Generally favorable reviews - based on 38 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 26 out of 38
  2. Negative: 1 out of 38
  1. 75
    A skillful action movie about a plot that exists only to support a skillful action movie. The entire story is a set-up for the martial arts and chases. Because they are done well, because the movie is well-crafted and acted, we give it a pass. Too bad it's not about something.
  2. 75
    Nicely paced and fits the bill for those in search of two hours of spy-based action and martial arts. The movie has credibility issues, but none are insurmountable in the name of entertainment.
  3. It has a few whispers of intrigue, but at the heart of The Bourne Identity lies a dispiriting paradox: The more that Jason Bourne learns about himself, the less arresting he seems.
  4. 70
    Director Doug Liman -- the hip skipper of "Swingers" and "Go" -- makes all the familiar dirty business seem fun and almost human. In these dog days, Bourne earns what passes as high praise: It doesn't suck.
  5. The result is not only entertaining but also refreshing, a shameless crowd-pleaser with a healthy cynicism about itself.
  6. Films borrow tricks from pictures made years ago -- try to watch Bourne without thinking of "The Manchurian Candidate."
  7. This is an entertainment that really entertains because any number of interesting and unexpected choices were made, starting with the selection of Doug Liman as the director.
  8. The outcome is distinctive and entertaining. There's no way you'd mistake this for James Bond, and no reason you would want to.
  9. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    This savvy adaptation of Robert Ludlum's action-clogged 1980 bestseller benefits from the fact that the filmmakers were smart enough to throw out most of the book's preposterous spills and thrills and concentrate instead on its intriguing central character.
  10. Damon, starring in his first full-fledged action pic, brings a determined bearing and believability to the proceedings.
  11. 78
    Like its protagonist, it never hands you explanations on a silver platter, and it makes you think a bit, something far too few thrillers do these days.
  12. There isn't a dull or dumb moment in this movie.
  13. 50
    Next time Damon will have to find a worthier vehicle. As the intended start of a franchise, The Bourne Identity is a bit of a bust.
  14. One of those rare thrillers where the cops aren't fools, villains don't turn stupid at crucial moments, and career assassins seldom miss targets.
  15. 60
    May be a bloodless piece of thriller craftsmanship, but at a time when craft has become negligible, its efficiency and whipcrack timing are increasingly uncommon virtues.
  16. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    A first-rate thriller with grit and intrigue to spare.
  17. 58
    Isn't a bad movie so much as one that feels like an amateur version of material from more accomplished works -- a movie that not only isn't sure what it really is but doesn't seem terribly much to care.
  18. The problems with Damon's character are the problem with the movie: It's about plot mechanics, not heart and soul.
  19. Somehow the movie works like a clock. Its scenes and sensibility are all more than familiar, but it exudes a kind of nostalgic spy-movie charm and, at the same time, is so fresh and free of the usual thriller nonsense that it all seems to be happening for the first time.
  20. 75
    The Bourne Identity keeps you in a state of nervous excitation from the opening shot to the fade-out and has a thread of deadpan humor that vibrates alongside the main action like a third rail quivering next to a hurtling train.
  21. Thrillers have become so gnawingly generic that The Bourne Identity wakes the senses without leaning on cliché and soundtrack.
  22. 40
    Banal big-budget adaptation of Robert Ludlum's 1980 espionage thriller.
  23. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    Blisteringly fast, Bourne also has a strong or striking supporting actor around every corner: Chris Cooper, Brian Cox, Julia Stiles and Clive Owen in roles that range from meaty to amazingly small.
  24. As for Damon, this may not be a performance so much as an appearance. But he cares so utterly, it works.
  25. The Bourne Identity, like its hero, triumphs through sheer unreflective professionalism. It is, by today's standards, a modest thriller, with a self-contained storyline and with very few big special effects.
  26. 70
    Though it's clearly meant to be character-driven, the movie is thrown out of whack by a total lack of chemistry between the leads, and some great acting (Clive Owen, Chris Cooper, Brian Cox) on the side.
  27. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    The movie is a generic paranoid espionage fantasy, but its proportions are refreshingly correct. It moves quickly, adroitly, and without fuss.
  28. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    It’s as formulaic as "The Sum of All Fears," but it feels fresher, hipper, less inflated.
  29. 50
    Damon may be too young, too unformed, to play an amnesiac. Gazing at that blank face, we can't imagine that Bourne has any experiences or memories to forget. [17 & 24 June 2002, p. 176]
  30. A lean, deftly shot, well-acted, weirdly retro thriller that recalls a raft of '60s and '70s European-set spy pictures. There are even moments when you hope it could turn into a modern "Charade."
  31. Reviewed by: Richard Schickel
    The result is an escapist fantasy that is -- Damon's and Potente's persuasive performances aside -- as weightless and inconsequential as a musical. And at the moment every bit as welcome.
  32. All this is diverting but also borderline dull.
  33. 80
    Entertaining, handsome and gripping, The Bourne Identity is something of an anomaly among big-budget summer blockbusters: a thriller with some brains and feeling behind it, more attuned to story and character than to spectacle.
  34. 75
    Liman packs enough firepower into The Bourne Identity to please the summer action fan, including a reshot climax that contains one of the niftier stunts I've seen recently. The centerpiece action sequence is a bravura car chase through Paris, yet the moments that bookend it are equally impressive.
  35. 60
    Makes one interested in seeing the inevitable sequel, but one is also left to somewhat question the worth of sitting through this first installment.
  36. Not only an exceptional thriller, but a transcendent summer movie: It assumes, for two hours, you've brain and heart enough to stick with a film that doesn't condescend, doesn't beat you up and doesn't dumb you to death.
  37. 80
    The full-throttle approach of director Doug Liman (Swingers, Go) is impressive.
  38. Reviewed by: Renee Graham
    The best audiences can hope for is that they, too, get amnesia and forget they ever saw this movie.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 226 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 85 out of 92
  2. Negative: 1 out of 92
  1. Sep 25, 2011
    "Bourne Identity" is a serious action movie that looks cool, but creating a game off of this might have been a better choice.
  2. Sep 7, 2011
    From start to finish, this is a great movie. It's got just the right amount of suspense, just the right amount of action, just the right amount of character development. I don't have a single complaint about this movie. Full Review »
  3. Aug 21, 2012
    I will give it a 6 out of 10 because I found it too slow paced for an action movie, the first third of the movie was very entertaining but then after that it started to get tiring. Full Review »