The Bourne Supremacy
Directed by Paul Greengrass
When last seen in 2002's The Bourne Identity, CIA hit man Jason (Matt Damon) and Marie (Franka Potente) had achieved an uneasy truce with certain nasty parties at Langley HQ (Brian Cox) and were beginning to live out a dream life as international beach bums. Supremacy has their bubble popped as Jason gets framed for a murder in Berlin - involving some corrupt Russian politicians and oil oligarchs - while a hit man comes to get him at his adopted home by the beach in India. But Jason is still very hard to kill… and he realizes that he must take the fight to the bad guys and embarks on a mission to various European cities. The character is played as a cool professional - as in Identity - rather than the typical cop-goes-ballistic reaction when his domestic life is threatened. The story is complex, with many shady spy-types who are only on screen for a short time, but they can be divided into four factions (1) our hero Jason; (2) the fairly reasonable folks from at the CIA, personified by Deputy Director Pamela Landy (Joan Allen - great performance as a steely, rational, determined, but somewhat bureaucratic investigator); (3) the corrupt CIA - Ward Abbott (Brian Cox - my favorite actor for these villain parts - remember X2: X-Men United?); and (4) the ultra nasty Russians (Karl Urban as the very scary Russian hit man). Jason slowly pieces together the events that led to the set-up and the attempted hit on him as he also discovers new things about his past - remember that he has amnesia.
One of the things that I miss from Identity is the companionship - Jason and Marie on the lam together -- Franka Potente has a smaller part this time - which is a shame but worth it since it's a necessary element in the story. To some extent the set-up is the same here as in the first - Jason is being hunted by the CIA, with all of their resources, while he tries to solve the mystery. It's a more that a bit of a stretch that anybody could escape such an onslaught but I'm willing to go along with it - it's a hell of a ride. As much as I enjoyed the film - which I've got to see again - there are a few things that could have been better executed. With the exception of some gorgeous helicopter exterior shots of Moscow and Berlin, most of the photography - I'm talking about the action - chases and fights - was presented in rapid-fire bursts of less than a second in duration as well as overuse of unsteady, hand-held camera work. The idea is to create the illusion of frenetic action - I can see why they do it - but I prefer Doug Linman's (director of Identity) approach where the viewer could really watch the actors act without 200 cuts a minute (I'll bet that the number is that high if not higher.) For example, remember the Paris chase scene in Identity - particularly the shot of the old Mini going down the narrow stairway? That sequence beats anything in Supremacy. The same comment applies to the fight sequences -- they would have looked much better had they let the camera run more and employed less chop-chop editing. For those reasons, I have to say that I prefer Doug Linman as a director to Paul Greengrass but give credit to Supremacy's writing team (Tony Gilroy penned the script based on Robert Ludlum's novel) for a superior script.
The Bourne Supremacy is a spy/thriller/action movie done about as well as one could ask - great acting and a story that engages the mind. Matt Damon's reprise of the character from the first movie could be viewed as predictable - it is the same guy, of course. But Jason's combination of lightning-fast analysis of situations coupled with the controlled but devastating violence in combat combine to create the most compelling action character in recent memory. The title character is both well written and well executed. I also think that the complexity of the story could drive DVD sales - so important these days - since it strikes me as a film that will reveal new details upon repeat viewings - and how well a movie stands up to repeat viewings is one of my prime tests to separate the good from the great. The Tarantino's Kill Bill movies are the only films released in the last few months that I would certify as truly great -- The Bourne Supremacy has a shot - I can't wait to put it to the test.
Photographs are copyright Universal Pictures.
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