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The Bourne Identity (2002 film)

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Title: The Bourne Identity (2002 film)  
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Subject: Doug Liman, Jason Bourne, The Bourne Ultimatum (film), Chris Cooper, Robert Ludlum
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The Bourne Identity (2002 film)

The Bourne Identity
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Doug Liman
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based on The Bourne Identity 
by Robert Ludlum
Music by John Powell
Cinematography Oliver Wood
Edited by Saar Klein
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
June 14, 2002 (2002-06-14)
Running time
118 minutes
  • United States
  • Germany[1]
Language English
Budget $60 million[2]
Box office $214.0 million[2]

The Bourne Identity is a 2002 American-German[1] action spy thriller film adaptation of Robert Ludlum's novel of the same name. It stars Matt Damon as Jason Bourne, a man suffering from extreme memory loss and attempting to discover his true identity amidst a clandestine conspiracy within the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The film also features Franka Potente, Chris Cooper, Clive Owen, Julia Stiles, Brian Cox and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. This, the first in the Bourne film series, is followed by The Bourne Supremacy (2004), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), and The Bourne Legacy (2012).

The film was directed by Doug Liman and adapted for the screen by Tony Gilroy and William Blake Herron. Although Robert Ludlum died in 2001, he is credited as the film's producer alongside Frank Marshall. Universal Pictures released the film to theatres in the United States on June 14, 2002, and it received a positive critical and public reaction.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Production 3
    • Development 3.1
    • Casting 3.2
    • Filming 3.3
  • Reception 4
    • Critical response 4.1
    • Box office 4.2
    • Accolades 4.3
  • Home media 5
  • Soundtrack 6
  • Video game 7
  • Sequels 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11


In the Mediterranean Sea, Italian fishermen rescue an unconscious American man (Matt Damon) floating adrift with two gunshot wounds in his back. The boat's skipper finds a tiny laser projector surgically implanted under the man's skin at the hip. When activated, it displays the number of a safe deposit box in Zürich. When he regains consciousness, the man discovers he has dissociative (or psychogenic) amnesia. It is soon revealed the amnesia is selective, as the man realizes he knows several languages and advanced combat skills. Much later he remembers fragments of the C.I.A. trauma-based programming which erased and replaced his identity. When the ship docks, he sets off to investigate the deposit box.

At CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, Deputy Director Ward Abbott (Brian Cox) learns that a CIA assassination attempt against exiled African dictator Nykwana Wombosi (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) failed. Meanwhile, in Zürich, the amnesiac man incapacitates two policemen using advanced hand-to-hand combat when they attempt to arrest him for vagrancy. The next morning, he visits the bank and opens the safe deposit box of the account number displayed by the implanted projector to find several passports containing his picture under different names, nationalities, and addresses, large amounts of assorted currencies, and a handgun. Taking an American passport name, Jason Bourne, he leaves with everything but the handgun.

As he leaves, a bank employee contacts Operation Treadstone, a CIA black operation program. Alexander Conklin (Chris Cooper), head of Treadstone, assures Abbott that he will clean up Jason's failure against Wombosi, activating three agents to take down Bourne: Castel, Manheim, and the Professor (Clive Owen). Chased by police, Jason is then pursued through a U.S. consulate but manages to evade capture. He encounters a German woman named Marie Helena Kreutz (Franka Potente), offering her $20,000 to drive him to the address in Paris on his French driving license.

Jason arrives at the address, an apartment, where he hits redial on his phone and is connected to the Hotel Regina. Jason enquires about some names: a "Jason Bourne" is not registered there, but "John Michael Kane" was and died two weeks ago in a car crash. Castel then ambushes Jason and Marie at the apartment, but Jason defeats him in a hand-to-hand fight. Marie finds wanted posters in Castel's bag with both her and Jason's pictures, while Castel jumps out of a window to his death. Marie, in shock, is later resolved to join Jason as they escape and investigate "John Michael Kane".

