Tuesday, July 27, 2004

The Bourne Supremacy (2004): A Review

Tuesday, July 27, 2004
A film by Paul Greengrass

"The Bourne Supremacy" is the sequel to the 2002 film "The Bourne Identity".  Both films are adaptations of Robert Ludlum novels, but this adaptation may be a bit looser than the first film because it has to maintain any plot and story changes that were first introduced in the first film.  A film has to be able to stand on its own, separate from the book, and since I have not read "The Bourne Supremacy", I can only judge the film on its own merits.  There are quite a few. 

In "The Bourne Identity", Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) was shot and left for dead.  When he awoke, he found that he could not remember anything about himself or his past.  The film became his quest to find out who he is, and why people are still trying to kill him.  What he discovers is that he was a former agent of the CIA, a trained killer, but that is who he was, not who he is.  All of that training was imprinted so deeply in him that even though he couldn't remember who he was, he was able to call on that training when the situation required, and it was required often.  By the end of the film, Bourne had made his break from the CIA and warned them to leave him alone, because even a hint of the CIA on his trail would bring the wrath of Bourne upon them. 

The story picks up in "The Bourne Supremacy" a couple of year later in Goa, India.  Bourne is living with Marie (Franka Potente), the woman from the first film, on the seashore.  He still can't remember much of his past life, though he has nightmares that gives him hints that there is something more, something deeper that he is missing.  That something starts creeping up on him when he spots a man in the marketplace who shouldn't be there.  The man is nobody that Bourne recognizes, but Bourne knows that his cover is blown and that he is in danger again.  Bourne's assumption: The CIA is after him again, and this means that Bourne is going to take the fight to the people responsible. 

What the viewer knows, and Bourne does not, is that the CIA is not after him, at least not yet.  Somebody else is targeting Jason Bourne, and that same somebody else is also targeting the CIA by framing Bourne for a double murder of two CIA agents.  This adds an additional layer onto the story because as both Bourne and senior CIA operative Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) are in the midst of a potentially deadly "dance" with each other, the viewer knows that something else is in play. 

For those tired of how tedious the James Bond franchise has become, may I suggest the Jason Bourne franchise.  The series is going in a completely different direction than James Bond, as Bourne wants nothing more than to be left alone with his fractured memories, but as an entry into the genre of the "spy/espionage" film, the two Bourne films are a breath of fresh air.  Why are they a breath of fresh air?  Because they are both exciting and interesting movies. 

Not having to spend as much time setting up the story as its predecessor did, "The Bourne Supremacy" is an extremely fast paced, exciting movie.  This time Jason Bourne is the one driving the story as he tries to get to Pamela Landy and the CIA and stop them from going after him.  This time it is self-preservation that drives Bourne, rather than self-discovery.  Bourne is pushed back into a life that he wants no part of, but he is prepared to do what it takes to be able to put the life behind him. 

Matt Damon embodies Jason Bourne seamlessly.  There is a palpable sense that Bourne is a dangerous man even when is sitting silently, or walking down a street.  Damon would not have been an actor that I would have expecting this transformation from, but he works as an action star as well as a spy capable of such violence.  This leads me into the style of the action itself.  The camera work/editing is jolting and jerky.  When Bourne fights, I got a sense of the speed and intensity of the fight, but I also felt jerked around too much by the camera.  The cuts were too quick, and too glaring for my taste, but were still effective for the movie.  It just made some sequences harder to follow than may have been necessary. 

There is a frantic pace to the film that is appropriate to the type of story that is being told, but the best scenes are those were the characters are standing around talking.  Scenes with the CIA agents, or between Bourne and the CIA, are what the story is built on and do not slow down the pace or the tension in "The Bourne Supremacy".  There is still one more Jason Bourne novel written by Robert Ludlum, so perhaps we can expect one more movie (two more if we count the Bourne novel written by Eric Van Lustbader).  I can only hope, because the Bourne franchise has proven to be an intelligent, exciting action franchise.  That's a good thing. 

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