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The Bourne Supremacy

Of course, Jason Bourne wasn't just going to go away. Not that he didn't want to — after he found himself stricken with amnesia, learned he was a highly skilled CIA assassin, and quickly discovered that everyone associated with the controversial "Treadstone" black-op wanted him captured or dead. After surviving the events chronicled in The Bourne Identity (2002), all Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) wanted to do was disappear — again — and this time with the only person in the world he trusted, Marie (Franka Potente). But even though India is thousands of miles from Berlin, two events pull Bourne back in the game — a hit is put out on his life, and a CIA-run arms-for-sale sting goes haywire when the target is murdered. Senior field agent Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) is irate that her op was blown apart so badly, and after some digging it's determined that none other than Jason Bourne was behind the assassination. Bourne, of course, knows better — he barely escaped a bullet himself in India, which he's convinced was sent courtesy of the Treadstone program. While Landy grills former Treadstone chief Ward Abbot (Brian Cox) about Bourne's identity and possible whereabouts, Bourne himself returns to Europe, determined to take the fight directly to Landy herself in a cat-and-mouse game that criss-crosses the continent. But what neither of them know is that they're both wrong — a traitor is hiding among their ranks, carefully plotting his own agenda.

The Bourne Identity was a surprise blockbuster in 2002, delivering a taut, intricate, well-paced thriller with a charismatic cast led by Matt Damon, and the only criticism one can lob at The Bourne Supremacy (2004) is that it's more of the same — which means that Damon delivers a performance with the same laconic intensity, the substantial production budget is on the screen, and the plot clicks and whirrs for two hours with the precision of a sleek Swiss clock. Which, perhaps is to suggest that there's something about the Bourne franchise that's a bit mechanical, a bit impersonal. Of course, the lead character is a man of few words, with no personal history, and he's given very little time to win our sympathy while dodging assassins and spooks at every turn. But Jason Bourne also is the sort of role that only a bona fide movie star can fill, and Matt Damon is one of the few actors today who can make audiences believe in his inherent humanity with little more than a glance, a look, a gesture (it's the same natural charisma that won him his pivotal role in Saving Private Ryan while still virtually unknown). Audiences want to root for him while knowing very little of him — and perhaps that's one of the secrets of this franchise's success. Changing directors didn't hurt, although some folks might think going in that Doug Liman returned to his spot behind the camera. Instead, Paul Greengrass (Bloody Sunday, 2002) takes the helm for his first big-budget action picture (as did Liman), and his penchant for hand-held verité cinematography, combined with the script's built-in kinetic energy, drives individual scenes at a sometimes frenetic pace — like action-master Tony Scott, Greengrass is a restless cinematographer (although Scott paints on a broader canvas). As with the previous film, the cast is superb, with Franka Potente and Julia Stiles reprising their roles, while Brian Cox is note-perfect as a CIA burnout who seems to be running on fumes at the end of a long, tattered career. And Joan Allen is surprisingly effective as the no-nonsense agent who's determined to flush Bourne from the tall grass — one suspects her icy character will collapse under the strain, but she proves to be as tough as her adversary, if not quite as ingenious.

*          *          *

Universal's DVD release of The Bourne Supremacy features a solid anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Supplements include a feature-length commentary from director Paul Greengrass, numerous featurettes ("Matching Identities: Casting," "Keeping It Real," "Blowing Things Up," "On the Move with Jason Bourne," "Bourne to be Wild: Fight Training," "Crash Cam: Racing Through the Streets of Moscow," "The Go-Mobile Revs up the Action," "Scoring with composer John Powell") five deleted scenes on one reel (7 min.), and cast-and-crew notes. Keep-case.
—JJB



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