The first Bourne movie is fittingly the daring story of a daring man. We can only hope we will not regret it, for daring labors under several difficulties. Fans & director alike kindly ignore them out of kindred spirit, but sensible men must notice them to understand them. First, we notice Matt Damon, not a handsome man, fits in a harsh movie.
Secondly, the story is so suspenseful we cannot tell what it is & where it is going. Certainly, there is much to distress the onlooker, to harass, to badger him. But this is not for the faint of heart. Thirdly, the camera shakes intermittently, never finding a place to rest, never pursuing anyone with any degree of success. The cutting is relentless; your hopes & fears guide you more than your eyes.
A faceless, nameless man comes out of the waters as if dead. He does not know who he is; or of what he is capable. We should not be so sure we know what kind of man he is. He is bullet-ridden, suggesting all sorts of things… He rarely has a moment to think things over; he does not think things through; whereas he is at home killing men & running away from those trying to kill him – he is not even very surprised; when he shapes events, he finds it easier to understand or survive them.
He is a spy-assassin, neither charming nor seductive nor witty. He does best to shut up. The males enjoy the brutality. Bourne starts killing his obvious enemies, which requires little judgment beyond self-preservation, just warlike skills. But to acquire such skills requires dark designs; the man walks with death & hell gapes open in his path. Only those dealing in death with the constancy the arts make possible can have made something like him.
Bourne must eventually face masterminds who want him dead. Is he not in fact better off dead? His pursuers are sure, unlike us, but, just like us, they lack ability. Apparently, when they loosed on the world this monster, it did not occur to them that he was uncontrollable, nor easily discarded – they misunderstand the arts of war. But he does not realize that they will not live & let live; that he cannot do it either; so they are momentarily safe.
Apparently, Bourne is sentimental, plagued by memories he misunderstands; pressed for time, ruled & ridden rough by necessity, he never learns who might help him. He does not understand what help he needs. Bourne cannot survive this lack of self-knowledge, I suspect. He might bring his makers down, who hunt him. But he would be no closer to finding a way to live.
The most popular action-thriller of the decade.