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Film / The Bourne Identity

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"Who has a safety deposit box full of money and six passports and a gun? Who has a bank account number in their hip? I come in here, and the first thing I'm doing is I'm catching the sightlines and looking for an exit."
Jason Bourne

The Bourne Identity is the first movie in The Bourne Series, directed by Doug Liman. It was released on June 14, 2002.

A man (Bourne) is fished out of the Mediterranean Sea riddled with bullet-holes and with no memory of who he is. He makes the surprising discovery that he knows how to speak several languages, has plenty of money and passports in a safety deposit box, and he knows how to kill anything that moves. Retracing his steps, he finds himself being hunted by the government and, with the help of a pretty German globetrotter, he goes in search of his identity.

This film is followed by The Bourne Supremacy.


This film provides examples of:

  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Pretty much everything at the farmhouse until Bourne senses the Professor lurking about.
  • Actor Allusion:
  • Alas, Poor Villain: The Professor's death scene. Despite trying to kill Bourne seconds earlier, our hero is horrified to realize he's another Treadstone agent. The audience already knows this, which may fatigue them with exposition. The screenwriter avoids this by injecting humanity into him, so instead of a steely eyed assassin, we meet a very human figure. Bleeding to death slowly, he begins to seemingly babble as Bourne tries to interrogate him, asking Bourne where he comes from, and darkly laughing about their terrible headaches— a result of their mutual behavioral conditioning. In fact, he is not babbling, but seeking commonality in his final moments. Near death, he looks down at his own wound, turns to Bourne and moans his haunting final words, "Look at this. Look at what they make you give." The scene sets a tone for the rest of the movie series. It would initially seem to be about the Professor's lost life, but over the course of the trilogy, with the eventual losses Bourne will endure, the audience sees that he's really talking about his sacrifice of his humanity to his government, and is echoed in the final movie as Jason Bourne's last line.
    Jason Bourne: Look at us. Look at what they make you give.
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  • Amnesiac Resonance: Jason Bourne instinctively fights, but doesn't remember yet who he is or how he knows what he's doing.
  • Artistic License – Law: When Bourne shows his passport and enters the American Embassy, there's a brief scene wherein the local police who have been tailing him attempt to follow him inside and are stopped by the US Marine guards, saying that it's US territory and they have no jurisdiction. In reality, they never would have even tried this. Police departments that have embassies within their jurisdictions are thoroughly trained to regard embassies as foreign soil and to never attempt to enter, no matter what the reason,. It would be a serious diplomatic incident, and in these post-9/11 days of continually heightened security, such an attempt by armed police officers would have resulted in a much more aggressive response from the Marine guards.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: The name on Bourne's Russian passport is written "Kiniaev Foma" in Latin letters and "Лштшфум Ащьф " (Lshtshfum Aschf) in Cyrillic letters. Apparently, the designers of the prop just typed the name in the Russian keyboard layout without actually translating it. The name was corrected in The Bourne Supremacy.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Say what you will about Bourne's boss, but the guy briefly fought Bourne, ripped him apart with a lecture while held at gunpoint and actually stumbled after Bourne even though he had to know he'd probably die. If nothing else, he was tough.
  • Awesome by Analysis: While sitting in the truckstop, trying to get Marie to understand his memory loss, Jason points out in a frustrated tone that he's already scanned everyone in the diner, identified the biggest threats, determined his maximum endurance and plan of attack, and tells her the best location for a weapon.
    Jason: How can I know all that? How can I know all that and not know who I am?!
  • The Backwards Я: His alias in Russian passport is Foma Kiniaev, and in Russian it is "Ащьф Лштшфум" (Astch'f Lshtshfum, yes, it is as unpronounceable as it looks). It is just the name "Foma Kiniaev" typed in Russian keyboard layout. The proper transliteration would be "Фома Киняев". And, by the way, the proper Latin translitiration for "Киняев" is "Kinyaev", not "Kiniaev".
