The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
Starring: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Brian Cox, Julia Stiles, Karl Urban, Gabriel Mann, Joan Allen, Marton Csokas
Directed by: Paul Greengrass
I’ll admit, when I first saw The Bourne Supremacy in theatres, I didn’t really like it all that much. I was entertained enough by it, but had major misgivings on director Paul Greengrass‘ use of handheld shaky cam shots and the clinical, impersonal feel of the whole affair in comparison to its predecessor, 2002’s excellent The Bourne Identity. Until recently, I hadn’t rewatched The Bourne Supremacy in full partially as a result of my ambivalence from my first viewing. But, despite those feelings, I was still reasonably looking forward to the third installment in the series (The Bourne Ultimatum), so I decided it time to revisit the sequel to see how it held up and remind myself of where super-spy Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) last left off.
I’m glad I did, because it is MUCH better than I remember. The shaky cam effect isn’t as disorienting when its not on a 50-foot screen, allowing the effect to provide tension instead of nausea. More than that, with a second viewing I was able to truly appreciate what Greengrass was able to do with the movie, instead of focusing on what was missing from Doug Liman‘s original entry in the series. Greengrass’ Supremacy is a tightly wound thriller, with no wasted motion or effort. It takes on the characteristics of its hero, who proves himself a deathly efficient weapon, extremely focused on his objective.
It makes for an interesting take on the action hero, with Damon playing Bourne with the steely determination of a silent killer. With an emphasis on silent. On one hand, Damon’s ability to put us into his character with few words and no theatrics is unique and interesting, as is Greengrass’ ability to convey exposition without dialogue. It’s also a more realistic take on Bourne as an assassin. But… not having anyone to talk to for most of the movie does make Bourne far less engaging a character from the first movie, where a large part of the appeal came from the vulnerability Damon was able to inject inbetween kickass fight scenes and car chases.
Luckily, this movie is PACKED with kickass fight scenes and car chases, made all the more kickass by the fact that Jason Bourne isn’t fucking around this time out. You want badass? In Supremacy, he fights a knife-wielding assassin with a rolled up magazine. But, as highly trained as Bourne is, the movie does a good job showing that he’s not invulnerable: not only does he still have to deal with his broken mind and the guilt over his past actions, but he also takes a fair beating in the movie and develops the limp to prove it. Greengrass is big on cinéma vérité-style of filming, and that realistic mindset permeates throughout this action blockbuster.
As with The Bourne Identity, this movie proves the franchise to be a thinking man’s action movie. The Bourne Supremacy may lack some of the excitement and personality of the original, but is just as accomplished a film. Here’s hoping The Bourne Ultimatum can continue the momentum and not the current trend of disappointing third entries in a franchise.