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USA 2004
Directed by
Paul Greengrass
109 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Luke Jackson
3 stars

The Bourne Supremacy

Synopsis: In The Bourne Identity, 2002, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) - assassin extraordinaire - defeated his pursuers and prepared to begin a new life. He had made clear the penalty for ever trying to find him again: "If I even feel somebody behind me, there is no measure to how fast and how hard I will bring this fight to your doorstep." Even as the project that had trained him was officially shut down, however, other plans were being tabled. We now find Bourne in India, plagued by nightmares, while Marie (Franka Potente) - his ever-supportive girlfriend - tries to make the best of life on the run. When Bourne is framed for the death of a CIA operative and forced out of hiding, he pops up on the international radar, ready to fulfil his promise.

The greatest strength of The Bourne Supremacy is the consolidation of the elements that made its predecessor so memorable. A cool colour palette and a mixture of handheld and static camerawork give the film a gritty realism. Tony Gilroy's screenplay successfully balances the introduction of new characters, such as Agent Pamela Landy, played skilfully by Joan Allen, whilst building upon characters first seen in The Bourne Identity, including former-project-leader Ward Abbott, played by the always outstanding Brian Cox, and former logistics coordinator Nicky (Julia Stiles). This new installment may have less action than its predecessor, but the action is directed flawlessly, every punch, gunshot and car crash aiding character development. The binding ingredient, it seems, is director Paul Greengrass.

After The Bourne Identity became the most popular video/DVD rental of 2003, it would have been tempting to follow the Hollywood model and churn out a series of sequels as quickly as possible. Instead, the production team waited until they had a script they considered worthy, then met with Greengrass. With his background in shooting gritty, realistic character-based drama, he was the perfect choice to continue the story of Ludlum's anti-hero.

Although this film surpasses its predecessor stylistically, it falls down when it comes to plot. Robert Ludlum's 'Bourne' novels were set during the Cold War, and Bourne was pitted against infamous terrorist, Carlos 'The Jackal'. Because this new incarnation is set in the 21st Century, an era of supposedly less clear-cut, us-and-them politics, the character of Carlos has been removed. While this allows for a greater focus on Bourne, the removal of a character so central to the novels has left a dramatic gulf. The Bourne Identity was driven entirely by the protagonist's search for his identity, so a major 'bad guy' would only have gotten in the way, but - enough of his identity having been established for the time being - much stronger personal opposition for Bourne is required to make the new chapter dramatically interesting. Instead, Bourne's challenges come from a number of directions at once, each enemy as nebulous as the last, undermining the impact of his quest.

The Bourne Supremacy is a stylish production with stellar performances, led by a dramatically-mature Matt Damon. High-quality production values should distract the viewer from plot least until the lights come up.




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