular Kid Amnesiac, really pulls off those little moments like twitching the first time he sees cops in Geneva, then recognizing that he doesn't know why he instinctively twitched. With this and Ripley
, he's really showing off how well he invents a character as he goes; he'll never be typecast because he's all about defining himself in a persona. I really despise the term character actor (aren't all actors playing characters, no matter how broad or limited the range?), but if you want to call Damon a character actor, he's one of the bigger marquee stars to be doing so. I've really come around on him -- like shroom says, he's far more talented and interesting than his buddy Affleck.
I also loved how little chemistry he had with Potente at the beginning -- although they had no doubt rehearsed together, had script readings, and hung out in trailers before the shots, it really looks, in the first two or three scenes, like these two people have never set eyes on each other and don't know what the other will do. The way they slowly grow more comfortable with each other, leading up to sex, is really nice.
Finally, I have to admit Doug Liman surprised me with his direction. I still don't think he knows how to compose a frame (his blocking and composition is always awkward and ugly), but this time around, unlike with Swingers
, he gets terrific coverage, his camera moves are impressive (I like the shot in the park at night early on when Damon first discovers his own skills and looks down at the gun in his hand -- that he barely remembers taking -- and Liman follows his eyes to the close-up of the gun to it being dismantled and tossed into the snow), and overall the style of the film works well towards telling a story cleanly. He'll never be a great director, but with this film he's gone -- in my mind -- from being a mediocre one to a decent one. I don't know if I'll ever see this film again, and I don't think it really had all that much to say, even with a can't-miss philosophical premise like the search for your own existential identity, but it's a good time at the movies.