In 1980, Robert Ludlum published 'The Bourne Identity,' the first in a series of popular spy novels that would ultimately be loosely adapted for the big screen. The series tells the story of David Webb, a career foreign service officer and a specialist in Far Eastern affairs. Once a devout family man, tragedy leaves him with nothing, and so (thanks to the CIA and a bit of internal deception), Webb is reborn (get it?) as double agent Jason Charles Bourne. With its own mythology, devious villains, and breathless plotting, 'Bourne Identity' spawned four subsequent best-sellers, with Ludlum joining James Bond author Ian Fleming as one of the most elite names in spy fiction.
When 'The Bourne Identity' finally hit movie theaters in 2002 (a year after Ludlum's death), it had an instant leg up over the aging James Bond movie series. Like Bond, Jason Bourne came with a built-in fanbase, but unlike Bond he was free from the shackles of a then-aging film franchise. Gone were the stale quips, campy villains, and ridiculous gadgets and special effects that strained Bond's modern-day credibility. Instead, the series succeeded by going back to basics and concentrating on what we all love about spy flicks...actual spying!
Spawning two sequels -- which, defying the usual law of follow-ups, outgrossed the original -- all three films are now available on Blu-ray in 'The Bourne Trilogy.' Each works as a stand-alone adventure but, better yet, deepen in meaning and impact when viewed in succession. This is the rare trilogy with not a bad apple in the bunch, each an expertly-crafted exercise in suspense, drama, espionage, and action.
The Bourne Identity
As directed by Doug Liman ('Go,' 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith') and adapted by Tony Gilroy ('Dolores Claiborne,' 'Proof of Life'), 'Bourne Identity' works on all the levels it sets out to achieve. Liman and Gilroy adroitly interweave Bourne's regaining of his memory with what he must do to stay alive, upping both the nail-biting suspense and the human drama -- we're on the edge of our seat not just to see if Bourne will make it out alive, but also to see which new secret of his past he'll unravel next.