While movie-goers are probably more familiar with the new, Matt Damon, version of The Bourne Identity, Robert Ludlum's novel was also the basis for a two-part TV miniseries during 1988, also titled The Bourne Identity. As many did this summer, I too went to see The Bourne Identity in theaters, having no knowledge of the earlier miniseries and not having read the novel. Intrigued with the premise of the film, I went in with high expectations and came away mostly disappointed. Several of the action scenes (especially that stairwell mess) were completely unbelievable, there was little in the way of romance or character interaction, and Damon just didn't cut it as an 'action hero.' When the 1988 version of The Bourne Identity came up for review, I gave the material another chance. Not that this version is without flaw, but I found that it worked much better than this summer's blockbuster hit and is supposedly much closer to the original source material. Richard Chamberlain (Jason Bourne) and Jaclyn Smith (Marie) star, with Anthony Quayle (General Villiers), Donald Moffat (David), Yorgo Voyagis (Carlos), Peter Vaughan (Koening), and Denholm Elliot (Washburn) in supporting roles.
A man washes ashore in France with no memory of who he is and several gunshot wounds. Nursed back to health by a doctor, the only clue he has to his past is a Swiss bank account number surgically implanted in his hip. At the bank in Zurich, he discovers his name – Jason Bourne – and that he possesses a large sum of money. When he tries to leave the bank, however, assassins attempt to kill him. In order to escape, he takes Marie, an economist, hostage. In tracing the few clues and recalled memories he uncovers, he realizes that much of his past matches that of Carlos, a European assassin. With numerous agencies after him, Jason Bourne must uncover his true identity and why he's wanted...before he ends up dead.
The Bourne Identity is a very competent thriller that mainly escapes the TV miniseries 'feel.' Though running a tad over three hours in length, it is, for the most part, well paced and interesting. However, some of the film does move a bit too slowly, especially much of the second hour. Some of the story is overly complicated as well. In my mind, though, there is only one main problem with The Bourne Identity, and that is Richard Chamberlain. Chamberlain is overly stiff and displays little in the way of facial expressions throughout, making the character rather bland. The chemistry between he and Smith is decent, though nothing special. Despite this, I much preferred this version of The Bourne Identity to the recent theatrical film.
The Bourne Identity is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The transfer fares well, especially considering its age and origin, though there are some flaws. Marks, specks, grain, and lines, while not frequent, do appear and are occasionally distracting. Colors are natural throughout, with accurate flesh tones, and blacks that, while decent, are never solid or rich.
The Bourne Identity is presented in Dolby 2.0 Surround in English and Dolby 1.0 Mono in French. Surround use, for the exception of the film's music, is rather infrequent and occasionally, the effects sound hollow. Dialogue is clean throughout, with no distortion that I detected. Optional subtitles are also available in English, Spanish, and French.
Cast and crew information are the only extras.
The Bourne Identity TV miniseries from 1988 is easy to recommend to those intrigued with, but ultimately disappointed in, the recent theatrical release. Warner has provided an adequate audiovisual presentation for the film, as well as a reasonable MSRP, so those interested should definitely give the disc a spin.