The Bourne Identity opens with fishermen dragging a body out of the water and trying to help him survive. Upon examining the body they find two bullets in his back and a series of tattoos on him that look like maps and other information. Their curiosity is at an all time high but when the man regains consciousness he has no idea who he is or how he got into the ocean. The stranger eventually turns out to be Jason Bourne, played by Matt Damon, and the time he spends on the fishing boat is time for him to heal and try to remember who he is. But try as he might the stranger cannot remember that he is Jason Bourne and even though the fishermen saved his life, he is still in very grave danger. The fishing boat drops the stranger off on land and wishes him luck in his search for his identity. He winds up in Paris and finds that he has access to many levels of special government clearance and some very strange items, including a handgun, in a safe deposit box. He discovers he has great fighting skills that include many levels and disciplines of the martial arts and he is a weapons expert as well. The Bourne Identity really picks up speed at that point and everyone wonders if Jason Bourne will figure out who he really is in time.
Robert Ludlum wrote the novel that the movie is based on but director Doug Liman did not want an exact adaptation of the novel for the movie. Instead Liman gave screenwriter Tony Gilroy an outline of the plot he had in mind and told Gilroy to work from that. For all of the accolades the novel had received, and the fact that the studios felt that the novel was good enough to turn into a movie, the screenplay writer Gilroy had never read Ludlum’s novel prior to writing the screenplay for the movie The Bourne Identity.