This month the Cinefix team are covering the differences between The Bourne Identity movie and book. So this will either be a super short episode or a super long one.
I read The Bourne Identity not long after seeing the movie. Yeah, I’m that guy. I’m frequently that guy. Anyway, I have always referred to the movie as being nothing like the book at all. Aside from a few names and the amnesia thing, there is virtually nothing similar about the two works. I have often wondered if the screenwriters got handed the book and only got as far as the blurb on the back cover before producing their screenplay. Let’s just hope Ludlum was able to cash his cheque* before he typed his last ‘The End’.**
Apparently Robert Ludlum was inspired to write a spy novel involving an amnesic because he briefly suffered from the condition himself. There’s a joke here somewhere about the screenwriters forgetting to read the novel, but I wouldn’t stoop that low. I mean, who is to say they even realised they were being asked to do an adaptation, this is Hollywood after all.
Most action fans love the Bourne movies. At a time when there was a move away from gritty and realistic action, Bourne came along and gave us a tense, gritty, and “realistic” action movie. The book is not heavy on the action and gives us a more traditional spy story about flushing out an assassin with counterintelligence and operations. Comparing the two is really quite unfair. But one area I think the book is superior is in the answer to “Who is Jason Bourne?” In the movie we see Matt Damon struggle to come to terms with not knowing and wondering what sort of man would have his skills. But we know. And he knows. The answers he finds don’t really give him any new information: yeah, you were an assassin dude. In the book the answers are more complicated and more satisfying for the hero: yay, I was bait to capture an assassin.
Without this film we would have not had Matt Damon bringing Mark Watney to the screen. Let’s celebrate by rewatching one of the best car chase scenes of all time:
*now there’s a saying that is appropriate to the time being referenced but is now as apposite and relevant as a broken record.
** Robert Ludlum died in 2001.