Posted: 07/23/2004


The Bourne Supremacy


by Del Harvey

Matt Damon returns in a superior sequel.

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In the first film, The Bourne Identity, we were introduced to the character of Jason Bourne, a pseudonym for a spy the sea seemed to have birthed one dark and stormy night. That film was very uneven, in large part due to the director (Doug Liman), whose handling of the story appropriately focused on character, but who lacked the proper ability with action scenes. Mostly, I speak of the hugely disappointing chase sequence, touted in advertisements as one to rival the classic chase scene in The French Connection. Well, that film was a long time ago, and it was a definitive sequence, and as we all know, if you brag about something, you’d better be ready to back it up. Unfortunately, Bourne Identity was unable to live up to its claims. However, the film did serve to introduce us to the character of Jason Bourne, a young man who is discovered floating at sea, seriously wounded and his memory gone. Eventually he comes to realize he must have been an agent in a very clandestine American agency, and that someone wants him dead. His instincts for survival are very good, so he is able to overcome his adversaries. He even manages to develop a relationship with a hostage, Marie (Franka Potente), and together they escape to some foreign hideaway. And that is how we end the first film.

In The Bourne Supremacy, the film opens with Bourne keeping a journal of his nightmares, per Marie’s urgings. It’s been over two years since the events of the first film, and Bourne and Marie seem to have settled into a semi-idyllic routine. We cutaway to a covert operation in Berlin; a rogue element intercedes in an otherwise routine transaction between an undercover operative and an underground dealer in illegal documents. The two are killed and their goods — money and documents — are stolen. The rogue agent left behind a small bomb which did not detonate and a distinct thumbprint from Jason Bourne. Now the C.I.A. wants to know why its former agent has resurfaced and why he has interjected himself into this particular illegal transaction.

The same rogue agent travels to India, where our couple is in hideout, and Jason’s antennae go wild when he senses this new creature in his environment, and he rightly decides their cover has been blown and must flee immediately. The rogue chases after them and shoots at their vehicle, hitting Marie and causing the car to crash through a bridge rail and into a river, where Bourne struggles to save Marie from the sinking vehicle.

Thinking he has killed Jason Bourne once and for all, the rogue returns to his employer and collects his fee. In the meantime, Bourne wants to know why they have come after him and, against Marie’s protests, decides to resurface and find out just what in Hell is going on.

This film, as its title suggests, is leaps and bounds superior to its predecessor. If Identity is considered simply a stage-setting piece, then all of that build up is delivered in Supremacy. Bourne wants to know why the C.I.A. have come back for him; he wants to know who he is and why; he is on a mission of self-discovery and along the way he will solve the riddle of what caused him to lose his memory in the first place and how he can resolve the situation. There is more than enough tense action to go around, and it is tightly woven together by director Paul Greenglass, who reportedly was dying to get his hands on the project. We should be thankful that his wish was granted, because this film is everything the first film should have been, and much more. This is one of the best spy thrillers to hit the screens in a very long time, and very much worth seeing on the big screen.

In addition to Matt Damon’s return as Jason Bourne, and Franka Potente as Marie, several others from the first film also reprise their roles; Brian Cox as the elder spy Abbott — truly a worm turned, and Julia Stiles as Nicky, the young C.I.A. administrative worker who was very frightened by what she had gotten herself into. Newcomers include Joan Allen as the new C.I.A. Deputy Director who takes up the hunt for Bourne, and Karl Urban as the cold-as-ice Russian assassin who pushes all of Bourne’s nasty buttons.

Incidentally, there is a lengthy chase sequence in this film which packs as much intensity and suspense as anything since The French Connection (including one of my favorites, Ronin). Thank goodness they decided not to brag about it this time; you’ll be very pleased when you see it.

Damon is in top form and with this role cements his ability, in this reviewer’s estimation, to portray a four-star leading man. The Bourne Supremacy is a hot action hit, and I recommend it highly.

Del Harvey has been a fan of Mr. Thompson’s since college.

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