Fairly entertaining, but nothing to write home about, this espionage-centered actioner tries to capture the paranoid cool of 1970s thrillers like The Parallax View, Three Days of the Condor, and The Day of the Jackal. It succeeds, to a certain extent, but it doesn't have a compelling enough political context to drive the point home.
We all know there's plenty of shady people in the government, especially in the CIA, so it's no surprise when we discover that Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), an amnesiac who is discovered nearly dead on the Mediterranean with a bullet in his body and a Swiss bank account number embedded in his hip, is a spy of some sort – one who's wanted dead by his own people. It could have something to do with his mastery of several languages, the various passports he owns in different names, and his expertise in martial arts. In short: Bourne's got secrets that others don't want spilled.
There's not much of a story beyond our hero's search for his own identity and who's trying to set him up, or kill him, or whatever. All we're left to chew on is serviceable though not heart-racing action, a fine supporting cast that is mostly wasted (especially Clive Owen as a mysterious assassin and Julia Stiles in a throwaway role that should have been played by somebody older), and of course Run Lola Run's Franka Potente as an appealing love interest. I like Franka Potente. I even like saying "Franka Potente". It's nice that someone has trusted her to play the female lead in a Hollywood blockbuster. Unfortunately, the script gives her little to do other than saying "scheisse" a dozen times, and there isn't much chemistry between her and Damon.
The Bourne Identity won't waste your time, but it won't be the best thing you've seen all summer, all month, or even all week. I've already forgotten most of it; the most lingering memory is of a moron sitting two seats down from me who kept giggling every time something violent happened. I wanted something violent to happen to him.