The Bourne Identity is without a doubt one of the coolest CIA espionage thrillers that I've seen in a long time. It outdoes most of the James Bond and all of the Jack Ryan movies with its fast paced storytelling, amazing action sequences, and gripping, edge of your seat drama that is the staple of all the best action pictures.
Matt Damon is perfectly cast. The movie starts with Damon as Jason Bourne, shot twice in the back and left for dead in the ocean. Waking up on a shipping vessel, Bourne has no idea who he is but realizes he possesses the ability to speak multiple languages, can analyze every room he's in to the most minute detail, and could kick the crap out of pretty much anybody, even if they were to gang up on him. As he tries to figure it all out, the CIA realizes he isn't dead and commences a plan to dispose of him before his memory returns. But Bourne is too smart despite not knowing his real identity. He pays a German invalid named Marie Kreutz (played by sexy Franka Potente) to drive him to Paris. From there, they are pursued by assassins from all over, and as they struggle to avoid being captured or killed, a romance blossoms.
The chemistry between Damon and Potente is great. Both actors are able to tap into the vulnerability of their characters and their own individual wants. Of course it's an action movie and it's typically formulaic for the guy and the girl to fall hopelessly in love, but the actors make it much more believable, so it doesn't feel like the film is just going through the motions.
Much credit goes to the director Doug Liman who is very proficient at balancing all the aspects of the cat and mouse chase between the CIA and Jason Bourne. This film spans a lot of locations - from Zurich, Paris, to Virginia - and it never once feels convoluted or confusing. The audience is never confused as to how each character fits into the puzzle, and just enough information is left out to hold interest for the outcome.
And of course the fight scenes are simply astounding. The choreography involves a lot of hand to hand combat that moves fast and is often staged in close quarters, keeping Bourne and his adversaries trapped in an enclosed area that warrants such close hand to hand combat. It's almost like elements of a martial arts film have been lifted into the espionage plot, creating a movie that you can watch for its exhilarating action scenes as much as for its intelligent story.