The Bourne Supremacy Review
By Joe Lozito
"The Bourne Supremacy", the second adaptation of Robert Ludlum's series of spy thrillers, is the rare sequel that might actually benefit from not having seen its predecessor. That's not to say that this film and 2002's "The Bourne Identity" don't work as a series - they certainly do - it's just that we gain nothing from having seen the first film. In fact the character of Jason Bourne, conceived from the first film as an amnesiac with an assassin's reflexes, is such a cipher that the more we know about him, the less interesting he becomes.
The film is briskly paced and spends no time getting Bourne out of his beautiful retirement beach house with Marie, the love interest from "Identity", played again by Franka Potente. It might have been interesting to see how these two characters interact without someone shooting at them, but the "Bourne" films don't have time for that. At the start of the film, Bourne is framed for a murder in Berlin and has an assassin after him trying to clean up loose ends.
As in the first film, Bourne's instincts immediately kick into gear and he's off and running for the remainer of the film. "Supremacy" is one of those cat-and-mouse spy games in which each character is somehow guessing what the other is up to. "The Hunt For Red October" may have set the standard in this genre. We're supposed to marvel at how clever Bourne is, but for the most part he only seems lucky. For all the globetrotting that goes on in the film (India to Amsterdam to Berlin to Russia), it sure seems like a small world; Bourne is somehow able to find and get the jump on his adversaries within minutes of arriving in a new city. It is, for example, surprisingly easy to track down a CIA agent in Berlin by simply calling all the hotels and asking for her by name. By the end of the film, we've more or less given up trying to figure out how the characters are making their deductions; we just have to take it on faith that somehow everyone knows to go to a specific address in Moscow.
The new director Paul Greengrass ("Bloody Sunday") has apparently never even heard of a master shot, his documentary experience helps add some gritty realism to a point, but when the film turns to its requisite action scenes, Mr. Greengrass' technique becomes a liability. The climactic car chase has the makings of stunner, but, for reasons that become nauseatingly obvious, handheld camera is no way to shoot a chase scene.
The returning cast is back in good form, with the welcome new addition of Joan Allen as an icy CIA director. If Ms. Allen wishes, she could take her place among the ranks of the best spy thriller character actors. Something tells me she probably won't, but at least we'll always have this performance. Ms. Allen's partner in scenery-chewing is the ever-reliable Brian Cox. Mr. Cox bites into some classic hardnosed dialogue, my favorite being: "You're standing in a puddle of shit and you don't have the shoes for it."
Mr. Damon is a sturdy Bourne (he is as stoic as Mr. Cox is bombastic), but even after two movies his character remains little more than a cipher. Most of his scenes are wordless and, except for being roughed up a bit, he always has the upperhand. "Supremacy" may be a little more interesting than "Identity", but it still lacks the stakes of a great spy thriller. Each film is bundled neatly in its own little page-turning package and, while things get messy for a while, you know everything's going to turn out okay in the end. After all, "The Bourne Ultimatum" has yet to be made.