The Bourne Supremacy (2004)

Paul Greengrass

STARRINGMatt Damon - Jason Bourne
Franka Potente - Marie Helena Kreutz
Brian Cox - Ward Abbott
Joan Allen - Pamela Landy
Julia Stiles - Nicky Parsons
Karl Urban - Kirill

Year - 2004

Score - 3.5 Howls Outta 4

In the world of films, creating a franchise as a film trilogy isn't too hard to accomplish, yet it's sometimes painful to execute. The first film usually is the introduction to the characters and the story you'll see unfold for the rest of the series. The second film is usually the character-driven film, where we learn a lot of information about the characters that will effect and set-up stories that will wrap up in the final installment. This third part is the "take-no-prisoners" film, where bigger is better while leading to a satisfying conclusion to all the questions we have since the first part. For me, I believe the second film in a trilogy is the backbone of the franchise, making or breaking our interest in the rest of the story. Some films have been incredibly successful at it [STAR WARS EPISODE V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, X2: X-MEN UNITED & THE GODFATHER PART II] while other sequels make us wonder why they were even made to begin with [PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST]. THE BOURNE SUPREMACY, the second film based on the Robert Ludlum novels, is a good example of a sequel that expands a story, giving us more of an interest in that final part.

Two years after the events of THE BOURNE IDENTITY, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) hides in India with his girlfriend Marie (Franka Potente). Unfortunately, Bourne is having constant nightmares and flashes of his former assassin life, making him feel uncomfortable and a bit guilty. Even though he was promised to be left alone, Russian assassins want him dead. One of them, Kirill (Karl Urban), finds Bourne in India, ready to kill him. During an intense car chase sequence, Kirill shots at Bourne's car, but kills Marie by accident instead. Bourne fakes his death in front of Kirill [by staying underwater after the car drove off a bridge], mourning Marie and wanting revenge.

Here, we learn more about the Treadstone CIA Operation, which was led by Wade Abbott (Brian Cox), who wants Bourne dead more than anyone. An associate by the name of Pamela Lundy (Joan Allen) becomes invested in Bourne's case, believing he murdered Alexander Conklin (Chris Cooper) in the first part [was really Abbott's doing]. Bourne begins to play a cat-and-mouse game with his former superiors, using more aggressive tactics to find out more about who he is and why the CIA wants him dead.

This film, I believe, is pretty misunderstood and unappreciated. While many viewers may prefer the more light-hearted and action-packed first installment, I like THE BOURNE SUPREMACY a bit more. Yes, it's slower and it hardly has any action, but the story is expanded and it's very satisfying to watch Jason Bourne become darker and more paranoid as he gets closer to learning the entire truth. Some complain that the murder of Bourne's girlfriend and fan-favorite Marie should have never been done, as it takes away something from the story. I don't agree. I think it actually enhances the story, turning a love story into a story of vengeance. The death was needed for Bourne to become who he truly is - a lonely assassin who may or may not be as evil as the people trying to control him. Just when we think we know Jason Bourne, this film shows us that we really don't know him at all. I'm never really sure if the new dark Bourne is actually his assassin [possibly true] persona or based on Marie's death. Without someone being his clutch, Bourne becomes vulnerable and even more human as he deals with the fact that he wasn't a good guy before the amnesia. And while he's upset at his former superiors for bothering him, he doesn't go right ahead and butcher them all for killing his girlfriend. He watches them. He listens to them. He uses his spy training to get the information that he needs to get closer to what he wants. That makes Jason Bourne grounded and human. Even when he's at his darkest, a part of us are dark with him because we've invested our time into the character and want him to figure out everything so he can lead a life fitting for him.