  • Bait-and-Switch: After leaving Treadstone's Paris HQ, Jason is seen walking down a street. We cut to a Treadstone agent preparing his pistol, seeing a shadowy figure approaching his car. He steps out of the car, but instead of Bourne, it's Conklin, who's unceremoniously shot by him.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Towards the beginning, Jason wants to learn who he is. After he learns he's actually a black-ops agent, one who's so dangerous that his fellow operatives have all been summoned to take him out, he wishes he hadn't found out.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Castel after his fight with Bourne. He throws himself out of the window and off the balcony when Jason is distracted by Marie.
  • Boom, Headshot!: As Nikwana Wombosi walks down a flight of stairs in conversation with someone behind him, he passes by a window at head level. That's all it takes for The Professor to snipe at him with four shots — one to kill, and three just to be certain.
  • Car Chase: Several in every film. The car chase between Bourne and the Paris police from the first movie is rather original and involves surprisingly little in the way of crashes. And it's freaking hilarious, since Bourne's making his dramatic getaway through the crowded streets in Marie's old and battered 1960s Mini Cooper.
  • Carnival of Killers: Castel, The Professor and Mannheim.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Wombosi's children are mentioned and seen briefly before a flashback reveals they're the reason Bourne couldn't kill Wombosi on the boat.
  • Cloth Fu: At one point in the movie, Bourne uses a hand towel to kill an assassin.
  • Cold Sniper: The Professor, who demonstrates his sniper skills for the audience on Wombosi. He's silent and stealthy throughout the majority of his scenes thanks not just in part to having no lines, but also due to the silencer on his weapon. When he comes into contact with Nicky to receive his assignment, he appears without warning, wordlessly takes his instructions, and disappears, leaving Nicky a little unnerved. Almost as if playing on the "cold sniper" visual pun, his sniper showdown with Bourne takes place in a dead corn field surrounded by snow covered hills.
  • Come Alone: Jason tells Conklin this. Conklin is smart enough to disguise his backup as innocent bystanders, but Jason doesn't buy it. Turns out Jason only wanted to lure him out into the open so he could put a tracker on their van, leading him to their local safe house.
  • Completely Different Title: The French version is titled La Mémoire dans la peau ("Memory Under the Skin" or "Memory Deep Within"). Similarly, Supremacy and Ultimatum are titled La Mort dans la peau and La Vengeance dans la peau.
  • Darkest Africa: The dictator Nikwana Wombosi comes from an unmentioned (but subtly revealed — see Lawyer-Friendly Cameo) African country rife with infighting and military juntas.
  • Deadly Euphemism: At the end Abbott claims that Treadstone was an advanced game program that was terminated because of its high cost before a Senate Oversight Committee. He says this just after ordering Conklin's murder.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Identity at times feels very different in tone to its sequels. The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum are contiguous to the point that there is no time-cut at all between the last scenes of the second film and the first scenes of the third film (not counting the Bourne-in-New-York-scene, a Supremacy note which is also tied up in Ultimatum...). But when you have recently seen Supremacy and/or Ultimatum, it can come as a bit of a shock to rewatch Identity and realise how different it is, though it was setting up all the Bourne tropes the later films played on. Notably, the soundtrack is a very different beast, employing techno-ish and poppy background music. Damon's Bourne is also surprisingly chatty and smiley compared to his later silent stoicism. The editing takes a different approach completely, and the camera work is free of the Jitter Cam that defined the sequels outside a few select sequences. Most of this change in tone has to do with the first film being made by a different director to its sequels.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Everyone seems to agree Wombosi's a pretty bad guy, but when he sees Jason hesitating to kill him because of the child on his lap, he refuses to use her as a shield. He picks her up and moves her to the side without attempting to move out from under the gun, giving Jason an easy, clear shot to kill him. (He doesn't.)
  • Famous Last Words: Look at what they make you give.
  • Flyaway Shot: The movie ends with the camera giving an areal shot of the heroes' new location followed by a quick zoom-out before cutting to black.
  • Gay Paree: Averted. Paris is portrayed realistically (and pretty dirty) most of the time. There are no "postcard shots" emphasising the location (though some famous sights do make an appearance).
  • Groin Attack: Delivered during the embassy escape with a fist.
