Jul 192002
 
Authors: Ben Koerselman

If you were too busy last weekend helping “Scooby Doo” to a $56 million haul to check out the other new releases, here are a couple reviews that may help you make up your mind which one you have to see, rated from one to five stars.

The Bourne Identity

Franka Potente (“Run Lola Run”) and Matt Damon (pick a movie) star in a taut, well-done thriller that offers a welcome distraction from the traditional summer fair. This film prefers quiet contemplation (how quiet? Well, I could hear the “Windtalkers” explosions in the theatre next door) to tell the tale of an amnesiac CIA assassin (Damon) searching for his identity while being hunted by his former employers. The film makes good use of a variety of European locals, and has at its center the best car chase since “Ronin.”

Damon plays Jason Bourne as a man tormented by a past he cannot remember. Found by a fishing boat floating in the Mediterranean with two bullet holes in his back and a laser-device containing a number for a Swiss-bank account embedded in his hip, Bourne tries to follow the few clues he has to discover the secret of his identity. His training in martial arts, languages and weaponry have become instinctual, a fact that freaks him out in the beginning, but he puts them to good use and avoids detection long enough to meet up with a gypsy woman named Marie (Potente). She drives Bourne to Paris and quickly becomes his coconspirator – also on the CIA’s hit list – and his lover in roughly that order.

Meanwhile, Bourne’s old CIA bosses are hot on his trail, using all the technological means at their disposal to trace his moves. They sometimes get one step ahead – thanks to the efforts of an agent in Paris (Julia Stiles), who seems privy to all the necessary information more quickly than the local police – but often are outwitted by Bourne who also seems to gain access to the right information and technology on an as-needed basis.

Beyond that, the story serves as nothing more than something to get the movie from one well done suspense sequence to another. The acting and direction (by Doug Liman) are both above par, but the plot has one to many holes to be taken seriously. In short, “Identity” is a thinking-persons movie, but don’t try to think too hard. *** stars

Windtalkers

A well made, but by-the-numbers war movie that tries hard to honor the Navajo code-talkers who helped win the Pacific battles of World War II. Unfortunately, like several war-flicks before it (“Glory” anyone?) “Windtalkers” opts to tell the story through the eyes of a white marine sergeant (played with angst by Nicolas Cage) whose mission is to protect the code at all costs. The result is that the Navajo soldiers are given second-billing and are often viewed from the outside. A better movie may have resulted if the story had been flipped and told through the eyes of the windtalkers that gave the film its title.

The story that is told is passable enough, though riddled with the many war movie clich/s that seem to plague all films of this type. However, the performances, intense battle sequences and taut direction by John Woo carry the day enough to make this a film I can recommend.

Cage proves again that he is at his best when playing characters trying to escape personal demons. His Sgt. Joe Enders is haunted by a mission that went bad and resulted in the deaths of every man under his command. His new assignment is to guard a Navajo code-talker and if necessary kill him to keep the code out of Japanese hands. Naturally, Enders doesn’t want to become overly friendly with the man he is assigned to protect.

Unfortunately, this proves difficult because his code-talker Ben Yahzee (Adam Beach) has a bright winning smile, is full of good humor and is nearly impossible to dislike. The relationship between these two men, the despondent veteran and the good-natured new recruit, gives the movie the lift it needs to carry through. *** stars

A warning for the squeamish: “Windtalkers” is an apparent attempt to one-up “Saving Private Ryan” and “Black Hawk Down” for the most intense, violent and realistic battle scenes. This film earns its R-rating. n

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