The Bourne Supremacy
July 27, 2005
Reading about The Bourne Supremacy, or indeed its predecessor The Bourne Identity, chances are you’ll hear the phrase ‘better than Bond’ any number of times and after the lacklustre outings of Pierce Brosnan (after Goldeneye anyway) you quickly begin to agree. As director Paul Greengrass notes on this DVD, Bond is an old-school misogynist yet ironically he defeats his enemies using the latest technology. Jason Bourne is a little more practical, even putting a rolled up magazine to good use when confronted with a knife-wielding assassin.
When it was announced that Go director Doug Liman would be updating Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity for the big screen it came as something of a surprise, replacing Hollywood excess with an indie sensibility that breathed new life into the spy genre. For the sequel this sensibility continues with Paul ‘Bloody Sunday’ Greengrass, who takes great pains to shoot things mostly handheld and messy (shooting a big budget studio-movie like it was made for peanuts was a brave move). At the cinema the wonky camerawork occasionally infuriated (or nauseated) but on DVD the film becomes much more accessible.
A chase leads retired assassin Jason Bourne to believe his old employers at the C.I.A are still trying to find him. Incensed that they won’t leave him alone, he turns the tables and has to find out what slimy Brian Cox and new girl on the block Joan Allen want with him. Bourne starts to learn more about his own past and a certain murder that haunts his dreams. He quickly learns he’s been setup as a fall guy and that a hit man (Karl Urban; Eomer from Lord of The Rings) has been dispatched to obliterate him before he can prove his innocence.
Damon has the perfect balance of movie-star charm and natural intelligence to make Bourne a pleasantly complex hero. He isn’t superhuman (most of his encounters leave him bruised and out of breath) and for half the film he’s wondering around scratching his head. Whereas Bond would simply call in Q for guidance, Bourne is alone and has to use his training to get answers. Witness him pour through the phonebook, phoning hotels for an overheard surname until he finally gets a break and simply drives over there – this is detective work in the real world. Brian Cox gets a meatier role this time around, trying to wipe out Bourne and fend off suspicions from his superiors and even Julia Stiles gets to come back for a bigger bite of the pie (but since she was only in the original movie for five minutes this isn’t exactly hard). The real ace in casting is Joan Allen as Pamela Landy, essentially replacing Chris Cooper as the ‘I want to find Bourne now!’ character.
There are enough story surprises to hold your attention throughout and the action scenes are fast and brutal. What the film lacks in spectacle and gloss it makes up for with intelligence and good writing so don’t be surprised to see this highly successful franchise become a trilogy.
The layout of the bonus features are a little misleading upon first glance. Ten featurettes sounds impressive but these average around five minutes in length. Still, it’s always fun to watch how they blow up buildings and create the stunts (Greengrass states in the ‘Keeping It Real’ section that he hates CGI but ILM are listed in the credits, ho hum). Other topics covered include casting, fight training, location shooting, scoring the movie, the Moscow car chase and a shameless plug for a stunt company’s new driving rig used in the film.
Short as they are, these features admittedly offer quality rather than quantity (Cabin Fever anyone?) and the only real let-down here is the solo commentary by director Paul Greengrass who simply explains the obvious and then drifts into bouts of silence. The rather more loquacious Matt Damon would have been a welcome boost.