on June 1, 2004
I bought "The Bourne identity" mostly because I didn't want to lose the opportunity of reading Ludlum's book before the release of a film based on it. I really wasn't a fan of the author (and I am not one now), but I loved this book.
To start with, the plot is remarkably good. "The Bourne identity" is the story of a man without a past, rescued from the Mediterranean Sea by some fishermen. He is very ill, and his body has suffered the impact of many bullets. The man is taken by the fishermen to a doctor in a nearby island, who helps him to recover physically and mentally. Our protagonist doesn't remember who he is, but with the help of the doctor he finds some clues he doesn't like too much. He only knows for certain some things, for instance that his face has been altered by plastic surgery, that he knows a lot about firearms and that he carried on him a microfilm that contains the code to an account of four million dollars.
In the Swiss bank where the account is he also finds a name: Jason Bourne. But... is he Jason Bourne?. He cannot remember, and if it were for quite a few people, he won't. From the moment he leaves the island onwards, our man without a past will be followed, and attacked. He doesn't understand why, but he reacts in order to stay alive. Add to this already interesting mixture a woman he takes as a hostage, Marie, a number of assasins (including the most famous assassin in the world, Carlos), and the possibility that he is, as a matter of fact, also an assassin, and you will understand why this book is so good. The main character will be hunted all throughout the book not only by the "bad guys", but also by the "good" ones (mainly agents from the USA Government). You won't be able to stop reading this book, and you will find yourself asking aloud to nobody in particular "who on earth is this man?" and "what started this whole mess"?.
All in all, I highly recommend this book to those who appreciate a good thriller, and to those who don't usually read this kind of book but are open to new experiences. I belong to the last category, as I only read "The Bourne identity" because I was interested in watching the movie of the same name.
By the way, I also recommend the movie (the 2002 version, with Matt Damon), that ended up bearing only a limited resemblance to the book. If I had to choose, I would choose the book without hesitation, but if you have the possibility not only of reading the book but also of watching the movie, do both things... You won't regret it, and you will probably have fun trying to compare the movie to the book !!
on April 21, 1999
This is the book that proves that Robert Ludlum is the master of the spy genre. Always interested in plot lines that throw unsuspecting characters into the path of intrigue & danger, Ludlum takes the concept to new heights in this novel. Not only does the character not know what is going on, he doesn't even know who he is! What he does know is that he's a dead man if he doesn't figure it all out pretty soon. The first paragraph of this novel may be the most exciting opening lines of any story ever written, and Ludlum's pacing and style were never better. I often get bored with spy novels (LeCarre wears me out) because the characters are slow and stupid. Ludlum's protagonist (Jason Bourne) is tough, smart, and clever, but very realistic. He does not make stupid mistakes (as any believable spy would not), but when hit or shot, he suffers as much as any of us would. If you fancy yourself a lover of spy mysteries, you must read this book! It is the only such book I have ever truly found to be a "page-turner". (The first time I read it, I couldn't put it down until 4AM)
on September 11, 2007
Like many people I came to this book through the movies based on Robert Ludlum's Bourne novels. I read THE JANSON DIRECTIVE several years ago (blew through it on a 30-hour train ride between Kolkata and Chennai), and though it was entertaining enough to pass the time with, I felt like it was essentially literary packing foam. I wasn't looking for Les Miserables, mind you, but Ludlum's characters are pretty mechanical, operating basically to show off a hidden world of espionage, conspiracy, and cool gadgets. There's nothing essentially wrong with this kind of novel, but I prefer character-driven fiction, where I can see personalities of some complexity and depth grapple with challenges and come out changed somehow. As far as I can tell, Ludlum didn't write this kind of novel often.
But THE BOURNE IDENTITY is an attempt at this kind of novel. The main character, so-called "Jason Bourne," is not struggling against assassins and CIA operatives for some political agenda or even merely to save his own life. He is trying to understand himself, to learn who he is. As one character states (as an almost shameless declaration of the "moral of the story"), "In a way, [Bourne is] a functioning microcosm of us all. I mean, we're all trying to find out who the hell we are, aren't we?" Such internal conflict, however, is handled quite clumsily in Ludlum's hands, which seem unaccustomed to dealing with emotional subtleties. Credit should go to the makers of the Bourne movies (Matt Damon and the rest of the cast prominent among them) for breathing life and depth into these characters.
