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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 (Matt Damon) is fished out of the Mediterranean Sea riddled with bullet-holes and with no memory of who he is. He learns his name is Jason Bourne and 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, Marie Kreutz (Franke Potente), he goes in search of his identity.

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.
  • 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 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 caused 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 Ashch'f) 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.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: While sitting in the truck stop, 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" (Ashch'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 transliteration 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.
  • Calling the Cops on the FBI: Jason calls the French police on the CIA.
  • 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.
  • Double Tap: All of the Treadstone agents if they successfully kill someone do this to make sure their targets are really dead.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Identity at times feels very different in tone to its sequels, thanks to the much different styles between Doug Liman and sequels director Paul Greengrass, on top of being the first entry of franchise:
    • Notably, the soundtrack is a very different beast, employing techno-ish and poppy background music, a Liman staple. The centerpiece car chase is tracked to trance musician Paul Oakenfold's "Ready, Steady, Go", while Greengrass avoids any licensed music outside of Moby's "Extreme Ways" over the credits, another holdover from Liman.
    • Damon's Bourne is also surprisingly chatty and smiley compared to his later silent stoicism, including thinking nothing of inviting Marie up to his apartment. After the events that start Supremacy, Jason retreats emotionally for good, and is paranoid about trusting anyone.
    • With Marie in tow nearly the whole movie, Bourne constantly has someone to talk to and voice his thoughts, plans, and concerns. On the run on his own in the later movies, he is a silent protagonist unless he needs to interact with someone, leaving the audience to interpret what is going through his mind solely through his expressions and actions.
    • Identity also has intentional beats of humor; for instance, when Jason can't buzz into his apartment, Marie quips, "Looks like you're not home." The sequels would eradicate any sense of levity outside of the faintest dash of Black Comedy on occasion.
    • The editing takes a different approach completely, with Liman employing Steadicam work and visual tricks like on-screen Design Student's Orgasm graphics when Treadstone hails its agents in Europe. The sequels employ Greengrass's signature Jitter Cam and are devoid of any stylish flourishes that would detract from its grounded and realistic atmosphere.
    • The movie also ends on an unambiguous happy ending for Jason and Marie, even with the sequel hook of the CIA starting another secret black-ops program, something the sequels do not provide the luxury of for Jason, who is back in the shadows at the end of every Greengrass movie.
    • The CIA is not as omniscient and all-powerful in this one. They make many mistakes and attempts to perform a cover-up somewhat fail. Conklin can't simply stop the French police from investigating.
  • 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.)
  • 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.
    • Castel also attempts this on Bourne during their duel in the apartment; It doesn't work.
  • 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.
  • Guns Do Not Work That Way: When Castel assaults Bourne through the window of his apartment firing his Galil MAR, they begin to fight and the mag is emptied. After the last round, the hammer continues to reset and fall, producing a rapid "click-click-click-click". Needless to say, gas-operated rifles do NOT work like that.
  • 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.
  • In Name Only: The movie only shares the broadest concepts with the original book, that of an amnesiac assassin trying to figure out who he was working for. A few names and other concepts did filter in, but the plot is original. This was driven by writer Tony Gilroy who felt the book was too pulpy and wanted to rebuild the story from the ground up.
  • Irony: It turns out Bourne planned the attempted hit on Wombosi himself, which ended with him getting shot and suffering amnesia, thereby forgetting his life in Treadstone.
  • 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.
  • Karma Houdini: Manheim receives no comeuppance for trying to kill Bourne and killing Conklin.
  • 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 1980s.
  • Obvious Stunt Double: The shot of Bourne losing his footing when the fire escape at the US embassy breaks utilizes a double who has much longer and curlier hair than Matt Damon plus a slimmer build.
  • Oh, Crap!: Jason's reaction when Eamon's children notice their dog is missing, alerting Jason to the Professor's presence and immediately tells the family to hide in the basement.
    • The Professor during the field shootout when Jason uses his shotgun to scatter the birds in the area - the noise and motion prevent him from being able to track Bourne and force him to break cover, thinking he'd been spotted.
  • Paranoia Fuel: In-Universe when Marie 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.
    • Also activated by Jason when he knows Castel, and later, The Professor, are at the current safe house. He knows they're there and tries to look for tell-tale signs of their whereabouts while the camera whip-pans around several possibilities.
  • The Pen Is Mightier: In the apartment, Bourne fights the operative with his pen, stabbing him several times.
  • Police Are Useless: Toyed with. The Paris police are notably playing catch-up with trying to catch Jason. They do however blunder by searching Jason's hotel room.
  • Precision F-Strike: The film gets its sole use of the word when after much hesitancy, Jason sighs "Fuck it" and lets Marie know what his deal is.
  • Rank Scales with 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.
  • 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."
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: The Professor pulls this on Nicky when receiving his intel on Jason, showing Nicky alone in a square near a carnival, the camera moving a little to the right, then seconds back to its original position with The Professor right next to her.
  • 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.
  • Tempting Fate: Now aware the U.S. is sending assassins after him, an angered Wombosi tells his right-hand man as they descend a staircase in his home that he's declaring war and that the Americans should have killed him the first time and better "kill me dead" the next time they try. Almost literally as he finishes this, The Professor snipes him dead as soon as he passes a window.
  • 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.
  • Try and Follow: Bourne escapes the pursing Austrian police by using his fake US passport to enter the US embassy, knowing they'll be stopped from entering. However this only works in the short term, and embassy security officers are soon alerted to his presence.
  • Understatement: During the car chase, Bourne ducks Marie's Mini Cooper into an alleyway with a flight of steps ahead leading back to the streets. He dryly remarks "We have a bump coming up"; cue Marie screaming all the way down as Jason deftly navigates down the stairs at top speed.
  • 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."
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Conklin's fate, courtesy of Abbott after the former fails to kill or capture Bourne in their final confrontation in Paris.


Video Example(s):



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.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / MultipleIdentityIDs

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