Bourne Before

by Alan Rapp on July 31, 2007

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: The Bourne Identity (1988)
  • IMDB: link

bourne-identity-tv-dvdRichard Chamberlain as Jason Bourne?  Yeah, that’s a little head-scratching I’ll admit.  However this version of the Ludlum novel does stay closer to the character and themes of the orginal, and includes the book’s villain Carlos the Jackal.

Staying true to the novel by Robert Ludlum Jason Bourne (Chamberlain) awakes after being shot and left for for dead in the ocean knowing nothing of himself or his surroundings.

Leaving the small sleepy southern French village where he washed up our protagonist heads out to discover who he is, but he his search only leads to more questions.  He is haunted by flashbacks of a women and a child and images of violence and death.

His one clue leads him to a Swiss bank account where he learns his name as his life is put in danger.  Taking a woman, Marie St. Jacques (Jaclyn Smith), as a hostage Bourne escapes.

Together with Marie, Bourne begins to piece together his past as an assassin and learns he has a deadly opponent who wants him dead, Carlos the Jackal (Yorgo Yovagis).  But everything Bourne learns is shrouded in mystery and lies, can he be sure of anything and will he escape the clutches of Carlos long enough to learn the truth and rediscover his past?

Although nowhere near as visually stunning or action-packed as the later Matt Damon films, this two-part film does have some value.  First off, it keeps the timeline intact allowing Bourne to have been a soldier in Asia, which allows for the inclusion and death of his family.  Second, unlike the later films, this Bourne’s mystery follows the layered intrigue of the novel, Jason Bourne is much more than just a government assassin.

The film’s major flaw is the casting.  Although Richard Chamberlain is a fine actor he’s hardly who you would like to see in this role.  His performance does allow him to play on the emotion and loss the character goes through, but in some of the action scenes he isn’t up to the challenge.  Jaclyn Smith as Marie is an interesting choice and does okay in the role of Marie.  Sadly their is not real chemistyr here between the pair, and I can’t stop without mentioning the painful made-for-TV love scene between the pair which comes off as bizarre and laughable.

This Bourne won’t wow you, but for purists who dislike some of the (many) changes in the newer films here’s something for you.  The film takes parts of the first Ludlum books The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy as Bourne discovers his past goes after Carlos the Jackal.  At worst a mild curiosity, but fans of the novel will find some real enjoyment here.

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