Wombosi had contacted police about the attempt on his life. To convince him that his assailant, Kane, is dead, Conklin plants a body in a Paris morgue but Wombosi is not fooled. The Professor then assassinates Wombosi as a result. Jason poses as Kane and gains documents about Wombosi's yacht and finds that an assailant was shot twice while escaping it. He concludes that he is the assassin, before seeking refuge in the French countryside with Marie and her ex lover Eamon (Tim Dutton) and his children. Conklin traces their location and the Professor arrives in the morning. Jason grabs Eamon's shotgun and outflanks the Professor in the fields, mortally wounding him. The Professor reveals their mutual connection to Treadstone before dying. Jason sends Marie away with Eamon. He contacts Conklin using the Professor's phone to arrange a meet, but Conklin brings back-up, so Jason instead tracks his vehicle to locate Treadstone's Paris safe house.

Jason breaks in and holds Conklin and logistics technician Nicolette "Nicky" Parsons (Julia Stiles) at gunpoint, beginning to remember his last mission through successive flashbacks. Kane was Jason's assumed identity during his mission to infiltrate Wombosi's yacht and kill him; but Jason aborts the assassination because Wombosi's children were unexpectedly present and he can't bring himself to murder their father right in front of them. He receives the gunshot wounds while attempting to escape. Jason now tells Conklin that he is leaving Treadstone and warns him not to follow him. After their altercation, both Conklin and Jason leave, with Jason fighting his way out through more agents. A nearby Manheim steps out of his car and kills Conklin. Abbott, in order to terminate Treadstone, ordered the hit. Before an oversight committee, Abbot dismisses Treadstone and announces a new project codenamed "Blackbriar". Some time later, Jason finds Marie renting out scooters to tourists on Mykonos, and the two reunite.


Damon in 2001



Director Doug Liman stated that he had been a fan of the source novel by Robert Ludlum since he read it in high school. Near the end of production of Liman's previous film Swingers, Liman decided to develop a film adaptation of the novel. After more than two years of securing rights to the book from Warner Bros. and a further year of screenplay development with screenwriter Tony Gilroy, the film went through two years of production.[3] Universal Pictures acquired the film rights to Ludlum's books in the hopes of starting a new film franchise.[4] William Blake Herron was brought in to rewrite the script in 1999.[5]

The inner workings of the fictitious Treadstone organization were inspired by Liman's father's job in the National Security Agency (NSA) under Ronald Reagan. Of particular inspiration were Liman's father's memoirs regarding his involvement in the investigation of the Iran-Contra affair. Many aspects of the Alexander Conklin character were based on his father's recollections of Oliver North. Liman admitted that he jettisoned much of the content of the novel beyond the central premise, in order to modernize the material and to conform it to his own beliefs regarding United States foreign policy. However, Liman was careful not to cram his political views down "the audience's throat". There were initial concerns regarding the film's possible obsolescence and overall reception in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, but these concerns proved groundless.[3]


Liman approached a wide range of actors for the role of Bourne, including Brad Pitt,[4] who turned it down to star in Spy Game,[6] as well as Russell Crowe and Sylvester Stallone, before he eventually cast Damon. Liman found that Damon understood and appreciated that, though The Bourne Identity would have its share of action, the focus was primarily on character and plot.[7] Damon, who had never played such a physically demanding role, insisted on performing many of the stunts himself. With stunt choreographer Nick Powell, he underwent three months of extensive training in stunt work, the use of weapons, boxing, and eskrima. He eventually performed a significant number of the film's stunts himself, including hand-to-hand combat and climbing the safe house walls near the film's conclusion.[8]


