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Monday, August 20, 2007

Robert Ludlum's "Bourne Identity"

The Bourne Identity

Stan and I went to see the Bourne Identity movie when it first came out and had a hard time following it. So I decided to get the book and read it and then view it again. So, in my bargain hunting I came across the trilogy and I finished the first book, Bourne Identity, this weekend. Then I watched the movie. BIG difference!



In 1975, a man is picked up from the ocean, nearly dead. He has been shot 5 times and has been in the ocean for hours and yet, he survives. The ship of rescuers makes it back to Port Noir and take him to their local alcoholic doctor. The doctor is able to focus and operate. He finds a capsule in his leg with a rolled negative in it that has the name of a bank in Zurich, Switzerland, and an account number. The doctor helps him rehabilitate. It takes 6 months but he is back in good health and exercising. The only lingering problem is his amnesia. He doesn't remember who he is. The doctor tells him to go to Zurich and find out what is in his account at the Gemeinschaft Bank. The patient promises to send money to the doctor for all his help.

He lands in Marseilles with no money and only a few borrowed clothes. As his needs beomce necessary, things begin to come back to him. He notices his keen observations, his physical abilities, his language abilities, his plotting to get money, clothes, car, etc. It disturbs him that he seems to be able to do these things that only a criminal would do. He makes his way to Zurich and finds his way to the bank. He finds $5 million dollars in his safety deposit box. He wires $1 million to the doctors bank and then has the other $4 million transferred to a bank in Paris, France. He feels that he can find some answers in Paris. When he gets to Paris and the cab driver asks him where he wants to go, he automatically gives the hotel and, sure enough, the hotel staff greets him as Jason Bourne and he learns his name and that he is employed by Treadstone 71 in New York. But he has no idea who Treadstone is and can't find it listed in the NY businesses.

Spoiler -

His accessing the money at the bank sets off alarms all over the world...Cain, aka Jason Bourne, is active again. He has been missing for 6 months and they thought he might be dead or has turned. It seems David Webb was in Thailand with his Thai wife and children when his wife and children were killed by unknown killers. His anger and rage is used when he joins a group called Medusa. It's a super secret, covert group of assassins who are supposedly ordered to assassinate North Vietnamese and Viet Cong leaders as necessary. On one of these missions to rescue a white man from a torture camp, one of his colleagues is paid by the enemy to betray their position. David Webb knows it's Jason Bourne, an Australian Medusa. He executes him on the spot and saves the white man and himself. After the Vietnam War, he was chosen by a group located at Treadstone 71, a brown stone in New York that is really the headquarters of Treadstone. He is to be trained as one an assassin who will be used by the American government to assassinate key people as needed. He is virtually brainwashed as he is trained. He decides to take on the identity of Jason Bourne and his code name is
Delta. They train him in all weapons, physical martial arts training, spying, technology, etc. His assignment is to find the world's biggest and best assassinator, Carlos. Carlos is bigger than life and is known to be behind many of the biggest assassinations including President John F. Kennedy. So his handlers begin to build up Jason Bourne as the new assassinator on the block. They make up stories and make him the "assassinator" of people who really died of natural causes. David circulates himself to fill out the story and Carlos begins to get jealous and worried about losing business so he wants to kill Jason Bourne. It's at this time that David turns up missing. Did Carlos kill him? Carlos knows he didn't but Treadstone doesn't. Did he turn and really become an assassin? Or has he disappeared as his way of quitting his job? Now he surfaces and gets his money. The money Treadstone had deposited for him to pretend to be Carlos competition. Treadstone believes he has turned and stolen the money. So they send assassins out to kill him. Carlos sends assassins to kill him.

While he is Zurich, the assassins come out of the woodwork looking for him. An alert left the bank as soon as he accesses the money and he has to fight his way out. He darts into hotel and realizes, soon, that he is being tracked. He kidnaps a woman named Dr. Marie St. Jacques. She is an economist with the Canadian government who is there for an economics conference. At first she is just terrified of him and believes he is a murderer and she is his next victim. He lets her believe that because he intends to use her as a hostage and driver until he can safely let her go. In all of his fighting, he saves her life and she begins to believe in him and falls in love with him. Despite finding out all these facts that point to him as an assassin in the same league as Carlos, she believes in him. He is disgusted with what he finds out about himself but she won't let him give up.

Ludlum keeps you in the dark about the Medusa project, the Treadstone 71 project. You find one clue at a time in the midst of lots of action. It was a much more complicated book than the movie. I was lost a lot while reading the book but now that I know the whole story I really liked it. Ludlum could have loosened up a bit on the clues so I wouldn't have felt so lost during a long read. But, his complications and intricacies must have been a lot for an author to keep up with. I tip my hat to him.

I'm going to sum up some of the major differences between the movie and the book:

The Book
David Webb is his real name with his identity being changed to Jason Bourne with code name Delta.
David Webb is shot 5 times and spends 6 months on an island recovering with the help of Dr. Washburn.
David Webb has no memory and doesn't even know his name. The reader doesn't learn his real name until the very end.
He meets Dr. Marie St. Jacques in Zurich when he kidnaps her to help him escape.
David Webb has no home, much less a pied a terre in Paris.
Treadstone 71 is a headquarters for the Treadstone Project and is in New York.
His Vietnam Medusa background.
His family background.
Carlos, the Assassin, is his nemesis and his assignment to get Carlos is his raison d'etre in this book.

The Movie
His name is Jason Bourne, no mention of David Webb or Delta.
Jason Bourne is shot twice in the back and is saved by a fishing boat and the captain does the medical work that saves his life and finds the capsule.
Jason Bourne is an amnesiac.
He meets a scraggly girl from Hanover, Massachusetts and, yet, she has a distinct foreign accent. She is homeless and living out of her car and is plain as butter. Definitely the antithesis of Dr. Marie St. Jacques.
Treadstone is a safe house in Paris, France.
Jason Bourne has a very nice, contemporary, super clean apartment in Paris, France. And, yet, he seems perfectly satisfied to roam in bulky nasty sweater and coat, to sleep in very poor hotels and sleep with a slovenly, grimy girl. His apartment didn't match his "new" persona.
His Vietnam and family background are not even hinted at.
There is no Carlos. I think that was the strangest thing of all. In the book, Carlos was a major, although shadowy, character. There was no book without Carlos.
Jason Bourne is trained as an assassin, one of many, who are hired killers for the American government. He was assigned to kill an African leader who is living in exile. But he just can't do it. So he runs away and is shot by the African's security as he dives into the water. None of this was in the book.
There were no other trained assassins located all over the world to kill on demand by the American government.

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