[MOVIE REVIEW]Bourne-ographic -- a smart, sexy thriller

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[MOVIE REVIEW]Bourne-ographic -- a smart, sexy thriller

At last, an action-thriller that doesn't require you to check your brain at the door.

Maybe I'm just a curmudgeon (O.K., I am a curmudgeon), but I'm tired of so-called "popcorn flicks" that cost more to make than the gross national product of midsize nations, even though their producers cannot be bothered with hiring minimum-wage script doctors to iron out minor things like logic and continuity.

Which brings us to "The Bourne Identity." After a fine performance in the "The Talented Mr. Ripley," Matt Damon is back with another solid film, playing a man with no identity.

This loose adaptation of Robert Ludlum's 1980 espionage thriller begins with Damon being plucked out of the Mediterranean Sea by fishermen off the coast of Marseilles. He has two bullet holes in his back and a Swiss bank account number implanted in a capsule in his thigh. What happened is a mystery; the trauma has left him without his memory.

While Damon can't remember his name, he discovers he hasn't forgotten any of his extraordinary skills. He can speak several languages, case any room instantly and kick butt like nobody's business.

In search of his identity, he tracks down the bank account number, which leads him to a seriously uberrich, anonymous, high-security Zurich bank.

Never mind that he doesn't know his name or have an I.D. card, the bankers give him a secure box. What he finds inside is unexpected -- a pile of money, a gun and a bunch of passports, all with different names but having his picture.

He picks one of the identities, Jason Bourne, and sets off in search of answers. Quickly he discovers his movements are being tracked, and instinctively takes evasive action.

With no idea why he is being hunted, Jason meets a vagabond, Marie Kreutz (Franka Potente), and makes her a very generous offer to drive him to Paris in a red Austin Mini -- perhaps the tiniest car ever used in an action movie.

From there, the movie quickly becomes a cat-and-mouse game between Jason and his former employer, the usual suspects in Langley, Virginia.

Despite hoary devices -- amnesia, CIA assassins, a James Bond load of beautiful locales -- "The Bourne Identity" works because the people seem vaguely believable. They might be in extraordinary situations, but they respond in a recognizably human way to their difficulties.

The music, editing and low-key effects fit in smoothly with the story, highlighting rather than overwhelming it. Doug Liman's direction is taut and compelling.

"The Bourne Identity" had me thinking of movies like "The Third Man." Not that "Bourne" is as good, but with American spies ham-fisting their way through Europe in a smart, sexy story, there are enough similarities to make you happy.

by Mark Russell

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