I guess I should've seen this coming.
Audiences got tired of the Ah-nulds and the Sly Stallones of days past, so Hollywood felt a need to wipe the slate clean and start over again.
Now we are being given new faces for our action heroes, from the last people one would expect.
We're starting to see the likes of Ben Affleck, Vin Diesel, Tobey Maguire, and in this film, "The Bourne Identity", Matt Damon, transform themselves from pretty boys to gun toting, punch flipping tough guys (albeit a more sensitive type).
How well does Matt Damon fare?
Not too bad.
An anonymous man (Matt Damon) washes up onto a fishing boat with no recollection of who he is, where he's from, and other essential facts one usually needs to know. Before he knows it, the CIA is chasing him all over France, for reasons he is completely unaware of. He enlists the help of gypsy Marie St. Jacques (Franka Potente) to help him evade those who want him dead.
"The Bourne Identity" is, above all else, a classy movie, best enjoyed over a disgustingly large bag of popcorn. It's filmed and edited with a slick precision that one can also attribute to the performances and the dialogue. It's also pretty darn smart. There isn't too much suspension of disbelief, seeing as Damon and Potente's characters think of everything, such as wiping down all fingerprints after their hands have been on an object or not sticking around when they know it is time to leave a certain location.
"The Bourne Identity" always keeps the audience interested, but unfortunately there's nothing beyond that. The film never really translates what stops us from falling asleep into thrills. There are moments of mild suspense and some exciting chase sequences (such as one where Damon and Potente try to evade the Paris police in an old car that has seen better days), but the film is plagued by Bour-dom (if you will excuse me; I am in a stage where annoying yet snappy puns have become the norm in my reviews). There are several reasons the film falls into this rut. First of all, once the main premise has been set up, no new complications arise, stretching itself out too thin. It's not easy to stay enthralled that way. Mostly, however, it is because director Doug Liman doesn't transcend his stylized super-suaveness and grab the audience when he needs too. In a way, "The Bourne Identity" is too slick for it's own good.
This film will be remembered in the minds of the moviegoing public as the film that brought Matt Damon into the school of the action actor/athlete. He does a relatively well job, doing for the secret agent what Tobey Maguire did for the super-hero in "Spider-Man"; bringing a prototype a little more down to earth. In my opinion, however, it is Franka Potente who truly defines the ideal action hero. She is a talented actress (see her powerful work in "The Princess and the Warrior") and a strong athlete (see Franka run. Run, Franka, Run!) that continues to impress and amaze me.
And so ends this chapter of Hollywood's revitalization of the action hero. It is apparent that most of the actors involved won't be swayed from their regular acting regimen (for better or worse), but this is a start in seeing the formula being tweaked just a little. Any little bit of new ideas in Hollywood is refreshing to see these days. As for "The Bourne Identity", I will give a cautious recommendation. It is not as exciting as it should be, but it is worth a look, if you can wait to rent it.