DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: THE BOURNE SUPREMACY

Sunday, 12 August 2007


The Bourne Supremacy (2005) dir. Paul Greengrass
Starring: Matt Damon, Joan Allen, Brian Cox


"The Bourne Ultimatum" rocks. Let's look back at “The Bourne Supremacy” which is also one of the best-ever sequels. “The Bourne Identity” which came before it, docks right into the second part perfectly. It continues the saga of super assassin Jason Bourne as he slowly uncovers the memories of his sordid past. With a new director the film is kicked up a notch and provides one of the most intense action films ever.

The plot is quite complicated and it takes acute attention to keep track of the names, dates, locations and timeline of the events. When we last left Bourne he escaped the clutches of the CIA and met up with his new girlfriend Marie. Part II opens in Goa India where the couple has fled to start a new humble life of exile. But a mysterious Russian agent shows up looking for Bourne. With his cover blown Bourne is forced back into the mix.

In Berlin Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) is heading up a CIA sting operation to uncover a mole, when things go awry and an unknown assassin kills her team, Bourne and the defunct Treadstone operation from the first film is to blame. The only way Bourne can get to the bottom of the mystery is to put himself in harms way and confront the original Treadstone operators face-to-face. But with Conklin dead, it’s Ward Abbott (Brian Cox) who silently holds the strings and is the one accountable.

In fact, all three films feel like one film. Chris Cooper’s character, Conklin, who died in the first film, is like a ghost character and is still very much important to the story. He is continually referenced and seen partially in Bourne’s flashbacks. It’s a testament to the material that would bring Cooper back for what is a thankless and unglamorous role. As well Greengrass is sure to cast Gabriel Mann as Danny Zorn, and Julia Stiles as Nicky, characters with little effect to the film, but is still important to the big picture of the Bourne world.

One of the character throughlines for Bourne is his need for redemption. With his memory gone, as a new man, he looks upon his time as a killer with contempt. He has the skills to do the job, but he’s reluctant and he now performs out of necessity. At the very end we receive a nice surprise in Moscow which relates to the first flashback we saw at the beginning of the film. He has attempted to correct one mistake from the past, even if it puts himself in harms way.

The Bourne Trilogy essentially makes the traditional Bond and “Die Hard” franchises obsolete. Where those films rely on artificial storytelling to fill in the gaps between action scenes, in Bourne the action, dialogue, montages and set ups all meld together naturally. Everything happens organically as opposed to the staged set pieces of those other films. In a Bourne film you don’t release you’re in an action scene until midway through the action. The tension, suspense and pace are kept up through the whole film which removes that disconnect between action and story.

This is due to the direction of Doug Liman in Part I and Paul Greengrass in Parts II and III. Greengrass gets down and dirty with the camera in real locations, real people, real cars. No green screen or digital cars or rear projections. The camera and the audience are part of the action. Like a rollercoaster ride. Of course, that’s a style Greengrass developed in previous films like “Bloody Sunday” and the British TV movie “The Murder of Stephen Lawrence”. It’s always described as a documentary-like approach, which is true, but his style goes beyond that. Greengrass knows his pacing and shoots enough film for him and his brilliant editors to control the pace with supreme manipulative skill. Credit also goes to the unsung music of John Powell, he uses a drum and base style rhythm that’s fresh and modern. Listen to the music in the final car chase. It changes gears like Bourne changes gears in his car. The music in the scene gets faster and faster and climaxes at the final crash in the tunnel. Then there’s silence. Meanwhile I’m out of breath.

It was a bold but smart choice by the producers to bring in Greengrass. With no action film experience, when it was announced who was directing the second part, I was shocked. But being a fan of “Bloody Sunday”, I knew there was potential for it to be something special. We’re all grateful for that. Thank you, Frank Marshall. Enjoy.

Buy it here: The Bourne Supremacy (Widescreen Edition)

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