I was a bit disappointed at how much of the mysteries surrounding Bourne's character are resolved for the reader not through Bourne himself learning the truth, but through a significant number of scenes where Bourne's adversaries discuss the details of his past life amongst themselves. For me this sucked the momentum out of the winding up scenes, and left me feeling like I'd missed the climax.
One last thing: those picking up THE BOURNE IDENTITY having seen the movies should be aware that the novel was published in 1980. While many of the basic premises remain the same, this is not exactly the same story you saw on screen. This is not at all a bad thing, but some people get really upset when they're expecting a perfect translation between literature and film or vice versa.
on February 2, 2002
This was my first Ludlum book -- and I was very impressed. For this genre, it is rare that you find yourself thinking about the details of the plot between the times you are able to read.
I really enjoyed how the author slowly revealed the main character to the audience. My only complaint is that the other characters seemed to be a little shallow (minus a star for this...)
The story is that a man is brought to a doctor with horrible injuries and no memory of who he is or was. The doctor only shows him a piece of microfilm surgically implanted into his body with the name "Jason Bourne" and a number of a bank account. This man must figure out who he is while he is being chased by the police and other assassins (who know him, but he doesn't know them...)
Great story -- You will probably figure out the ending towards the end of the book, but you won't be able to put it down regardless.
on April 30, 2003
I'll be honest, I haven't read the Robert Ludlum novel, nor do I remember seeing the original film staring Richard Chamberlain and Jaclyn Smith. So I'm not able to point out differences or inconsistencies, if indeed there are any. Having said that, I can't imagine its predecessors topping Doug Liman's version of "The Bourne Identity." This is the sort of film I like to watch pretty often and each time I find something new to enjoy.
The plot, while nothing very original, provides a useful framework around which we get to enjoy some of the most believable action sequences I've seen. Let's face it, an assassin suffering from amnesia is not going to lead a dull life, particularly not after his "friends" decide he's gone rogue. There's only so many ways you can film stunts and action sequences like a car chase but Liman has managed to somehow make the many action scenes seem fresh. I particularly liked seeing what looked like a mini-minor out driving the police using skill and good planing, rather than a high-powered engine or death-defying jumps.
Most of the movie follows Jason Bourne, (Matt Damon), as he tries to reclaim his life and survive to see each new day. In this way, the audience is allowed to discover the pieces of the puzzle along with him. On the way he forms an unequal partnership with Marie Kreutz, (Franka Potente). It is good to see a female lead portrayed without either weakness or an unrealistic macho streak. Hopefully, this film will launch Franka's Hollywood career because she has more than earned her stripes in German cinema.
Jason and Marie inevitably bond but despite not taking a major part of the narrative, I felt their stop-start romance suited the film. Perhaps a woman with no home makes a good match for a man with no past. I also liked the several times the couple tried to split up, to get Marie out of Bourne's troubles but I especially liked the realism when they finally managed to part. The plot really doesn't need her but it seems Liman used Marie as a means of reminding Bourne that there is more to life than survival.
To some it would be nice to wake up one day and discover you were a sort of superman; able to speak half a dozen languages, had tens of thousands in a Swiss bank account and could out-fight Bruce Lee. His boss said it best when he described Jason as a $30,000,000 weapon. But more than advanced skills, Jason was gifted with intelligence and the experience of years of spy craft, even if he couldn't remember it. The thoughtful approach taken to achieve each objective, even on the spur of the moment, made the film almost educational. Hey, read a map before running from the police, use distraction and decoys to sidetrack you opponent, use the resources around you and think laterally. It's all good stuff for budding spies.
While Matt Damon played the part with little emotion, deliberately I assume, some of the smaller roles were outstanding. Each seemed to wring so much depth from so few minutes of screen time that I felt like watching a spin-off movie for each of them. Probably the most affecting was the performance of Clive Owen, a fellow assassin who dies describing his constant headaches and bitter loneliness. Also of note is Julia Stiles, the overworked safe-house administrator; she exudes competence while complaining of limited resources. All of these performance gems must be a credit to Liman's direction.
