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The Bourne Identity (2002 film)

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The Bourne Identity
International theatrical release poster
Directed byDoug Liman
Screenplay by
Based onThe Bourne Identity
by Robert Ludlum
Produced by
CinematographyOliver Wood
Edited bySaar Klein
Music byJohn Powell
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • June 6, 2002 (2002-06-06) (Los Angeles)
  • June 14, 2002 (2002-06-14) (United States)
  • September 26, 2002 (2002-09-26) (Germany)
Running time
119 minutes
  • United States
  • Germany[1]
Budget$60 million[2]
Box office$214 million[2]

The Bourne Identity is a 2002 action-thriller film based on Robert Ludlum's 1980 novel of the same name. It stars Matt Damon as Jason Bourne, a man suffering from psychogenic amnesia and attempting to discover his true identity amidst a clandestine conspiracy within the CIA. The film was directed by Doug Liman and also features Franka Potente, Chris Cooper, Clive Owen, Julia Stiles, Brian Cox, Walton Goggins, and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. The first installment in the Jason Bourne film series, it was followed by The Bourne Supremacy (2004), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), The Bourne Legacy (2012), and Jason Bourne (2016).

The film was co-produced and 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 an executive producer alongside Frank Marshall. Universal Pictures released the film to theatres in the United States on June 14, 2002. The film opened to critical and commercial success, grossing $214 million on a $60 million budget.


In the Mediterranean Sea, Italian fishermen rescue an American adrift with two gunshot wounds in his back. They tend to his wounds and find he has no memory of his identity, but retains his speech, advanced combat skills and fluency in several languages. The skipper finds a laser projector under the man's hip that gives the number of a safe deposit box in Zürich. Upon landing in Imperia, Italy, the American goes to the bank in Switzerland to investigate the deposit box. He finds it contains money in various currencies, passports and identity cards with his picture on them, and a handgun. The man takes everything but the gun, using the name on the American passport, Jason Bourne.

After Bourne's departure, a bank employee contacts Operation Treadstone, a CIA black ops program. Treadstone's head, Conklin, issues alerts to police to capture Bourne and activates three agents to kill him: Castel, Manheim, and the Professor. CIA Deputy Director Abbott contacts Conklin about a failed assassination attempt against exiled African dictator Wombosi. Conklin promises Abbott that he will deal with the Treadstone agent who failed.

Bourne tries evading the Swiss police by using his U.S. passport to enter the American consulate, but is pursued by Marine guards. He escapes the consulate, offering a German woman, Marie Kreutz, $20,000 to drive him to an address in Paris listed on his French driving license. At the address, an apartment, he hits redial on the phone and reaches a hotel. He inquires about the names on his passports there, learning that a "John Michael Kane" was registered but died two weeks prior in a car crash. Castel ambushes Bourne and Marie in the apartment, but Bourne gets the upper hand. Instead of allowing himself to be interrogated, Castel throws himself from a window to his death. Among Castel's belongings, Marie finds wanted posters of Bourne and herself, and agrees to help him. After Bourne evades Paris police in Marie's car, the two spend the night in a Paris hotel.

Wombosi obsesses over the attempt on his life. Conklin, having anticipated this, planted a body under the name "John Michael Kane" in Hoffenmein morgue, Paris to appear as the assailant, but Wombosi is not fooled and threatens to report CIA secrets to the media. The Professor assassinates Wombosi on Conklin's orders. Bourne, posing as Kane, learns about Wombosi's yacht, and that the assailant was shot twice in the back during the escape; he realizes he was the assailant. He and Marie take refuge at the French countryside home of Marie's brother Eamon and his children. Under pressure from Abbott to tie off the Wombosi matter, Conklin tracks Bourne's location and sends the Professor there, but Bourne shoots him with Eamon's shotgun, mortally wounding him. The Professor reveals their shared connection to Treadstone before dying. Bourne sends Marie, Eamon, and Eamon's children away for their protection, then contacts Conklin via the Professor's phone. Conklin agrees to meet Bourne, alone, in Paris. When Bourne sees Conklin has not come alone he abandons the meeting, but places a tracking device on Conklin's car, leading Bourne to Treadstone's safe house in Paris.