From the onset of filming, difficulties with the studio slowed the film's development and caused a rift between the director and Universal Pictures, as executives were unhappy with the film's pacing, emphasis on small scale action sequences, and the general relationship between themselves and Liman, who was suspicious of direct studio involvement.[9] A number of reshoots and rewrites late in development and scheduling problems delayed the film from its original release target date of September 2001 to June 2002 and took it $8,000,000 over budget from the initial budget of $60 million; screenwriter Tony Gilroy faxed elements of screenplay rewrites almost throughout the entire duration of filming.[9] A particular point of contention with regard to the original Gilroy script were the scenes set in the farmhouse near the film's conclusion. Liman and Matt Damon fought to keep the scenes in the film after they were excised in a third-act rewrite that was insisted upon by the studio. Liman and Damon argued that, though the scenes were low key, they were integral to the audience's understanding of the Bourne character and the film's central themes. The farmhouse sequence consequently went through many rewrites from its original incarnation before its inclusion in the final product.[9]

Other issues included the studio's desire to substitute Montreal or Prague for Paris in order to lower costs, Liman's insistence on the use of a French-speaking film crew, and poor test audience reactions to the film's Paris finale. The latter required a late return to location in order to shoot a new, more action-oriented conclusion to the Paris story arc.[10] In addition to Paris, filming took place in Prague, Imperia, Rome, Mykonos, and Zürich; several scenes set in Zürich were also filmed in Prague.[3] Damon described the production as a struggle, citing the early conflicts that he and Liman had with the studio, but denied that it was an overtly difficult process, stating, "When I hear people saying that the production was a nightmare it's like, a 'nightmare'? Shooting's always hard, but we finished."[11]

Liman's directorial method was often hands-on. Many times he operated the camera himself in order to create what he believed was a more intimate relationship between himself, the material, and the actors. He felt that this connection was lost if he simply observed the recording on a monitor. This was a mindset he developed from his background as a small-scale indie film maker.[8]

The acclaimed car chase sequence was filmed primarily by the second unit under director Alexander Witt. The unit shot in various locations around Paris while Liman was filming the main story arc elsewhere in the city. The finished footage was eventually edited together to create the illusion of a coherent journey. Liman confessed that "anyone who really knows Paris will find it illogical", since few of the locations used in the car chase actually connect to each other.[10] Liman took only a few of the shots himself; his most notable chase sequence shots were those of Matt Damon and Franka Potente while inside the car.[3]


Critical response

The film received positive reviews. The film review collection website Rotten Tomatoes gave the film an 83% approval rating based on 184 reviews collected, and an average score of 7/10. The site's consensus reads "Expertly blending genre formula with bursts of unexpected wit, The Bourne Identity is an action thriller that delivers—and then some."[12]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three out of four stars and praised it for its ability to absorb the viewer in its "spycraft" and "Damon's ability to be focused and sincere" concluding that the film was "unnecessary, but not unskilled".[13] Walter Chaw of Film Freak Central praised the film for its pacing and action sequences, describing them as "kinetic, fair, and intelligent, every payoff packaged with a moment's contemplation crucial to the creation of tension" and that the movie could be understood as a clever subversion of the genre.[14] Charles Taylor of acclaimed the film as "entertaining, handsome and gripping, The Bourne Identity is something of an anomaly among big-budget summer blockbusters: a thriller with some brains and feeling behind it, more attuned to story and character than to spectacle" and praised Liman for giving the film a "tough mindedness" that never gives way into "cynicism or hopelessness".[15]

Ed Gonzalez of Slant Magazine also noted Doug Liman's "restrained approach to the material" as well as Matt Damon and Franka Potente's strong chemistry, but ultimately concluded the film was "smart, but not smart enough".[16] J. Hoberman of The Village Voice dismissed the film as "banal" and as a disappointment compared against Liman's previous indie releases;[17] Owen Gleiberman also criticised the film for a "sullen roteness that all of Liman's supple handheld staging can't disguise".[18] Aaron Beierle of DVDTalk gave particular praise to the film's central car chase which was described as an exciting action highlight and one of the best realized in the genre.[19][20]