It would be easy to dismiss "The Bourne Identity" as just another action flick. The action was great, but the true heart of the film was Jason's odyssey to reclaim his soul from the depths of a CIA black-ops hell. He used to be an amoral machine, doing his job without questioning the rightness of his work, just like the rest of them. But amnesia gave him the chance to step back from the abyss and evaluate his fate, eventually choosing to tear a new path into the future. The moral? Perhaps it's that "freedom" is more important than "patriotism."
on August 24, 2005
I came to this book after having seen the film and I enjoyed both though I have to say I enjoyed the book slightly more than the film. In modernizing the time of the story for the film, new technologies come into play making Bourne's flight through Europe almost impossible because he can be tracked via cell phone signals, satelite imagry, email and the internet. In the book's diegesis, the year is 1980 (there abouts) and there are none of these modern devices, allowing Bourne and his female companion more time to plan and to act. I also prefer Maria in the book because she actually has useful skills. In the film she is just there as a convenient ride away from the initial confrontation and later hangs onto Bourne out of Stockholm syndrome. It was refreshing to see her have useful skills and a more robust personality than she does in the film.
on August 13, 2002
After finishing this novel, I promptly ran out and picked up The Hades Factor. This was surprising for me, considering I don't normally care for spy novels - I've tried to read LeCarre, and, to my knowledge, have never actually managed to finish one. I guess that's some sort of bar as to whether the novel's any good or not.
The plot is simple at first, but grows more complicated as the twists and turns continue. The main character, who we later learn is named Jason Bourne (I hope that's no spoiler), washes up in the Mediterranean Sea and has no memory. He's not without his gifts, though. He is fully trained with weapons of all sorts and has military-like reflexes. He acts without thinking. The novel follows him closely as he wanders instinctively into the world and tries to find out who he is. At every stop, somebody is hunting him. He needs to find out why. (I hope I'm not saying too much in disclosing that he will eventually tied in with a network of assassins, who compete for supremacy.)
I found the novel worked on several levels for me. I particularly liked the moral dilemmas Mr. Bourne had to go through early in the novel, when he's just finding out who he is (or was). He has people he doesn't know firing at him - does he fire back? how does he know they're bad? He has to take a hostage to stay alive, but how far should he go? He doesn't know what he's done, what he's wanted for - is it worth killing an innocent bystander for? And, of course, what if, in his past life he actually had deserved to be killed? Could he risk bringing somebody into his world knowing this?
There are also issues with loyalty and personal loss. Even in the extreme distress of their situations, the characters are able to dig for deeper meaning, in people's eyes, and in their hearts. It isn't all guns and politics. I found the loyalties between some of the characters very touching, as when Marie St. Jacques stands by Jason because he saves her - even thought he'd previously held a gun to her head.
Of course, there is the standard fair share of shooting and running and all-round suspense. At every turn, there's something forcing Jason to keep his wits about him and make impulse decisions. It all makes for a great read.
Ludlum is one of the best at creating the super spy and writing action sequences. Sometimes he can create a spy story to back them up. This one is pretty good throughout. He isn't that good with the emotional development of his characters or writing love stories (but he isn't nearly as bad as Tom Clancey in these areas). The hero agonizing over what his identity might be gets to be tedious and the love story is awkward as in all of his books. But, mostly the book moved at a good enough pace to make me want to read more.
This is the first book in a three part series. I didn't know that when I read the book, and was frustrated and disappointed as I neared the end of the book and realized the story wouldn't be concluded. The second book in the series (Bourne Supremacy) is pretty bad and doesn't really build on the first book. It isn't necessary to read it before jumping on to the third book (Bourne Ultimatum) and the conclusion of the story. The third book isn't as good as the first, but is worth reading for the conclusion.