Bourne breaks in and holds Conklin and logistics technician Nicolette "Nicky" Parsons at gunpoint. Conklin reveals to Bourne his association with Treadstone and presses him to remember his past. Bourne recalls his attempt to assassinate Wombosi through successive flashbacks. As Kane, and working under orders from Treadstone, Bourne infiltrated Wombosi's yacht and got close enough to assassinate him. However, Bourne was unable to find the nerve to kill Wombosi while his children were present, and instead fled, being shot during his escape. Bourne announces he is resigning from Treadstone and warns Conklin not to follow him. As agents descend on the safe house, Bourne fights his way free. When Conklin leaves the safe house, he encounters Manheim, who kills him under Abbott's orders. Abbott then shuts down Treadstone.

Abbott reports to an oversight committee that Treadstone is "all but decommissioned" before discussion turns to a new project codenamed "Blackbriar". Bourne finds Marie renting out scooters to tourists on Mykonos, and the two reunite.


Damon in 2001

Walton Goggins, Josh Hamilton, and Brian Huskey appear as Treadstone research technicians. David Bamber has a minor role as a clerk at the American consulate who denies Marie a student visa, David Gasman has one as the deputy chief of mission, and Hubert Saint-Macary as a Paris morgue director.



Director Doug Liman has said 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]

Of particular inspiration were Liman's father Arthur Liman'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, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Cruise 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]


Filming began October 31, 2000. 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, plus 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[edit]

According to the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 83% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 192 reviews, with an average rating of 7/10. The site's critics consensus reads, "Expertly blending genre formula with bursts of unexpected wit, The Bourne Identity is an action thriller that delivers — and then some."[12] At Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 68 out of 100 based on 38 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[13] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.[14]

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".[15] 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.[16] 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".[17]

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".[18] J. Hoberman of The Village Voice dismissed the film as "banal" and as a disappointment compared against Liman's previous indie releases;[19] Owen Gleiberman also criticised the film for a "sullen roteness that all of Liman's supple handheld staging can't disguise".[20] 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.[21][22]

The Bourne Identity has been described by some authors as a neo-noir film.[23]

Box office[edit]

In its opening weekend, The Bourne Identity took in US$27,118,640 in 2,638 theaters, ranking at #2 behind fellow new release Scooby-Doo. 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[24]
Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA Saturn Award Best Action/Adventure/Thriller Film Nominated[24]
American Choreography Awards American Choreography Award Outstanding Achievement in Fight Choreography – Nick Powell Won[24]
Art Directors Guild Excellence in Production Design Award Feature Film – Contemporary Films Nominated[24]
Motion Picture Sound Editors, USA Golden Reel Award Best Sound Editing in Domestic Features - Dialogue & ADR; Sound Effects & Foley Nominated[24]
World Stunt Awards Taurus Award Best Work With a Vehicle Won[24]

Home media[edit]

On January 21, 2003, Universal Pictures released The Bourne Identity in the U.S. on VHS as well as on a “collector’s edition” DVD in two formats: widescreen and full screen. The release contains supplemental materials including a making-of documentary, a commentary from director Doug Liman and deleted scenes. On July 13, 2004, Universal released a new “extended edition” DVD of the film in the U.S. in preparation for the sequel's cinema debut.[25] This DVD came in the same two formats as the 2003 edition. The supplemental materials for this version include 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 2003 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 reprint of the 2004 version was included in a boxed set with Supremacy and Ultimatum, entitled The Jason Bourne Collection. A trilogy set was released on Blu-ray in January 2009.[26]


The Bourne Identity: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedJune 11, 2002
LabelVarèse Sarabande
The Bourne Series chronology
The Bourne Identity: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
The Bourne Supremacy: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic3.5/5 stars Link
SoundtrackNet2.5/5 stars Link