  • Guns Akimbo: When Bourne is breaking out of the Treadstone safehouse through a handful of mooks. And he's actually firing one of the captured pistols while holding it upside-down.
  • Heel Realization: When Jason learns he's an assassin.
  • Heroic BSoD: After the Mood Whiplash events of having a man with an assault rifle suddenly crash through the window and attack Jason, finding her own face on a wanted poster in the assassin's bag, and then see him commit suicide for no logical reason, Marie goes into shock and has to be dragged from the apartment by Jason.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Conklin had been responsible for multiple assassinations around Europe and had ordered Bourne killed. By the end he himself was killed by a Treadstone agent on Abbott's orders.
  • Hollywood Silencer: The Professor's rifle's suppressor is actually a Hogue OverMolded™ free-floating handguard for the AR-15/M16 rifle. Even if the suppressor was functional, it would have to be attached to the end of the barrel in order to actually suppress the muzzle report; simply sliding it over the barrel would do nothing. In fact, the rifle does not appear to even have any provision to attach it to the barrel.
  • I Am Not a Gun: As he faces Conklin, Bourne declares he's quitting Treadstone.
    Bourne: I don't want to do this anymore.
    Conklin: I don't think that's a decision you can make.
    Bourne: Jason Bourne is dead. You hear me? He drowned two weeks ago. You're gonna go tell them that Jason Bourne is dead, you understand?
  • Important Haircut: After surviving an attempted assassination and a Car Chase by Paris police, Bourne decides to change Marie's look by rinsing the dye from her hair in the shower, then cutting her hair short. The close contact between them after the day's excitement leads to their first love scene.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Par for the course for a spy thriller, but Jason really takes home the gold. Immediately after the Guns Akimbo example, he jumps down the middle of a stairwell on the back of a corpse, and shoots a man between the eyes. While falling. Seriously.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Jason tells Marie to wait in the car, and is pissed when he comes back to find her missing. She's gone to buy a small bottle of whiskey which she rather needs after everything that's happened.
  • Key Under the Doormat: After arriving at Eammon's home, Marie starts looking under the pots around the door for a spare key. Bourne just breaks the door open.
  • Lampshade Hanging: "Boy, great police work! Really brilliant! Why don't they just hang out a banner that says, "Don't come back!" Jesus Christ! What is the French word for "stakeout?""
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Subverted with Wombosi's homeland. Because the characters never mention verbally where he's from, one is led to believe it's a typical Hollywood unnamed Banana Republic in Darkest Africa. However, when Bourne reads about his assassination in the newspaper, the caption notes that he was the ruler of Nigeria. Counts as a Bilingual Bonus: if you know or can recognize Yoruba, which Wombosi speaks at some point during the film, it's pretty obvious where he's from.
  • Made of Explodium: During his duel with the Professor, Jason calmly walks outside and puts two shots into a big diesel tank, which promptly explodes quite spectacularly.
  • Mugging the Monster: In the beginning of the movie, a couple cops try to arrest Bourne for sleeping on a park bench. It ends badly.
  • Multiple Identity IDs: Bourne finds a safe deposit box in his name with cash, a gun and several passports from multiple nations and different names, but all his photo.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Word of God says Conklin is based heavily on Col. Oliver North from the Iran/Contra scandal in the 1980's.
  • Paranoia Fuel: In-Universe when Maree finds her own picture among the effects of the man who just tried to kill her, taken inside the US Embassy the day before. She's so afraid she won't even risk going to the police when Jason advises it.
  • The Pen Is Mightier: In the apartment, Bourne fights the operative with his pen, stabbing him several times.
  • Road Trip Plot: Word of God says the film evokes this as Jason and Marie drive to Paris.
  • Sequel Hook: Abbott telling the Senate Subcommittee that Treadstone was being replaced with a new project titled Blackbriar. Unusually, Blackbriar isn't mentioned in the next film but becomes important in the one after.
  • Sherlock Scan: Demonstrated in the diner discussion with Marie.
  • Shout-Out: The Parisian car chase in Marie's Mini Cooper is in homage to The Italian Job. Maybe that's why one of Bourne's aliases was John Michael Kane.
