Entertainment » Movies

The Bourne Supremacy

by David Foucher
EDGE Publisher
Friday Jul 23, 2004
The Bourne Supremacy

In Jason Bourne, Matt Damon may have found the perfect expression of hyper-intelligence and dark introspection ? a seeming trademark of his theatrical sensibilities. Tied to a spy/hero in an espionage thriller, his unique characterization of Bourne propelled ?The Bourne Identity? to a surprising box office success in 2002. The sequel arrives this summer in the form of Paul Greenglass? ?The Bourne Supremacy? ? and in a new twist for the aged Hollywood story of film sequels, it?s just as good, and perhaps better, than its progenitor.

Proceeding from the resolution of ?Identity,? ?Supremacy? picks up the story of the amnesiac assassin, who in this film continues to put together pieces of his splintered past as he embarks on a mission not of exploration? but of revenge. Bourne is implicated in the deaths of two CIA operatives; the immediate results being a Russian conspiracy to prevent his ever proving himself innocent, and the determined reopening of Treadstone, the covert operation which spawned him as a trained killer. Everyone seems after him ? especially CIA agent Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) ? and as he plumbs closer and closer to the truth of his past and the actions required for him to atone for it, the antagonism of killers and double agents seeking his death rises to a cacophony.

It?s quite a ride, folks. Greengrass adds the fresh approach of ?Bloody Sunday? to the burgeoning franchise, building pressure with tremendous skill while presenting each action sequence not just with cinematic flair ? but significantly with an intent to make it seem unscripted. He covers every moment of the film from a myriad of angles, intercutting them jarringly as if we?re watching a series of surveillance cameras. The effect is displacing, removed just enough from classic film metaphor to lend a remarkable realism to the work. Moreover, each sequence of narrow escapes and interwoven stresses mounts to the next, such that by the conclusion of the film you?re exhausted from the mere experience. It?s been years since we?ve seen a film so daringly manipulative of its audience, so self-aware that it has the power to harness, within a mere car crash, the nail-biting dramatic urgency of an explosion ten times its force in any other film.

For his part, Damon?s fitted role lends him, despite the obvious physical exertions required, the ability to effortlessly act within his own skin. Bourne?s complexities are a joy to watch unfold, and his emotions, when they are able to scuttle past the hard palate of his defensive machinations, as organic as one could want. Writer Tony Gilroy deserves praise for this intricate balancing act, yet more so for the story?s departure from Robert Ludlum?s source material. And the entire cast benefits: Franka Potente reprises her role of Marie from the first film, Brian Cox re-emanates as the CIA heavy, Julia Stiles joins as the Treadstone veteran Nicky, and a whole new lot of complex individuals circles to the fore as the story evolves. And Allen, playing the usual thankless role of the female agent, manages ala Jodie Foster to yank from the material a performance which is far more than perfunctory.

But what?s so damn enjoyable about the ?Bourne? films is their humble ? and rare ? assumption that the audience is more than the sum of their wallets. It?s eminently risky filmmaking, fast and furiously intelligent, refreshingly courageous, and ultimately gratifying in its coercion of the audience to viciously participate in its efforts, rather than just watch them. They?re just great films ? and it?s shocking, given the status of American film as one of our most significant exports, how precious few of them can attain to that adjective.

David Foucher is the CEO of the EDGE Media Network and Pride Labs LLC, is a member of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalist Association, and is accredited with the Online Society of Film Critics. David lives with his daughter in Dedham MA.

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