The score for the Bourne Identity was composed by John Powell. Powell was brought 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.[27]

The Bourne Identity: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was released on June 11, 2002 by Varèse Sarabande. 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.[28]


The Bourne Identity was followed by a 2004 sequel, The Bourne Supremacy, which received a similar positive critical and public reception,[29] but received some criticism for its hand-held camerawork, which observers argued made action sequences difficult to see.[30] 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.[31] Liman remained as executive producer for both films as well as for the fifth film Jason Bourne, once again directed by Greengrass and released in 2016.

The fourth film of the Bourne franchise, The Bourne Legacy was released in 2012. Neither Damon nor Greengrass was involved.[32][33]

Damon returned in 2016 for the fifth installment of the series Jason Bourne , which was directed by Paul Greengrass and written by Greengrass and Christopher Rouse. It is the final film in the Bourne film series and a direct sequel to The Bourne Ultimatum (2007).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Bourne Identity". British Film Institute. London. Archived from the original on January 29, 2009. Retrieved June 11, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c "The Bourne Identity (2002)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved May 16, 2009.
  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. ^ "Inside Moves". Variety. May 25, 2000. 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". Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on October 15, 2012. Retrieved March 12, 2007.
  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 (2002)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved July 6, 2020.
  13. ^ "The Bourne Identity Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  14. ^ "Find CinemaScore" (Type "Bourne" in the search box). CinemaScore. Retrieved July 8, 2021.
  15. ^ Ebert, Roger. "The Bourne Identity Review". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved March 8, 2007.
  16. ^ Chaw, Walter. "The Bourne Identity Review". Archived from the original on March 6, 2012. Retrieved March 8, 2007.
  17. ^ Taylor, Charles. "The Bourne Identity Review". Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved March 13, 2007.
  18. ^ Gonzalez, Ed. "The Bourne Identity Review". Retrieved March 8, 2007.
  19. ^ Hoberman, J. "Zero for Conduct". Retrieved March 24, 2007.
  20. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (June 21, 2002). "The Bourne Identity Review". Retrieved March 25, 2007.
  21. ^ Beierle, Aaron. "The Bourne Identity DVD Review". Retrieved March 8, 2007.
  22. ^ Clinton, Paul (June 14, 2002). "The Bourne Identity Review". Retrieved March 8, 2007.
  23. ^ Conard, Mark T.; ed. (2009). The Philosophy of Neo-Noir. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 081319217X.
  24. ^ a b c d e f "The Bourne Identity (2002) – Awards". IMDb. Retrieved March 14, 2007.
  25. ^ Arnold, Thomas K. (July 26, 2004). "Studios big on double features". USA Today. Retrieved May 16, 2009.
  26. ^ Ault, Susanne (February 6, 2009). "Universal bundles Blu-ray catalog titles". Video Business. Retrieved May 16, 2009.
  27. ^ FREER, IAN. "Empire Meets John Powell". Empire.
  28. ^ "World Class". ASCAP. Retrieved May 16, 2009.
  29. ^ "The Bourne Supremacy (2004)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 14, 2007.
  30. ^ "The Bourne Ultimatum". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 16, 2009.
  31. ^ Corliss, Richard (August 2, 2007). "The Bourne Ultimatum: A Macho Fantasy". Time. Archived from the original on September 7, 2007. Retrieved May 16, 2009.
  32. ^ Labrecque, Jeff (October 11, 2010). "No Matt Damon in 'Bourne Legacy': Report". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on February 4, 2012. Retrieved April 1, 2011.
  33. ^ Serpe, Gina (October 11, 2010). "WTF?! Matt Damon Out of The Bourne Legacy". E! Online. Retrieved April 1, 2011.

Further reading[edit]

  • Tibbetts, John C., and James M. Welsh, eds. The Encyclopedia of Novels Into Film (2nd ed. 2005) pp 39–42.

External links[edit]