Patient: The Bourne Identity Profile: Spy thriller about CIA operative with amnesia who wakes up to find he's endowed with amazing powers—you know, like Spider-Man or Tommy Lee. Soon the CIA is so hot to kill him you'd think he worked for the FBI, and what follows is rife with car chases, karate fights and German chicks. Why? Not sure. Though I am sure I don't know what the hell's the deal with Matt Damon. Think Memento meets Anastasia meets La Femme Nikita meets Do Woman Really Find Matt Damon Attractive? meets Nothing Against the Guy, But Doesn't He Remind You of A Naked Mole Rat? meets Me, I Need a Really Pretty Face meets I'm a Stewart Granger Man Myself.
Symptoms: Bourne doles out little information while challenging you to figure out what's going on. This type of movie can be a lot of fun, like putting together a jigsaw puzzle or listening to George Bush talk. Problem is that this movie, which enlists you to pay such close attention, is constantly distracting you with things that just aren't plausible: the woman who has sex with the man who cuts her hair—this is suspense, not sci-fi—the Paris cabbie who complains he has been paid too much money or the Friends episode that occurs in the middle of this thing when an old boyfriend asks the German chick if the homicidal amnesiac is "good for you?" But THEfalse note is, unfortunately, what holds the movie together. That is, that the CIA is this far-reaching organization that can do anything, get anyone, any time, anyhow . . . Yeah, I know. People thought the end of the Cold War meant the end of the spy thriller, but there's always a new enemy. Waste the Soviets, up pops the Iraqis; ice Gallagher, in slithers Carrot Top. What's going to kill the spy thriller is that people no longer believe the CIA's Hollywood clippings. Bourne is typical of a pre-Sept. 11 CIA film. When the German chick happens into the plot, the CIA puppet master says, "I want to know every place she's slept the last six years." And they do. Funny, no one asks if she attended flight school.
Script Doctor Diagnosis: The CIA? The CIA that couldn't give Saddam the clap CIA? Can't wait for the sequel dealing with especially harsh EPA memos. Prescription: Get rid of the German chick, keep Bourne a lone wolf and keep your information to a minimum while making the movie more claustrophobic. In a bigger sense, waste the CIA. When people think impotent, they think of Bob Dole's dog and the CIA. You need an organization that conjures up the kind of efficient viciousness worthy of a super spy. How about Bourne wakes up with no memory only to discover he unwittingly signed up for the Sounds of the '70s CD collection and is now being pursued by the Time-Life Corp. to get the Great Girl Groups of the '80s, featuring the Go-Go's and Duran Duran. Kick ass!
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