Box office

In its opening weekend, The Bourne Identity took in US$27,118,640 in 2,638 theaters. The film grossed $121,661,683 in North America and $92,263,424 elsewhere for a total worldwide gross of $214,034,224.[2]


Year Organization Award Category/Recipient Result
2003 ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards ASCAP Award Top Box Office Films – John Powell Won[21]
Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA Saturn Award Best Action/Adventure/Thriller Film Nominated[21]
American Choreography Awards American Choreography Award Outstanding Achievement in Fight Choreography – Nick Powell Won[21]
Art Directors Guild Excellence in Production Design Award Feature Film – Contemporary Films Nominated[21]
Motion Picture Sound Editors, USA Golden Reel Award Best Sound Editing in Domestic Features - Dialogue & ADR; Sound Effects & Foley Nominated[21]
World Stunt Awards Taurus Award Best Work With a Vehicle Won[21]

Home media

On January 21, 2003, Universal Pictures released The Bourne Identity on VHS, and on DVD in the U.S. in two formats; a single-disc widescreen collector's edition and a single-disc full screen collector's edition. Both contain supplemental materials including a making-of documentary, a commentary from director Doug Liman and deleted scenes. On July 13, 2004, Universal released a new DVD of the film in the U.S. in preparation for the sequel's cinema debut.[22] This DVD also came in two formats: a single-disc widescreen extended edition and a single-disc full screen extended edition. Both contain supplemental materials including interviews with Matt Damon, deleted scenes, alternative opening and ending, a documentary on the consulate fight and information features on the CIA and amnesia. The alternate ending on the DVD has Bourne collapsing during the search for Marie, waking up with Abbott standing over him, and getting an offer to return to the CIA. Neither contain the commentary or DTS tracks present in the collector's edition. The film was also released on UMD for Sony's PlayStation Portable on August 30, 2005 and on HD DVD on July 24, 2007. With the release of The Bourne Ultimatum on DVD, a new DVD of The Bourne Identity was included in a boxed set with The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum. The boxed set is entitled The Jason Bourne Collection. A trilogy set was released on Blu-ray in January 2009.[23]


The Bourne Identity: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by John Powell
Released June 11, 2002
Genre Score
Length 54:51
Label Varèse Sarabande
The Bourne Series chronology
The Bourne Identity: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
The Bourne Supremacy: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic Link
SoundtrackNet Link

The score for the Bourne Identity was composed by John Powell. Powell was bought in to replace Carter Burwell, who had composed and recorded a more traditional orchestral score for the film, which director Doug Liman rejected. Since a lot of the music budget had been spent recording the rejected score, Powell's score was initially conceived to be entirely non-orchestral, making extensive use of percussion, guitars, electronics and studio techniques. However, a string section was later overdubbed onto many of the cues to give them a 'cinematic' quality. [24]

The Bourne Identity: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was released on June 11, 2002. In addition to the score, the film also featured the songs "Extreme Ways" by Moby and "Southern Sun / Ready Steady Go" by Paul Oakenfold. The soundtrack won an ASCAP Award.[25]

Track listing
No. Title Length
1. "Main Titles"   4:19
2. "Bourne Gets Well"   1:21
3. "Treadstone Assassins"   2:12
4. "At the Bank"   4:07
5. "Bourne on Land"   1:42
6. "Escape From Embassy"   3:13
7. "The Drive to Paris"   1:30
8. "The Apartment"   3:27
9. "At the Hairdressers"   1:31
10. "Hotel Regina"   2:12
11. "The Investigation"   1:40
12. "Taxi Ride"   3:43
13. "At the Farmhouse"   2:54
14. "Jason Phones It In"   3:05
15. "On Bridge Number Nine"   3:45
16. "Jason's Theme"   2:21
17. "Mood Build"   3:36
18. "The Bourne Identity"   5:58
19. "Drum and Bass Remix"   2:16

