– Summary –
Director : Paul Greengrass
Year Of Release : 2004
Principal Cast : Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Joan Allen, Brian Cox, Julia Stiles, Karl Urban, Gabriel Mann, Marton Csokas, Karel Roden.
Approx Running Time : 108 Minutes
Synopsis: Framed for a murder he did not commit, Jason Bourne once again travels to Europe to uncover a mysterious CIA plot and to clear his name.
What we think : Considerably more fast, and certainly more furious, The Bourne Supremacy lays waste to all comers as Paul Greengrass directs the absolute shiznit out of this movie. Using his now-trademarked verite hand-held style, Greengrass gives the Bourne franchise sharp focus, energy (not that it really needed it, but anyway….) and sting. Plus, it features one of the best car chases ever filmed.
Bim Bang Bash Badass.
One of my favorite car chase films (I still use this as a set-up disc for my home cinema) and one of the best action films of the 00’s, The Bourne Supremacy has it all – thrills, chases, weaving and twisting plot developments, and Matt Damon doing his square-jawed, glowering best. As a sequel to The Bourne Identity, Supremacy delivers more of the same and then some, amping up the action, ratcheting up the stakes, and delivering some nice textures to a relatively one-dimensional character in Jason Bourne. Coming off the back of his terrific (and terrifying) film Bloody Sunday, Greengrass’s visual style certainly had the ability to translate into big-screen thrills, yet as a relative unknown in the industry, his hiring as director was something of a risk for the young franchise. If Greengrass failed to deliver, Bourne would be dead and buried, but if he managed to succeed, then the door was open for even further adventures of everyone’s favorite amnesiac assassin. Filming across several continents, including India, Russia and Europe, The Bourne Supremacy saw many of the original films’ cast return for more; would Greengrass be able to capture the lightning twice?
2 years after the events of The Bourne Identity, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is living with Marie (Franka Potente) in Goa, India, far away from the grasp of the CIA. Treadstone is officially dead and buried, and the CIA appears to have focused its attention elsewhere. However, when an unknown assailant murders two CIA agents seeking to regain access to some dangerous information, and frames Bourne, CIA Deputy Director Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) and her taskforce, as well as former Treadstone chief Ward Abbott (Brian Cox), set about trying to reel Bourne in. After an assassin mistakenly kills Marie in Goa, Bourne travels to Europe to uncover the truth behind his framing, once again staying one step ahead of the CIA’s best analysts and the Russian assassin sent to kill him, Kirill (Karl Urban).
The Bourne Supremacy is a far superior film to Identity, in almost every way. In terms of narrative tenacity, refusal to “dumb down” to audiences, and an unwillingness to kowtow to Hollywood style, Supremacy slays its predecessor for not only pacing, but action hutzpah as well. Treading well away from Robert Ludlum’s book of the same name, this Supremacy has Bourne on what appears to be a revenge-quest, after the shocking early sequence death of Franka Potente’s Marie, who made it through the entirety of Identity with barely a scratch, only to be killed here. It’s a shocking moment of reality for Bourne – and for us, the audience – in that it instantly raises the stakes enormously. With Marie’s death, all bets are now off. Anyone can die, since the franchise obviously isn’t scared to write out fan-favorite characters.
From there, it’s a “right, that’s it” moment for Bourne, as he takes the fight to the CIA, now led by Joan Allen’s Landy, replacing Identity’s Chris Cooper as the “pursuer” of the film. Side note: Cooper appears in an uncredited reprisal of his Conklin character, in flashbacks for Bourne. Allen makes Landy a ball-busting spy chief, taking no crap and asking the highest of everyone she works with. Brian Cox, meanwhile, is simpering as Abbott, trying to save his skin through internal subterfuge with the CIA, and his personality clashes with Landy make for interesting viewing. Watch out for Julia Stiles (as Nicky) and Gabriel Mann, reprising their Identity roles as well, as a former Parisian-based agent and a Langley operative respectively, while sharp-eyed viewers will also spot Michelle Monaghan, in a small role as one of Landy’s team. Aussie actor Marton Csokas, Celeborn in Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy, appears in a scene as another former Treadstone operative, while Karel Roden makes the least of a cliched Russian businessman role, giving orders to Karl Urban’s assassin Kirill. Urban makes a menacing and unflappable Bad Guy. As the antagonistic Kirill, he forces Bourne to act, rather than simply react to what’s going on. It marks a more aggressive role for Urban, who was then also playing Eomer in Lord Of The Rings as well.
But it’s Matt Damon who leads the way here, as Bourne. While the character isn’t really stretched emotionally throughout much of the film, at least in terms of dialogue or development of backstory (save for some nice work early with Potente’s Marie), he gives Bourne a resolute determination that will have you grinning wildly as he takes it up to the CIA. He routinely outwits the smartest of America’s foreign intelligence agency, in order to get the information he needs to bring things to a head. His kidnapping of Nicky from a crowded Alexanderplatz in Berlin, and subsequent interrogation of her, makes him seem on the edge of cracking under pressure, but it’s more desperation to succeed than anything else. His baiting of Landy, usually spying on her from a window across the street, provides a few nice laughs, but generally, Bourne is all business.
Paul Greengrass has a divisive visual style. His use of hand-held cameras and the “shaky cam” method excites some, and annoys many. Supremacy follows the same kind of visual aesthetic than Bloody Sunday had, and the director would keep it going with United 93’s loosey-goosey style, and once again with The Bourne Ultimatum. Some will enjoy this kind of madness, other will not – me, I’m in the former. I think Greengrass’s style works perfectly for Bourne’s zig-zagging adventures, his rapid-cut, hyper-edited action sequences giving a hard-hitting energy to these moments, while his sneaky, half-hidden camera during more intimate and dialogue-driven moments offer some nice nuance to otherwise perfunctory CIA-procedural moments. I should also note, John Powell’s fantastic score remains one of the best action-work I’ve ever heard – it’s still on rotation in my car, truth be told, even a decade on from release – and serves up some magnificently exciting bomp-bomp-pum-pum action beats.
Easily the best moment of the film is the final breathtaking car chase. Albeit utterly ludicrous and unbelievable (which is weird, considering how realistic the Bourne franchise prides itself on being), the final chase through Moscow’s streets by Bourne, Kirill and the Russian cops is just gobsmacking. It goes on, on and on, with wreckage and debris strewn across half of the city as Bourne makes a run for it. If there was ever a scene that saw people using cars as weapons, this fifteen minute masterpiece of action editing and sonic fury is it. Again, John Powell score amps up the tension and energy with scintillating verve, as Broune throws his stolen taxicab around oncoming traffic and into freewheeling, death-defying (and logic-shredding) action.
The Bourne Supremacy is terrific action entertainment. The story twists and turns, Jason Bourne delivers plenty of cool “moments”, and the film’s style brings with it a heightened reality that works for the story rather than against it; if you like things fast, frantic and filled with cross-continental espionage action, this is the film for you. An absolute belter.