A spy waking up without any memory is a classic tale, and The Bourne Identity, based on a novel by Robert Ludlum take that premise and runs with it. Matt Damon plays the amnesiac Jason Bourne discovered in the ocean by a fishing vessel. He seeks to discover his identity as he discovers that he has amazing abilities, including a tremendous skill at hand-to-hand combat and an extraordinary ability to drive a car. He learns rapidly that he's pursued by the authorities and uses his skills to elude detection.
Desperate to follow the clues he finds in a bank lockbox, he offers Marie (Franka Potente) twenty thousand dollars to take him to Paris. Meanwhile, agents track Bourne's movements including Conklin (Chris Cooper) who answers to Ward Abbott (Brian Cox). It was interesting to see Walton Goggins pop up in these scenes in a minor role prior to his breakout fame. They contact their agent in the field Nicolette (Julia Stiles) and she hires top assassins like the Professor (Clive Owen).
Bourne discovers that he was on a mission to kill a Nigerian politician named Wombosi (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). As he nears the truth, the authorities come closer to him. There is a quick car chase in the middle and a cool knife fight alongside several scenes of Matt Damon beating up police officers from various European countries. I thought the action was a little lacking throughout, and the plot is brisk but the skimps on the action. Doug Liman the director would go on to do some cool movies and has more in store.
The Bourne Identity kicks off the series of films that has played out through the years, introducing Operation Treadstone, a secret and expensive Department of Defense project. There is plenty of commentary on the meddlesome nature of American foreign policy, but all of that is an excuse for action scenes that fall short in this introductory film. The story does get the saga of Jason Bourne started.
The film does a fine job standing alone and wraps up with a decent climax. Jason Bourne is superhuman enough to escape impossible scenarios and take innumerable villainous agents. The chemistry between Franka Potente, an interesting actress with roles in FX series like The Bridge and a recent turn as a skeptic in The Conjuring 2, and Damon The supporting cast is an impressive list that goes on to all make names for themselves if they haven't already. The Bourne Identity kick things off and showed potential for the spy thriller.