It has been a couple of years since amnesiac assassin Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) broke with his Treadstone masters and disappeared into oblivion with his soul mate, Marie Kruetz (Franka Potente). He wakes, one night in Gao, India, in a fevered sweat after dreaming bits and pieces of his past as a killer. Although he assures Marie that all is well, it isn’t and Jason must take flight once more, but this time he goes on the attack in “The Bourne Supremacy.”
I have always enjoyed Robert Ludlum’s action-packed spy novels and was quite pleased with Doug Liman’s directorial cut at the Tony Gilroy/W. Blake Herron adaptation of the first in the series, “The Bourne Identity.” Liman vacates the helmer’s seat (but takes on executive producer duties) this time around and turns over the director’s seat for the sequel to Irish filmmaker Peter Greengrass (“Bloody Sunday”). It turns out to be a sound choice and “The Bourne Supremacy” is a worthy follow up to the original.
I won’t belabor the plot – Jason suffers great loss at the hands of his former masters and wages a war against those who did him egregious harm. But, how this all transpires is the meat of “The Bourne Supremacy.” Joan Allen plays Pamela Landy, deputy director of a CIA-like organization, who heads a covert operation that is to get the goods on Yuri Gretkov (Karl Rodin), a Russian mobster involved in shady international oil deals who may have been involved in the murder of a populist politician. The op goes wrong, with two agents killed, and evidence points to Jason Bourne as the killer. Landy turns her spy resources to the task of finding and apprehending Bourne. A cat and mouse game ensues but, with Jason’s highly honed assassin skills, who is the cat and who is the mouse?
“The Bourne Supremacy” is, of course, a sequel and that carries some degree of baggage with it. The first film set the stage so there was the mystery around Jason’s amnesia, his incredible instantaneous response to danger, the unwilling involvement (and subsequent romance) with Marie and the chase across Europe. It wasn’t all shootouts and car crashes as a human face was put on the assassin and Bourne’s character developed. This time around, we have a lot more familiarity with Bourne, the Treadstone project and the intricacies of high espionage.
With the story setup already taken care of, director Greengrass concentrates his team’s efforts on bringing us the second chapter in Jason Bourne’s quest for the truth. The helmer does a good job continuing Doug Liman’s endeavor, first time around, but instills his own style into the proceeds. His handling of the tight, violent fight scenes is reminiscent of his own “Bloody Sunday.” While these scenes are near chaotic, there is a clarity about them that keeps you aware of what is going on. (This, as opposed to the music video style fights that are de rigueur for films like “Catwoman.”)
Matt Damon is proving an effective actor and he fits the role of Jason Bourne like a glove. He maintains the physical aspect and endurance that he exhibited (surprising everyone) in “The Bourne Identity” and continues his persona of a man trying to uncover his past in the vestiges of his mind. Damon does a fine job exhibiting the pain of loss and the resolve to end things once and for all. The actor evokes empathy for Jason Bourne, making you root for him every step of the way. “Once a killer, always a killer” does not apply to JB any more.
With the exception of Matt Damon, who has the preponderance of screen time, most of the actors are given mostly brief time on screen. But, the caliber of the supporting cast makes the most of their few minutes of “TBS” fame. Joan Allen is one of America’s best actors and she effortlessly fills the shoes of the deputy spy director, Pamela Landy. Brian Cox, always a pleasure to watch, reprises his role as head Treadstone spook, Ward Abbot, and is given a more complicated character than the first time around. Julia Stiles returns in the role of spy handler Nicky and is given more (but, not much more) screen time. Gabriel Mann is back, again, as agent Danny Zorn who sees through the frame up of Bourne, to fatal results. Marton Csokas, in a small role as the only other living Treadstone assassin, puts nuance into his character in a very short amount of time. Franka Potente, unfortunately, is in the film all too briefly.
Techs are what you would expect in a big budget, well crafted action flick. Oliver Wood’s lensing of the copious action sequences (and “TBS” has aplenty) is tight, hyper-paced and exciting. The one-on-one fight scenes between Bourne and his numerous opponents are done with ultra fast edits, eschewing blood and guts for furious action. There are a number of chases, all well done, but two stand out as exemplary: one is a foot chase through the Alexanderplatz in Berlin that has Jason evading capture (or death) by the skin of his teeth. Another, the biggie car chase, travels at high speed through the streets of Moscow and brought a smile to my face for the audacity and manic action.
The filmmakers further the travelogue aspect of the first film in an almost dizzying trek across Europe. We start in India, yes, but continue on to Naples, Paris, Amsterdam, London, Munich, Berlin and Moscow as Bourne struggles to survive and get free. New York even gets some shrift in the end. It goes to show what a big budget can buy.
I liked the humanity given to Jason Bourne in the first of what is bound to be a trilogy. Greengrass and company don’t expend a lot of effort reinforcing this humanity, letting Damon do this with his performance. “The Bourne Supremacy” is an exciting, finely crafted action thriller with the accent on “thrill.” It is a well done bit of storytelling and I give it a B.
Laura also gives "The Bourne Supremacy" a B.
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