A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Bourne Identity is a thrilling action movie that's packed with violence, including machine gun fights, intense hand-to-hand combat, a stabbing, and several glimpses of dead bodies with bullet holes or other wounds. Several scenes are packed with tension as the main characters evade police or other threats. Some angry confrontations turn violent. In one scene a character uses a dead body as a shield and a cushion for a long fall. The main characters embrace and kiss passionately in one scene without wearing shirts, though no nudity is shown. Language is strong, but not constant and includes "f--k," "bulls--t," and "Goddamn."
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What's the story?
THE BOURNE IDENTITY is the first in a trilogy of movies that made Matt Damon an unlikely action star. Based on a book by Robert Ludlum, the movie is a tightly knit wonder of intense, heart-pounding action and mystery, with the perfect amount of romance tucked in for good measure. After fishermen pull a body out of the ocean and remove two bullets and a strange device containing a Swiss bank account number from his body, the man (Matt Damon) awakens in a state of amnesia. After a visit to the bank uncovers a cache of money, fake passports, and a gun, the man struggles to recall his past. When confronted by law enforcement, he finds he has incredible combat skills (not to mention wall-scaling abilities). As he attempts to put the clues of his past life together, he pays a young woman named Marie (Franka Potente) to drive him to Paris and they both become embroiled in the mystery of his true identity, which has links to the CIA, an African politician, and a handful of European assasins who seem to be out to kill him.
Is it any good?
What makes this thriller so good is Damon's ability to merge the physical with the emotional; he's strong, skilled, and smart, but he's also generous, honest, and tender. The scene when he dyes and cuts Marie's hair is incredibly intimate, made even more potent by the near silence of the scene. In fact, for an action movie, The Bourne Identity is remarkably quiet. Neither lead character talks much, but both command the screen nonetheless. Potente (of Run, Lola Run) is an edgy choice of a love interest because she's sexy in an offbeat way, not a typical American movie star type -- which gives the movie a refreshing touch of realism.
Aside from the characters, the fighting scenes, which incorporate a martial art called Krav Maga, among others, are especially watchable. Augmented by the miracles of filmmaking, Damon moves so fast while beating a foe to a pulp that one almost expects him to break into a slow-mo Matrix moment (but thankfully, he doesn't). Teens will want to gorge themselves on the fighting scenes, so even though the violence is tamer than many R-rated action movies, some reality checks and moderation are, of course, in order.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in The Bourne Identity. What was unique about the fighting style in this movie? Did it seem more or less violent than what you've seen in other films? Do you think Matt Damon's movements were exaggerated by special effects? How did seeing people killed affect you? How would those feelings be different if you witnessed these things in real life?
Talk about the government's role in political violence. How is it portrayed in the film, and do you think it's realistic? Do you think there really are agents like Bourne out in the world?
- In theaters: June 14, 2002
- On DVD or streaming: January 21, 2003
- Cast: Chris Cooper, Franka Potente, Matt Damon
- Director: Doug Liman
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 116 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: violence and some language
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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