  • Shutting Up Now: Marie says this on the way to Paris when she explains that she tends to ramble when she's nervous. And she was nervous, because Jason had been stoically staring out of the window the entire time, not saying a thing. Jason says he doesn't mind, though, and even asks her to keep going, explaining it has been a while since he had a casual "conversation" with someone.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Clive Owen as "The Professor". He has only 3 minutes of total screentime, and he never talks until his final scene, almost a half-hour from the end, in which he delivers the Arc Words "Look at us. Look at what they make you give."
  • Stress Vomit: Already in shock from the Mood Whiplash of events after Castel attacks Bourne, Marie throws up as she's herded out of the apartment by Bourne and sees the headshot body of the concierge.
  • Swiss Bank Account: The only clue Jason has to his identity in the beginning is the details of a Swiss numbered bank account.
  • This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself: Jason tells Marie to leave with Eamon so he can face Treadstone alone.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Oh yes. The primary twist of Identity is that at the midpoint, Bourne, after spending most of the movie running away from assassins and government agents, finds out that he is, in fact, one of the government assassins himself.
    • The end of the movie then goes further to reveal that he wasn't just an assassin, he was the assassin, the one that was the best of them all. The only reason he lost his memory is because he lost his nerve, when he was about to kill Wombosi in front of his children.
    • Perfectly illustrated as he checks his Swiss Bank Account. One section has his standard US passport, however, the next section includes a gun and several passports with different aliases and currencies from various countries.
  • Took a Level in Badass: When Bourne first sets out to find his identity, he is given ill-fitting, ratty clothes by fishermen, and sticks out in his surroundings not simply due to his ignorance of his identity, but visibly by his outfit. Over the course of the movie, as he investigates his past and comes to better understand his skills, his behavior changes. By the time he duels The Professor, his awkward demeanor has transformed into a more heroic self confidence, symbolized by his new upgraded clothing, complete with a Badass Longcoat.
  • Vehicle Vanish
    • This is the first sign that Bourne is more than he seems. When he's leaving the boat that found him, he vanishes behind a car passing between him and the camera.
    • Justified Trope during the car chase in Paris. A police motorcyclist is pursuing Bourne's car by driving along a parallel street. A large van obscures the car for a moment, only for it to vanish. The policeman is craning his neck to see where Bourne went when he collides with another vehicle. The next shot reveals that Bourne had turned down a side street.
  • We Have the Keys: Bourne plans out a complex plot to get information from a hotel information desk. When he doesn't get the phone call from Marie, he assumes that she's bailed on the plan. She then appears right behind him. "I just asked them for it." "...Asked them?" "What? You didn't think of that?"
  • Wham Shot: At the Swiss bank, Jason learns his true identity from his US passport in his safety deposit box. He thinks he's starting to figure out everything... until he takes the top layer off and discovers a pistol and passports from several foreign nations all featuring his photo and different aliases.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Treadstone Asset Manheim, seen several times throughout the movie, just up and vanishes. In Supremacy, Bourne confronts an Asset named Jarda who says they are the last two agents. It could be assumed they simply decided to replace Manheim with Jarda, since his name was never mentioned in Identity and neither is Jarda's in Supremacy, but they are played by two different actors.
    • At the end, Abbott appears before a Senate hearing closing down Treadstone and introducing Blackbriar to take its place. But Blackbriar never gets mentioned throughout Supremacy, before Ultimatum gets constructed around Jason finding out about it and fighting it himself.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child:
    • The reason for Bourne's botched mission that led to his amnesia. After having his gun trained point-blank on Wombosi's head, he sees Wombosi's children in his lap and sleeping about the room and aborts the mission at that point, leading to his shooting and subsequent fall from the yacht.
    • He also becomes very protective of Eammon's kids rather quickly, keeping watch at night because he was worried about them. When he realises he has been tracked to the house and Marie says: "If anything happens to those kids..." Bourne immediately replies with: "That's not going to happen."


How well does it match the trope?

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