The Bourne Supremacy (2004)

Directed by Paul Greengrass

The second of the movies that make up the Jason Bourne trilogy, The Bourne Supremacy is as good as the other two but suffers from being the middle child — a bit neglected; a bit taken for granted.

Yet it grabs and holds our attention from start to finish, just as the other two do.

Like all the films in the Bourne series, it is characterized by intelligence — both the film’s and the intelligence it gives an audience credit for having. These art smart films.

Following up on its very successful predecessor, The Bourne Identity, this second film has a bigger budget and it shows.

Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in Moscow.

But rather than use that larger budget in the usual showy way, it uses it smartly. It has more name actors and more “not the usual” locations (a bit like a Bond film that way).

Yet it knows that a good deal of the original’s success lay in its independent look; in its low budget appearance. What it really does is put a Hollywood gloss over that look making it more palatable to a general audience while also using the virtues of an independent look — like cameras and camera work.

The Bourne Supremacy picks up where the first film left off. Jason and Marie have gone “off the grid.” They are living, hopefully anonymously, in Goa, India. The movie starts as they have been living their lives there for a time. It begins just when they are found.

Jason Bourne with Nicky (Julia Stiles) who returns in The Bourne Supremacy.

An assassin has come to Goa to kill Jason while in Berlin one of his fingerprints is placed at a crime to frame him for a killing.

The attempt on his life is made; it’s Marie who is killed. And the movie is underway.

As the movie progresses, it is held together by several threads. First, there is Jason’s focus on discovering who is behind all this and what and who he is that makes him their target.

There is also his need to break through his amnesia and discover his true identity, together with his growing belief that he is a killer. The balance between these generate the drama and the action. Although a victim, he does not behave like one. Though he is being sought, he is also seeking those looking for him.

Joan Allen as Pamela Landy and Brian Cox as Ward Abbott.

The movie also pulls in other characters to add to the mix.

Brian Cox returns and takes centre stage as Ward Abbott, the primary reason Jason is a target and a man slowly coming apart as his conspiracy begins falling apart. His world is unraveling.

The person doing the unraveling is Joan Allen as Pamela Landy, a top investigator in the same agency as Abbott.

She begins tracking the evidence that points to Jason Bourne but understands quickly that there is something more here. She goes after it with an intensity of focus that is almost equal to Jason’s.

She also plays another role in the film. With Marie being eliminated in the first act, Damon’s Jason has no one on his side. Allen’s Landy steps into this role and their relationship, not romantic as it was with Marie and at a distance given their respective roles, is a key element in the movie.

Pamela Landy is nothing of not intense and focused.

As with all the movies in the series, The Bourne Supremacy is peppered with fast cutting, a great deal of hand held camera work and high contrast images.

The result, apart from giving it that independent feel, is to make the action feel immediate. It almost literally places the audience in the centre of the action and communicates the adrenalin rush that is characteristic of all the movies.

All the films in the Bourne series are tremendous examples of action-adventure movies. They contain a conspiracy, a tormented hero and are fast, fast, fast.

Damon is running from beginning to end in all three. (In the opening scenes in India, even though he believes he and Marie are safe, we still see Jason running — this time on a beach to stay fit. His constant running is a nice image for what he is doing psychologically — running both to and from his dark past.)

Action movies simply do not get better than this. The Bourne Supremacy easily stands alone as a good movie on its own but is also a more than worthy bridge between the first movie, The Bourne Identity, and the last, The Bourne Ultimatum.

It’s a great middle child and well worth seeing. Several times.

The Jason Bourne Trilogy:

  • The Bourne Identity (2002)
  • The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
  • The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

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