The Bourne Identity
Starring: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Chris Cooper, Clive Owen
Director: Doug Liman
There's been a rash of thrillers on our screens during the past year - Minority Report, Insomnia and Panic Room are the pick of the bunch so far - and director Doug Liman (Go, Swingers) joins the club with this refreshing slant on the 'man-on-the-run' formula. His trump card is Matt Damon, who digs out an intriguing performance as the lead. As with his excellent turn in the title role of The Talented Mr Ripley, you always have the feeling there's something simmering beneath the surface.
Damon plays Jason Bourne, plucked from the sea by fishermen with nothing to identify him bar an encoded rod buried in his back. His memory is drawing a blank so he sets out to solve his own mystery. And what he discovers leaves him even more dazed and confused. First, he uncovers a safe-deposit box full of money, passports and a gun. Then self-defence and self-preservation skills appear out of nowhere. A trip to the American consulate goes pear-shaped and Bourne finds himself on the run, with only a conveniently placed German gypsy, Maria (Franka Potente, right, with Damon), for company. As the chase continues, and Bourne's survival skills sharpen, he comes to the conclusion that he could only have been working as a spy - but which side was he on?
Damon brings a suitably edgy confusion to the part. And although his character is never fully fleshed out - perhaps the only real problem with the film - there's still enough going on around him for it not to matter.
There's a nerve-wracking car chase through the streets of Paris that doffs its hat to The Italian Job and, most memorably, a haunting gun battle across a field which gives Bourne pause for thought. Strong support from Potente - smarter than your average female in a thriller - and the steely Chris Cooper, as shifty CIA agent Conklin, adds depth to a plot that could have - on the page at least - provided no real surprises. It's a measure of Liman's resourcefulness that he manages to keep us on the edge of our seats.
The Bourne Identity opens today.