© 2004 Ray Wong
Two years after THE BOURNE IDENTITY redefined espionage action thrillers, THE BOURNE SUPREMACY roars back with its unlikely protagonist Jason Bourne, one of the most interestingly unreliable protagonists in Hollywood these days.
Jason Bourne, the mysterious secret agent-fugitive, has been in hiding for almost two years with his girlfriend Marie. The ghosts of his past keep chasing him, and he continues to try to find out who he was.
One of those ghosts manifests itself as a botched CIA operation, in which Bourne is framed for stealing important evidence and killing two CIA agents. While in India, he finds himself an assassination target, and he loses Marie. The hunted becomes the hunter when Bourne actively pursues those who are after him, including his old boss Ward Abbott and CIA operative Pamela Landy. Pieces of memory begin to fall in place as he begins to find out what happened and who is behind everything.
As in the original, this film is fast-paced, with an almost breathless urgency in every frame. Director Greengrass (BLOODY SUNDAY) has created a gritty world full of discerning bystanders in which Bourne appears and disappears like a ghost himself. Shot mostly through a handheld camera, the film is filled brim-to-brim with fast-cutting actions and close-ups, creating an exciting illusion and sensation that we’re inside the action ourselves. At times the shaky-cam approach creates a near-nauseating effect (be sure not to sit in the front row!) but Greengrass and cinematographer Oliver Wood (FREAKY FRIDAY) have given us a realistic, detached world and some of cinema’s best action sequences.
Damon (STUCK ON YOU), reprising his role as Bourne, is excellent in portraying the emotionally detached yet deeply wounded hero. He is like a lost puppy that will bite you hard if you ruffle him. Potente (BLOW) dazzles as the down-to-earth Marie. Her role is brief but strong, giving the film a needed emotional gravity and Bourne a legit motivation. Cox (TROY) and Allen (THE NOTEBOOK) are adequate, but their roles have too little screen time (mostly just running around, barking orders at each other and chasing Bourne). Stiles (THE PRINCE & ME) also has little to do. Urban is great to watch as the cold-blooded assassin, but again, his character has only one purpose, making him two-dimensional. Clearly, the film is all about Jason Bourne and the camera likes to follow him, sometimes in extreme close-ups.
The plot itself is simple yet convoluted at the same time. It is simple because it is pretty much the same story of the original, where Bourne must pursue his pursuer throughout Europe to survive. It’s a basic “Who Am I” plot. It is also simple because the good and bad guys are very clearly defined – we know who to root for and who to despise. However, it is convoluted because the film’s breakneck pace does not allow a moment for us to relax and catch our breath. It leaves us no time to get to know most of these characters. In a way, the script asks you to be emotionally detached.
Perhaps that’s one of its pitfalls. For example, by eliminating Marie early on, the film loses the emotional intimacy of the first film. Here, the filmmaker strives for anguish and despair, but it just doesn’t quite work in the midst of all that action. You’d come out of the theatre feeling the exhilaration of the ride, but ultimately you really don’t care much about these characters. There’s nothing supreme about that.
Stars: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Brian Cox, Julia Stiles, Joan Allen, Karl Urban
Director: Paul Greengrass
Writer: Tony Gilroy (based on Robert Ludlum’s novel)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for extreme violence
Script – 6
Performance – 7
Direction – 8
Cinematography – 7
Editing – 9
Production – 7
Total – 7.1 out of 10