Video game

In 2008, The Bourne Identity was adapted into a video game, The Bourne Conspiracy. The game was available for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.[26]


The Bourne Identity was followed by a 2004 sequel, The Bourne Supremacy, which received a similar positive critical and public reception,[27] but received some criticism for its hand-held camerawork, which observers argued made action sequences difficult to see.[28] The Bourne Supremacy was directed by Paul Greengrass with Matt Damon reprising his role as Jason Bourne. A third film, The Bourne Ultimatum, was released in 2007 and again was directed by Paul Greengrass and starred Matt Damon. Like Supremacy, Ultimatum received generally positive critical and public reception, but also received similar criticism for the camera-work.[29]

The fourth film of the Bourne franchise, The Bourne Legacy was released in 2012. Neither Damon nor Greengrass were involved.[30][31]

See also


  1. ^ a b "The Bourne Identity".  
  2. ^ a b c "The Bourne Identity (2002)".  
  3. ^ a b c d 'The Bourne Identity' DVD Commentary Featuring Doug Liman (2003).
  4. ^ a b Michael Fleming (March 9, 2000). "Pitt giving books look for Par & U". Variety. Retrieved May 25, 2015. 
  5. ^ Michael Fleming (June 24, 1999). "Lopez after ‘Angel'; Kumble surfs the Web". Variety. Retrieved May 25, 2015. 
  6. ^ Staff (May 25, 2000). "Inside Moves". Variety. Retrieved May 25, 2015. 
  7. ^ Hanrahan, Denise. "Interview with Doug Liman". Retrieved March 14, 2007. 
  8. ^ a b 'The Birth of the Bourne Identity' DVD Making of Documentary (2003).
  9. ^ a b c King, Tom. "Bourne to be Wild".  
  10. ^ a b Wells, Jeffrey. "Bourne on His Back". Archived from the original on February 17, 2007. Retrieved March 12, 2007. 
  11. ^ Wadowski, Heather. "Interview with Matt Damon". Retrieved March 19, 2007. 
  12. ^ "The Bourne Identity".  
  13. ^ Ebert, Roger. "The Bourne Identity Review".  
  14. ^ Chaw, Walter. "The Bourne Identity Review". Retrieved March 8, 2007. 
  15. ^ Taylor, Charles. "The Bourne Identity Review". Retrieved March 13, 2007. 
  16. ^ Gonzalez, Ed. "The Bourne Identity Review". Retrieved March 8, 2007. 
  17. ^ Hoberman, J. "Zero for Conduct". Retrieved March 24, 2007. 
  18. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (June 21, 2002). "The Bourne Identity Review". Retrieved March 25, 2007. 
  19. ^ Beierle, Aaron. "The Bourne Identity DVD Review". Retrieved March 8, 2007. 
  20. ^ Clinton, Paul (June 14, 2002). "The Bourne Identity Review". Retrieved March 8, 2007. 
  21. ^ a b c d e f "The Bourne Identity (2002) – Awards".  
  22. ^ Arnold, Thomas K. (July 26, 2004). "Studios big on double features".  
  23. ^ Ault, Susanne (February 6, 2009). "Universal bundles Blu-ray catalog titles". Video Business. Retrieved May 16, 2009. 
  24. ^
  25. ^ "World Class".  
  26. ^ Saltzman, Marc (June 13, 2008). "Ludlum's 'Bourne' transfers well to video game".  
  27. ^ "The Bourne Supremacy (2004)".  
  28. ^ "The Bourne Ultimatum".  
  29. ^ Corliss, Richard (August 2, 2007). "The Bourne Ultimatum: A Macho Fantasy".  
  30. ^ Labrecque, Jeff (October 11, 2010). "No Matt Damon in 'Bourne Legacy': Report".  
  31. ^ Serpe, Gina (October 11, 2010). "WTF?! Matt Damon Out of The Bourne Legacy".  

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