The Bourne Identity (2001) review

After Jason Bourne is fished out of the sea by a passing boat, he discovers that he has amnesia and while trying to find out who he is, he must elude the police and assassins who are after him for unknown reasons.

Jason is found adrift in the sea in the middle of the night while he is brought on board, it is discovered that he has been shot twice, and a mysterious laser message that is buried within his hip. As Jason tries to find out who he is, he tries to evade both the police and a mysterious organisation who are trying to track down Bourne and kill him using their assassin’s.

Having amnesia is nothing new in storytelling, it’s a plot point with moves the plot itself forward, and we learn things at the same time as the characters. As we get snippets of Jason’s past, relations, and talents, we fit pieces of the puzzle together ourselves. This technique is a good way to set up twists, we fit in the pieces of a puzzle that the character is also piecing together, however, we don’t get all these pieces right away, it’s able to set up a twist using the pieces that it’s given us and plays on what we think we know, only to give us a new piece, or places a piece we have in a different way, showing us a new picture.

When watching a film about amnesia, I am usually expecting a twist somewhere. Not every film with amnesia as a plot point uses a twist, but it’s usually a feature. The film’s driving point is Jason discovering his identity, and he lets nothing get in his way, not the police, not assassins, not even gangs of armed men. Amnesia is a new start for a character, it’s a chance to change. Jason even laments that he doesn’t care anymore, he doesn’t want to find out who he is. He knows what he is, but not who he is, maybe he doesn’t what to remember who he is because he knows he won’t like it, maybe it’s because he likes who he is now, or maybe it’s because it knows he might change into someone else when he remembers; becoming someone new again, knowing how it feels and how scared he must feel, would make him reluctant to go through it again.

The film has many actions scenes; whether it’s a hand to hand fight with a fellow assassin, using knifes, household products, and fists; gunfights with gangs of trained gunman, whether it’s out in the open or in closed hallways and rooms; and chases in vehicles, and on foot, all throughout the cities. We see Jason tap into his skills, how he can elude the law and trained assassins, how he can drive skilfully enough to evade the police, how he can fight multiple enemies at once, using his fists and a variety of weapons, even fighting a man off with a standard pen. Jason says he still knows how to read, write, talk, but he also knows how to speak a variety of languages, scope a place out, and fight, at first, this scares him, wondering just who he is to be able to do these things.

Jason finds love with the only person he knows after his amnesia, Marie Kreutz. Maybe this is why Jason is reluctant to discover his true identity when his happens. He doesn’t know if his love will disappear once he recovers his former self. He has got something that his former life didn’t seem to have, and he seems to know that. He is afraid of losing that, he wants what he has now, and he wants to keep it, he wants a normal life. He is a new man, he has a second chance in life, a choice to make a new start and lead a life that he wants to live. Maybe this is the first real choice that he has had.


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