on December 12, 2002
"The Bourne Identity" is by far the best action movie of 2002! It starts fast and never slows down, from beginning to end. Matt Damon (of "Good Will Hunting"/"Saving Private Ryan" fame) delivers a dynamite performance as Jason Bourne; a CIA operative whos failed assassination attempt of a world leader causes him to be put for extermination by his own company. Coming from near-death, without any remembrance of the past, Bourne embarks to find and retrace why he is in the situation, he is, while battling those that seek to end his life. All this with the skills and techniques that are provided to him by being a CIA Op. Franka Potente (lead of "Run Lola Run," the best German film of the 90s: if you haven't seen it, check it out ASAP) is amazing as Bourne's penniless sidekick. She is smart, sexy, and a perfect compliment to Damon. They are an excellent pair together! This movie is amazing for its great dialogue, witty and charismatic cast, and non-stop action sequences. Chris Cooper is quite good as Bourne's former boss, who wants him dead ASAP. And, an upcoming star in Julia Stiles makes a brief appearance as a CIA employee. On top of the cast, the film is gifted with excellent cinematography. Set primarily in Paris, it has the ability to take that city that many Americans know well and transform it into an exotic masterpiece, ala Budapest or Prague. The camera angles of the scenes are fantastic, giving the audience plenty of excitement, as Bourne climbs down walls and beats his way through security officers. All in all, this is a movie that everyone will like. It is the action highlight of 2002, with maybe the best chase scene in the history of film (and that includes the 1971 classic: "The French Connection") And, what makes this movie so much better than let's say "XXX," is that Damon is believable as the smart, witty Bourne and his action sequences are riddled in athletic ability, then an overdoing of special effects. This film is quite believable, which adds to its aura. Definitely check this movie out, by all means. Built on a strong novel, it's a smart film, with a great cast, beautiful cinematography, and nonstop action. The action of film of 2002: "The Bourne Identity."
on July 25, 2004
First, I rate the MOVIE Bourne Identity and the older Collector's Edition DVD both as 5-star. I expected the Extended Edition DVD to include all in the older Collector's Edition DVD AND MORE. What you get with the Extended Edition DVD is a FREE TICKET (EXPIRES AUGUST 8th) to MOVIE Bourne Supremacy and a weaker DVD release that is largely a promotion for the new movie.
What you LOSE (Extended Edition DVD versus Collector's Edition DVD):
an extended farmhouse scene; DTS sound; Doug Liman's informative Director's Commentary track.
What you DO NOT GAIN (Extended Edition DVD versus Collector's Edition DVD):
the SAME alternate ending IN ROUGH, GRAINY QUALITY as in the deleted scenes of the Collector's Edition; the SAME deleted/extended scenes (except for the ADDED alternate beginning noted below and the OMITTED farmhouse scene noted above); the SAME Extreme Ways music video by Moby and the SAME DVD-ROM access to web site; no featurette whatsoever providing director Doug Liman's comments. (Did Liman tick off producer Frank Marshall or did he want to distance himself from this so-called upgrade by Universal?).
What you DO GAIN (Extended Edition DVD versus Collector's Edition DVD):
a FREE TICKET (EXPIRES AUGUST 8th) to Bourne Supremacy movie; pain-in-the-arse indirect PLAY THE MOVIE via a Play SUB-menu to select theatrical vs extended version that STILL forces you to use MANUALLY your DVD player's ANGLE button WHEN THE ALTERNATE ANGLE ICONS APPEAR ON YOUR SCREEN to access the bookended alternate beginning/ending version (both footages in UNFINISHED QUALITY that somewhat compromise the vendetta premise of the Bourne Supremacy); Special Features includes these SAME UNFINISHED alternate beginning and ending in isolation with producer Frank Marshall's mea-culpa that this less-than-explosive footage was a post-production C-Y-A due to 9/11 that test audiences ultimately bounced anyway; some worthwhile featurettes regarding Robert Ludlum, CIA practices from retired CIA operative/film consultant Chase Brandon, and a real psychologist's profile of Jason Bourne; a worthless transition promotion fluff to the Bourne Supremacy movie.
VERDICT: If DTS sound or Director Commentary tracks matter to you, DO NOT UPGRADE (yeah, right, upgrade); stick with or buy the older Collector's Edition DVD. If you don't already own the Collector's Edition or these factors don't matter and you intend to use the free Bourne Supremacy movie ticket BEFORE AUGUST 8TH, go with the Extended Edition DVD But shame on you, Universal for your promotional UPGRADE hogwash!!!