I spy a cracking new espionage thriller

Preview by Jack Foley

THE spy thriller gets a hip and more aggressive re-working in Matt Damon’s latest, The Bourne Identity, based on the novel by Robert Ludlum.

Damon stars as amnesia-ridden assassin, Jason Bourne, who must rediscover his identity before the agents on his trail eliminate him permanently; a familiar espionage set-up, but one that is delivered with aplomb.

The movie is directed by Doug Liman, whose list of credits include Swingers and Go, and remains consistently exciting throughout, requiring audiences to pay close attention at all times, while also delivering some well-executed set pieces (a car chase, involving a mini through the streets of Paris, is a particular highlight).

Co-stars include Franka Potente (of Run Lola Run fame), Chris Cooper (of Lone Star) and Clive Owen (as a fellow assassin) and all are on good form.

Damon enjoyed the challenge of taking on the action hero genre and giving it a more thoughtful spin (think Mission Impossible territory) and hasn’t ruled out the possibility of returning to the role. He is quoted as saying: "I'm not contractually obligated to, but if Tony wrote another great script, then yeah, sure. I really liked everybody who worked on the movie.

"We worked really hard on it. We were in all these interesting places and had all these adventures together. I'd do it again."

He also trained for months in martial arts, boxing, and weapons handling, but has confessed to taking a back seat when it came to approaching the stunts. "I always defer to the people who know what they're doing," he said. "It's safer. Let them make you look good."

The movie opens in UK cinemas in September but has already been well received by both audiences and critics in America.

WHAT THE US CRITICS SAID...

The Bourne Identity could well become one of the sleeper hits of the summer, thanks to the mature way in which it handles its premise.

Critics in America were largely impressed, with the likes of Planet Sick-Boy leading the way by hailing it as ‘the slickest, coolest assassin flick since The Professional’.

E! Online said that it ‘tackles the international espionage thing - cool car chases and all - with a dash of original flair’, while the Hollywood Reporter said ‘there’s never a dull moment’.

Still on a positive note, USA Today described it as ‘blisteringly fast, Bourne also has a strong or striking supporting actor around every corner’, while the Chicago Tribune decided that this is ‘no mere summer amusement park ride’.

Less impressed was Entertainment Weekly, which only rated it worth a C+, adding that despite some nice early touches, the more you find out about Bourne’s identity, the less interesting it becomes, while Slant Magazine concluded that it is ‘too Hollywood to ever really sink its teeth into its protagonist's existential crisis’.

However, the negative reviews were few and far between, with big guns such as the New York Post describing it as ‘a lean, deftly shot, well-acted, weirdly retro thriller that recalls a raft of '60s and '70s European-set spy pictures’ and awarding it two and a half stars out of four.

The final, and best, word, however, goes to the Boston Phoenix, which hit the nail on the head when it declared that The Bourne Identity ‘defines the action movie’.

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