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When an unknown male (Matt Damon) is found floating in the Mediterranean Sea, the only clues as to his identity is a Swiss bank account number implanted in his hip. Suffering amnesia, he heads to Zurich to unlock the safety deposit box, and discovers cash, a gun, and his name, Jason Bourne, on multiple passports. A shady CIA spook (Chris Cooper) is alerted and immediately orders Bourne eliminated, calling on European agents such as communications expert Nicolette (Julia Stiles) and assassin The Professor (Clive Owen). Bourne's instincts kick in when memory fails, and he eludes death with the help of Marie (Franke Potente), who drives him to Paris to unlock his past.

Review by Shannon J. Harvey:
A slick, polished, Bond-style espionage thriller is the last thing you might expect from the man who brought you the hazy world of strung out 20-somethings in the cult hits Swingers and Go, but here it is. Doug Liman's remake of Robert Ludlam's 1980 spy novel The Bourne Identity - made into a 1988 TV mini-series starring Richard Chamberlain - has all the hallmarks of a big budget, Hollywood issue action adventure. There's guns, gadgets, girls, explosions and car chases through tiny European streets. Okay, so the car is a crappy mini-minor and the streets are cobblestone alleys, but this is every bit an American thriller transplanted to Europe. And while there's more lethal martial arts, sharp-shooting and Ronin-style car chases than character detail, on that level, the dirty work is slick, taut and terrific. In fact, if the writers of Bond penned a script whereby 007 lost his memory, they'd basically have The Bourne Identity.

This retail DVD release - unlike the earlier, featureless rental release - booms out with DTS sound, where explosions and gun-play are amped up with a techno-inflected score from Moby, whose neat little video clip of Extreme Ways is included in this slick DVD package. Undoubtedly the best feature is Doug Liman's audio commentary. Thorough, frank and entertaining, it's the kind of unbiased commentary other commentaries should strive for. Listen up for his political motivations, the inclusion of his father's story and the pitfalls of filmmaking - especially that troublesome third act. Four deleted scenes come without commentary (two have very poor sound), and the best one sees psychiatrists discuss Bourne; one of the few instances we get inside his head.

The Alternate Ending featurette isn't that alternate - just more schmaltzy. It's nice to see what could have been, but it's a pity there isn't more insight into the supposed difference of opinion Liman and Damon had with the studio over the ending, which almost ended the film. The Birth of The Bourne Identity is a snappy behind-the-scenes featurette complete with cast and crew interviews, but it plays more like an extended trailer, with the cast offering little more than a few sentences about their character and the film's appeal. There's also footage of Damon during assassin training, which he compares to summer school, and plenty of praise for Run Lola Run's Potente. Another highlight is seeing just how much Liman got behind the camera during principle photography.

Lastly, there's a DVD-Rom that offers additional clips for PC users, the impressive theatrical trailer, and trailers for Johnny English and The Hulk. Sporting top-notch supporting roles from Clive Owen (himself tipped as the next Bond), Julia Stiles as a techno-geek, and recent Oscar winner Chris Cooper as the paranoid spook, this super-slick espionage thriller is nicely led by a beefed up Matt Damon, underplaying the role of a baby-faced innocent turned icy killer. The Harvard educated actor brings a cool, quiet, brooding intelligence to Bourne, a super-spook so lethal he's almost
robotic. With the help of some cool DVD extras, he makes this version of The Bourne Identity trump both the featureless release and the clunky Richard Chamberlain mini-series. Then again, if Liman, Damon and co failed at that, they might have wanted to
change their own identities.

Published May 8, 2003

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CAST: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Chris Cooper, Clive Owen, Brian Cox, Gabriel Mann, Julia Stiles.

DIRECTOR: Doug Liman

RUNNING TIME: 118 minutes

PRESENTATION: 2:35:1, widescreen, DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1

SPECIAL FEATURES: Alternate Ending, Deleted Scenes, The Birth of The Bourne Identity, Moby 'Extreme Ways' Music Video, Extended Farmhouse Scene, Feature Commentary with Director Doug Liman, Theatrical Trailer, DVD-Rom Featuring Total Axess, Johnny English Trailer, The Hulk Teaser Trailer


DVD RELEASE: May 7, 2003

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