The Bourne Supremacy


Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

The Bourne Supremacy
"Character development is marignalised in favour of chore-like shaky-camera action sequences."

Given the surprising success of The Bourne Identity, it was almost inevitable that a successor would be released sooner or later. Based on Robert Ludlum’s novel, the first installment gave us something different with an involving tale about a hit man suffering from amnesia whilst desparately trying to find out who he really was. He also had a bank account number sewn into his hip.

Regrettably, the follow-up is not nearly as involving and is inferior in almost every department. The action has moved on by two years, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is living off the grid with faithful girlfriend Marie (Franka Potente). After being suddenly attacked by a mysterious killer (Karl Urban) and framed for the murder of a CIA agent, Bourne once again finds himself under the watchful eyes of Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) and former Treadstone boss, Ward Abbott (Brian Cox).

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While The Bourne Identity centered on the fascinating question of who Jason Bourne was and the emotional effect this had on him, the sequel is more concerned with a straightforward revenge plot. Though an early event justifies Bourne being colder and more detached than previously, this means that character development is marignalised in favour of chore-like shaky-camera action sequences.

With regards to the change in directors, the move from Doug Liman to British director Paul Greengrass does offer some positives. He keeps the same cast, uses virtually identical scoring, is fairly flawless when it comes to continuity and the end credits with Moby are an excellent touch. In fact, when you consider a couple of key scenes (Bourne frustrated with nightmares at the opening, his confession to a young Russian girl near the end), The Bourne Supremacy could have ‘done an Empire Strikes Back’.

However, in the words of the song, then it falls apart. The problem is that in between these excellent bookmarks, the action fluff isn’t nearly as engaging as it hopes to be. In very typical contemporary Hollywood fashion, it seems to have the popcorn-pleasing philosophy of “The last movie had a great car chase? Let’s just do one longer and louder!” Sigh.

On the other hand, the cast all deserve some genuine back-patting. Allen is a suitably unlikeable as icy boss Pamela Landy, Julia Stiles makes a welcome return as buttoned-nose Nicky Parson and Urban plays the ‘bad hit man’ with an adequate amount of steely glare. As for Cox, his Ward Abbott is easily the best thing about the movie, with the perfect mix of commanding presence, agenda-hiding menace and verbal jousting (“I’ve shoveled shit on four continents!”).

In the lead role, its not that Damon is bad; it’s just that he is given very little to say and nobody to say his nothing to. While still managing to squeeze out a suitably introverted performance despite the picture’s general lack of dialogue, there is too much screen time dedicated to Bourne walking purposefully, driving, observing and evading. I actually felt sorry for the editing team who had to try to distinguish between all the shots of Damon blending into different crowds in generic clothing.

All in all, despite the many flaws, The Bourne Supremacy is still very competent and will please those looking for an action-orientated thriller where characterisation and plot are merely boxes to be ticked. However, those who loved The Bourne Identity will likely find that the reduction in depth, heart and overall satisfaction leads to something more akin to The Bourne Dissapointment.

Reviewed on: 01 Dec 2008
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The Bourne Supremacy packshot
Amnesic assassin is still on the run from the CIA after being framed for a double murder.
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Read more The Bourne Supremacy reviews:

Angus Wolfe Murray ****1/2

Director: Paul Greengrass

Writer: Tony Gilroy, based on the novel by Robert Ludlum

Starring: Matt Damon, Joan Allen, Franka Potente, Brian Cox, Julia Stiles, Karl Urban, Gabriel Mann, Marton Csokas, Tom Gallop, Karel Roden

Year: 2004

Runtime: 108 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US/Germany


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The Bourne Identity