I think the addition of a brand new director kept the film fresh and separate from the first installment. Paul Greengrass, whose documentary-style type of directing in films like BLOODY SUNDAY and UNITED 93 enhanced those films, brings a new flavor to the spy genre. The shaky-cam technique that's in today is in full effect here, especially during the action sequences. While it creates tension and gives the action a feeling of frenzy and instability, it becomes grating after awhile. The quick edits and constant shaky tends to take more away from the visual storytelling than it does to enhance it. Doug Liman, who directed THE BOURNE IDENTITY, pretty much showed us everything that was going on around Bourne. Here, we only see short glimpses of certain moments, disconnecting us from the film a bit. That's really my only gripe with the film, as I wish the direction was a bit more smoother. But besides that issue, Greengrass directs the film fine. He has a great command of attention and a good sense of detail during the more character-driven scenes [which I appreciated and never found boring at all], letting us inside every one of the characters with a bit more intimacy that Liman didn't do in the last one. We also get great shots of the different locales Bourne travels to, and excellent reaction shots for the emotional scenes [especially the underwater scene of Bourne kissing Marie for the last time and the end with Bourne and the Russian girl]. Greengrass is definitely an interesting choice to direct an action spy film like this, but he does a good job handling the work.

I also liked the cinematography, as every shot in the film was beautiful and clear. The use of green and blue hues in the film really set a darker tone compared to the brighter first part. The flashback sequences, with its blurred effect, were also well-done. The blurriness doesn't take away anything from the film, as we can still see what's going on and understand who Bourne really is. Just a great job technical-wise.

I also need to commend the stunt people who really did a fantastic job. The final car chase sequence and all the sequences of Bourne fighting away from officers and evading them were excellently done and well-choreographed. I loved the fact that the production team stayed away from action cliches, like big explosions and invincible heroes, creating a realistic view of a man fighting his way to the truth.

The acting, again, is top notch. Matt Damon IS Jason Bourne at this point, creating a more complex character than he was allowed in THE BOURNE IDENTITY. He's a lot harder in the face, never smiling once. He's more paranoid and doesn't hold back when it comes to physical battle. He's alot colder and angrier after the death of Marie. This character really showcases Damon's acting chops and he handles them all very well. It's hard to root for a man who most likely was a cold-blooded assassin who didn't care who he killed, but we do and we want Bourne to find that moral path back to righteousness. Matt Damon is a big reason for that sympathy. He really doesn't say much through dialogue, but his face and body language gives us all the character development that we need. Not an easy task, but Damon is more than capable and gives a solid performance. You TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE fans can make fun of the guy all you want [hell, I like the "Maaaatt Daaaaamon" thing too], but the guy can act his butt off and I appreciated it.

Brian Cox as Wade Abbott continues his streak for playing really slimy and despicable villains. Just looking at the dude makes me want to hate him. He keeps information to himself, has dealings with dirty Russians, and even kills one of his own colleagues for getting too close to the truth. If you want a guy to play a smart intelligent villain, Brian Cox is your man. I don't think the man has had a bad acting performance. He's that good at being bad.

Joan Allen as Pamela Lundy was great as well. While she works for the CIA, you can tell she had morals and just wanted to make the whole Jason Bourne mess right. She's very tough, very determined, and very cool-headed, taking charge and handling her own in sparring matches with Brian Cox. It's nice to see a strong woman of power who's written intelligently and not as a cliche. Allen does the role justice and is a wonderful presence whenever she's on screen.
Julia Stiles, who returns as Nicky Parsons, does well with her limited role. She's also another character I believe wants the wrongs to be corrected, yet she's afraid to go against her superiors. Her scene with Damon in the subway sequence was extremely well done and handled, yet she's still one of those characters who are just "there" and don't really add anything to the film. But Stiles is a good actress and she has a bigger role in THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM.

And the other actors are great as well. Franka Potente is still quite likable in her short cameo as Marie. It's also nice to see Karl Urban in a good film for once [almost made me forget about PATHFINDER], even if he does play a bad guy in this one. The dude is pretty intimidating and knows how to shoot a gun from a long distance. And the Russian accent was very convincing [he's really from New Zealand]. Just a good supporting cast headed by a very good actor in Matt Damon.

THE BOURNE SUPREMACY is a great film that continues the interesting story of Jason Bourne. Shaky-cam issues aside, the plot isn't overly complicated and the characters are excellently portrayed due to its deliberate slower pace. This film is a top-notch intelligent thriller that fans of the first film should enjoy. Whether you prefer THE BOURNE IDENTITY or THE BOURNE SUPREMACY, that's your choice. But I appreciated the level of attention given to the characters rather than on the action, making THE BOURNE SUPREMACY one of those films that, in my opinion, tops the intensity of the original.

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