THE BOURNE SUPREMACY
****1/2 (out of 5)
July 23, 2004
Matt Damon as JASON BOURNE
Franka Potente as MARIE
Brian Cox as WARD ABBOTT
Karl Urban as KIRILL
Julia Stiles as NICKY
Joan Allen as PAMELA LANDY
Directed by: Paul Greengrass
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Apparently Matt Damon has more in him than just “Good Will Hunting.” Since his breakout performance as a writer and actor, it has been fun to watch the tennis match of fame between Damon and his boyhood friend Ben Affleck. Originally when “Good Will Hunting” came out, Damon was the hot name and Affleck was just “the other guy.” But after “Armageddon,” a starring role in “Pearl Harbor” and some critical acclaim for “Chasing Amy,” Affleck became the ticket.
While this was happening, Damon was sinking at the box office in roles like “Titan A.E.” and “All the Pretty Horses.” However, now Affleck has some bombs under his belt (need we remind ourselves about last year’s turkey “Gigli”?) and an embarrassing tabloid history with J-Lo. Damon, however, has finally linked himself to what can become a successful franchise. To compete, Affleck fans are probably crossing their fingers in hopes that he returns sometime soon as the young Jack Ryan.
“The Bourne Supremacy” takes off pretty much where “The Bourne Identity” left off. Jason Bourne and his girlfriend Marie (Franka Potente) are living a quiet life in India. However, Bourne is still suffering from flashbacks and dreams about his life as a black ops assassin. When a CIA job is botched in Berlin with some clues pointing to Bourne – and a mysterious assassin starts paying visits to Bourne’s new hideaway – Bourne goes off the handle. He had warned the government to leave him alone. Now, he’s calling the shots and hunting the hunters.
Sure, you’d be better off following the plot if you rent “The Bourne Identity” first, but it is not that hard to follow without this. If you haven’t seen the first film at all, it helps to understand who Jason Bourne is (or as much as he knows, at least) and it makes sense when they start referencing things that happened earlier.
“The Bourne Supremacy” is a sharp, intelligent thriller that expertly mixes international espionage with a revenge story. (And we have all seen how revenge stories have been doing well with films like “Kill Bill.”) There are some great cat-and-mouse moments with the CIA on the tail of Bourne, and it can be a lot of fun to watch him outwit them. There’s a lot of this, in fact. Usually scenes like these in films are only a segment – and often the best segment in there, like last year’s “Out of Time.” But the chase goes on for the better part of half the film, and it keeps up a good pace the whole way.
One thing about “The Bourne Supremacy” that is incredibly refreshing is that the filmmakers set the characters up to be very real. Jason Bourne, while an expertly trained killer, is not the invulnerable super spy like James Bond. He’s not unstoppable, and he gets himself into some pretty nasty scrapes in this film. But he never stoops to cute quips and stupid one-liners.
Damon does an excellent job in the title role, and his supporting cast shines as well. Brian Cox puts out another strong performance as one of the CIA bosses (although it is going to be tough to top his Oscar-worthy role as Agamemnon in the otherwise lame “Troy”). Julia Stiles turns out a surprisingly solid performance as a former member of Bourne’s black-ops team. We actually see some acting out of her instead of just plodding through the motions.
But the strongest supporting role comes from Joan Allen as CIA boss Pamela Landy. Too often, Allen is cast by type in matronly roles such as “Pleasantville” and “Face/Off,” and it is this film that shows that she has so much more to offer. Ironically, she looks the best in this role as well, although the clear attempt is to make her the no-nonsense boss type. But she takes a relatively standard part and breathes some life into, making it her own.
Now, I can’t speak for all those Robert Ludlum fans out there. I don’t know how true this film (or it’s predecessor) is to the original novels. I would imagine that they’re about as faithful as your average James Bond adaptation, for that matter. But let us not forget that the majority of moviegoers haven’t read the books either. Sadly, in this day and age, the best we can hope for is a good film, and “The Bourne Supremacy” is a good film. If it happens to be true to the book, that’s a plus, but do we ever really expect that sort of thing from Hollywood?