Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Bourne Identity -- Who am I?

Director: Doug Liman, 2002 (PG-13)

A man floats corpse-like on a stormy Mediterranean sea. A fishing trawler reels him in. He has two bullets in his back and a laser pellet in his hip that projects a Swiss bank account number. Clearly, this is no ordinary man. This is a John Doe who is suffering from disassociative amnesia, a memory loss that lets him remember skils like how to tie knots or fight cops, but not his name or his background.

“Who am I,” he asks at one point in the film. And this is the primary theme for the first of the Bourne movies.

Having healed aboard the ship, the mystery man sets out for Zurich once they land in France. In Zurich he discovers he knows martial arts, as he disarms and KOs two cops in a fight lasting seconds. But the biggest surprise of all awaits him in the bank vault. His bank deposit box contains multiple passports, a large amount of cash and a gun. Of the various aliases, one is American: Jason Bourne (Matt Damon, The Adjustment Bureau). This is the one he will go by until he can find out who he is. With the Bourne identity surfacing, flags trigger in the databases of the CIA and suddenly he becomes a hunted man.

Liman directs a taut action thriller that is high on fights and chases and low on gadgets and gimmicks. Bourne is no Bond. He uses what is at hand, even if it is just his hands. And there is a girl, Marie (Franke Potente, Run Lola Run), but she is no Bond girl. After a US Embassy fight/chase sequence in Zurich, she helps him escape to Paris in her mini.

Paris is the scene of some excellent action, including another fight and a terrific car chase. It is also where he hears of Treadstone, a super-secret black ops run by his handler Conklin (Chris Cooper, Married Life) and his CIA boss Abbott (Brian Cox, RED). This sets up Bourne’s mission: to learn more about Treadstone so that he can find out who he is. Along they way to the climax, we meet the Professor (Clive Owen, Duplicity), another CIA hit man, and Nicky Persons (Julia Stiles), the CIA logistics agent at the safe house. Although not a central character, she will show up in the whole series.

Who am I? This key question centers on identity. We all will ask this of ourselves eventually, some sooner, some later. The Bible offers answers. We are creatures made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26). God created us for relationship with him, as Adam had in the garden (Gen. 2:15). But like Bourne, we find ourselves floating in a sea of darkness. We suffer our own form of disassociate memory loss. We have forgotten who we really are. We have lost sight of God and of our own identity.

How can we find out who we are? We must look back before we can look forward. For that, we must turn to the Bourne Supremacy.

Copyright ©2013, Martin Baggs

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