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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for The Bourne Identity can be found here.
The bullet-riddled body of an unidentified man (Matt Damon) is pulled from the Mediterranean Sea by the crew of an Italian fishing boat. With no memory of who he is or how he got there, he follows his only lead - a Swiss bank account number displayed by a miniature laser device extracted from his hip. He learns that his name is Jason Bourne and that, for some reason, he has a gun, a number of fake passports, and a large amount of cash. He soon finds out that he is being hunted by someone who wants to kill him. Aided only by his new friend, Marie Kreutz (Franka Potente), Bourne scours Paris for clues about his identity and why he's being hunted. He may not like what he finds.
The Bourne Identity (1980) was written by American author Robert Ludlum [1927-2001] and adapted for the screen by writers Tony Gilroy and William Blake Herron. It is the first of four movies based on Ludlum's Bourne novels, the second being The Bourne Supremacy (2004) followed by The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) and The Bourne Legacy (2012). There was also a short-lived TV series 'The Bourne Identity' (1988).
Bourne put them there himself for safe-keeping so that he could get at them whenever he needs them, since he never knew where his next mission would take him.
Marie wanted a student visa, which would require a visit to the local US Embassy or consulate.
Franka Potente is German, and the character she plays -- Marie Kreutz -- is a German 'gypsy' living in Zurich. When they are in Bourne's apartment, she is swearing in German. In the novel, she is French Canadian and her surname is St. Jacques.
Following his aborted meeting with Bourne on the Pont Neuf, the CIA's head of Treadstone, Alexander Conklin (Chris Cooper), heads over to the Treadstone safehouse where logistics technician Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) has begun to shut down the surveillance equipment and close down the unit. Bourne follows Conklin and breaks into the safehouse. He questions Conklin about Treadstone and his identity and, from the answers, he slowly begins to remember how he created the cover of John Michael Kane and planned the assassination of exiled African dictator Nykwana Wombosi (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) on his yacht but couldn't do it because Wombosi's children were sleeping nearby. In fleeing the yacht, he was shot twice in the back. Bourne tells Conklin that he is done with Treadstone and orders him to relay the news that he died two weeks ago. He leaves the safehouse, having to fight his way through several operatives awaiting him in the stairwell but manages to get away. When Conklin follows, he is assassinated by another operative, code name Manheim (Russell Levy), dispatched by the CIA's Deputy Director Ward Abbott (Brian Cox). Later, at a oversight committee meeting, Abbott informs the members that Treadstone has been shut down and proposes a new project to be called Blackbriar. In the final scene, Bourne tracks down Marie, who is now running a scooter rental shop in Mykonos, Greece.
Abbott had Conklin killed because Conklin was steadily becoming incapable of controlling Treadstone, an unsanctioned program that needed to be kept under wraps. Abbott was already worried when Wombosi told the press that he believed the CIA had sent an assassin to kill him. When Bourne surfaced in Zurich and Paris and started causing damage, Abbott became desperate to stop Treadstone from being exposed. He did not have faith in Conklin's ability to deal with Bourne, so he sent an 'asset' (assassin) to have Conklin killed.
The assumption is that, when he saw Wombosi holding his children, something clicked. Although Bourne was trained to be a cold-hearted assassin, he suddenly regained his humanity. Another explanation is that he realized he would have to kill the children, too, so as to leave no witnesses, and he just couldn't do that. In the novel, it is further explained that Bourne became an operative after his own family, including his young children, was killed, that possibly being the trigger that prevented him from killing Wombosi and his children.
Although based on the novel by Ludlum, the film excludes many back-stories and sub-plots in the book. For instance, the novel's main antagonist -- 'Carlos'; an illusive international assassin wanted for many high-profile assassinations -- hunts for Bourne after realizing 'Jason Bourne' is but a mere decoy created by the CIA (via 'Treadstone 71') to draw him out in to the open. Plus, the book gradually reveals many facts about 'Jason Bourne', who is finally uncovered as David Webb -- a once foreign relations officer and expert of Far-East nations, whose family is killed by a stray bomber strafing the area. Unable to cope with the loss, he joins the covert paramilitary operation known as 'Medusa'. After 'Medusa' is dissolved with the Vietnam War and its members unaccounted for, David Abbot (a CIA official involved with 'Medusa' during Vietnam) recruits David Webb for his ultra-secretive, covert-ops unit 'Treadstone 71'. It is with Treadstone and under the aegis of Abbot that David Webb becomes 'Jason Bourne' -- the 'new' assassin on the block challenging 'Carlos'. Unlike the movie, 'Jason Bourne' was never an assassin -- he was decoy, a counter-myth created by Treadstone to lure the elusive Carlos out into the open.
Of course, see The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatim, the sequels to The Bourne Identity. For other movies that feature other special agents facing deadly complications, try xXx (2002), in which an athlete is recruited by the government to infiltrate an underground Russian crime ring. In The Transporter (2002) , an ex-special forces operator, now working as a goods transporter who asks no questions, breaks the rules and peeks at his latest cargo. There's Three Days of the Condor (1975), in which a CIA researcher must outwit hit men bent on killing him. In The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996), lost memories of herself as a top-secret agent begin to surface in an ordinary housewife. In Bullitt (1968), a cop searches for the killers of a witness he was supposed to be protecting. Two cops attempt to intercept a big heroin shipment coming from France in The French Connection (1971). Also recommended by those who have seen The Bourne Identity are the Jackal movies -- The Day of the Jackal (1973) and The Jackal (1997) -- in which a professional assassin codenamed "Jackal" is sent on secret missions. Also consider the Ocean movies -- Ocean's Eleven (2001), Ocean's Twelve (2004), and Ocean's Thirteen (2007) -- in which Danny Ocean and his team of gangsters attempt to pull off major heists, and any of the James Bond films. Finally, you can check out Taken (2009), another excellent thriller filmed partially in Paris, or the Mission Impossible series: Mission: Impossible (1996), Mission: Impossible II (2000), Mission: Impossible III (2006), and Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011).
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