The Bourne Identity

Critics Consensus

Expertly blending genre formula with bursts of unexpected wit, The Bourne Identity is an action thriller that delivers -- and then some.



Total Count: 189


Audience Score

User Ratings: 965,342
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Movie Info

The best-selling suspense novel by late author Robert Ludlum comes to the screen for a second time, following a 1988 made-for-TV movie. Matt Damon stars as Jason Bourne, a barely alive amnesiac with a pair of bullet wounds in his back, pulled from the Mediterranean by Italian fishermen. Bourne's only clue to his own identity is a bank account number etched on a capsule implanted in his body. He quickly finds the Zurich bank where money, a gun, and a few identification documents await, but after he's pursued by security goons at the American consulate, Bourne realizes he can trust no one and offers a German gypsy named Marie (Franka Potente) ten thousand dollars for a ride to Paris. Encountering more professional killers bent on his destruction, Bourne discovers that he possesses a surprising degree of skill in combat, martial arts, and linguistics -- handy talents that clearly indicate his past includes work as a spy and assassin, but for whom? With Marie's reluctant help, Bourne edges closer to the truth, something CIA officials want concealed at all costs. The Bourne Identity co-stars Chris Cooper, Clive Owen, Brian Cox, and Julia Stiles. ~ Karl Williams, Rovi


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Critic Reviews for The Bourne Identity

All Critics (189) | Top Critics (42) | Fresh (157) | Rotten (32)

  • A first-rate thriller with grit and intrigue to spare.

    Jun 12, 2008

    Todd McCarthy

    Top Critic
  • Efficient set pieces come neatly spaced every ten to 15 minutes -- just often enough to keep you credulous -- and the trans-European settings lend a classy backdrop.

    Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…
    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • The Bourne Identity is a blockbuster without a point... Despite its good-looking veneer, its breakneck pace, its daisy-chain of expert set-pieces, some crucial logic or motive appears to have been junked along the way.

    Oct 2, 2002 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

    Xan Brooks

    Top Critic
  • A fast-paced, unpredictable and edgy yarn that breathes new life into the espionage thriller genre.

    Aug 20, 2002 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

    Neil Smith
    Top Critic
  • A rollicking adventure yarn.

    Jul 25, 2002 | Full Review…

    Andrew Sarris

    Top Critic
  • The Bourne Identity is no mere summer amusement park ride. It's as gray as Go was colorful and a cool contrast to its source material.

    Jul 20, 2002 | Rating: 3/4

Audience Reviews for The Bourne Identity

  • Aug 23, 2016
    The first Jason Bourne film was the most quintessential action spy thriller at the of the noughties. It's scope, technicality and characterization was unprecedented, what starts off as a mystery of an American discovered at sea with only a few clues to spare eventually turns into the plot of a spy assassin on the run from those who trained him. Matt Damon became the unexpected action hero at the time, able to pull off daring stunts taking out enemies clean and easily, as were his ability to plan strategically through many situaltions, all this making him the truly compelling character from Robert Ludlum's books on one of the most revered action movie franchises of the modern age. This film directed by Doug Liman may be the more genuinely character oriented films the franchise has developed, it's main plot about the character's recent history, motivation, recent relationship with supporting character, as was him discovering his identity is a little small scaled then usual, though the compelling aspect with the character and the CIA operative working behind the scenes became the most concentrated narrative strands than just the inciting incident and the character's backstory subplot. Overall it still holds up today, still a worthy introduction to a unique character and film series.
    Luke E Super Reviewer
  • Jul 26, 2016
    It's hard to believe The Bourne franchise is over 14 years old. With 4 successful films under its belt to this point, and one more on the way, Jason Bourne has become one of Hollywood's most enduring protagonists. Luckily, after so long and many repeated viewings, The Bourne Identity still holds up. Before Paul Greengrass came on board and gave us a few heart stopping thrill rides, Doug Liman directed the first entry in the series. While there are a few dated stylistic choices by Liman, he did a great job kicking off the series. It was released in 2002, but it definitely has a 90's action-thriller vibe from its look and feel. It's also far less cinematic than its successors and in turn makes for a great cable watch (which is probably why I've seen this film north of 10 times). As I understand, the film's budget spiraled after several reshoots and push back's, so John Powell had little to work with in terms of a natural score. I feel like that helped him create a more grounded sound and tone to the series, as he has gone on to score 3 more Bourne films. Powell's score, along with the great end credits Moby tag, make for one good listen. The Bourne Identity doesn't nearly have the scope that the Greengrass films do, but it has a surprisingly amount of awareness for an action film. The entire series is more cerebral than it gets credit for. Accompanying Matt Damon as Bourne himself, is an impressive cast that consists of German star Franka Potente, Chris Cooper, Brian Cox, and Clive Owen. Potente serves a great counter to Damon in that they both play lost souls searching for answers. She also essentially plays the audience, who is going along with Bourne as he ventures deep into his past. Owen, Cooper, and Cox are all great as different levels of C.I.A. agents. Particularly, Clive Owen, who does so much with so little amount of dialogue. I'm of the belief that, besides Legacy, the Bourne films get better as the series goes on. With a charismatic performance from Damon, in a somewhat unlikable role, it's all the more impressive just how successful these films have become. Hopefully that continues moving forward. +Damon's commitment +Supporting cast +Powell's grounded score +Good action, but better characters -Some dated stylistic choices 9.0/10
    Thomas D Super Reviewer
  • May 17, 2016
    Smarter than your average action flick, The Bourne Identity offers a fresh take at the thriller genre, delivering high-paced action and brilliant dialogue. It may feel slow at times, but the pacing pays off big time. Definitely a solid first installment in a franchise.
    Ben B Super Reviewer
  • Dec 06, 2015
    A brilliant mix of great story telling, Great action and suspense, It only spoon feeds us bits about the plot all the way through but it's gripping from start to finish, A great car chase and the film adds some wit which works well, It's Bonds dark and gritty brother.
    Jamie C Super Reviewer

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