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The Bourne Identity

The Bourne Identity is a book by Robert Ludlum. It is a thriller, in which a man with amnesia must discover who he is and why several different groups, including a terrorist organisation and the CIA, are trying to kill him.

Ludlum wrote two sequels, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum.

It has been made into a 1988 television mini-series starring Richard Chamberlain and Jaclyn Smith, and a 2002 movie starring Matt Damon, Franka Potente, and Brian Cox.


Warning: Wikipedia contains spoilers!

The protagonist is found floating in the Mediterranean Sea with several bullet wounds, including a head wound which proves to have given him amnesia. The doctor treating him finds a message surgically embedded in his leg, containing details of a Swiss bank account.

In Zurich, the protagonist learns that his name is Jason Bourne - and, while attempting to retrace his steps on his previous visit to the city, attracts the attention of several people who either fear him, warn him of danger, or try to kill him (but all unhelpfully assume that he already knows the details). Also in Zurich he meets a woman called Marie, using her as a hostage to escape a tight situation, and is forced to take her with him when he flees after it becomes clear that by associating with her he has put her life in danger as well.

As the evidence and the double-crosses mount up, it appears that Jason Bourne is an associate of the infamous terrorist Carlos (based on the real-life Carlos the Jackal), and that he ended up floating in the ocean after botching his escape from an assassination on a VIP's yacht.

Warning: We're not kidding about the spoilers...

In the end, however, it transpires that the protagonist is actually a CIA agent in deep cover pretending to be the assassin Jason Bourne in order to get close to Carlos, and that he received his injuries after blowing his cover trying to prevent the assassination. In a dramatic finalé, he faces Carlos (alone and unaided, because the CIA believe, due to his recent erratic behaviour, that he's gone rogue), but Carlos escapes, to return in the sequel.

The 1988 miniseries is reasonably true to the plot of the novel. The 2002 movie, however - in addition to updating the politics and technology - streamlines the plot, chiefly by dropping the business with Carlos and leaving out the final twist. In the film, the protagonist really is the assassin Jason Bourne, agent of a CIA black ops group, who ended up in the ocean after blowing the yacht-board assassination of a VIP because he'd suddenly developed a conscience. The movie ends with him still on the run because his former masters at the CIA want him dead in case he decides to reveal the black ops group's secrets.

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