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The Bourne Supremacy ****
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Jason Bourne:  Matt Damon
Pamela Landy:  Joan Allen
Ward Abbott:  Brian Cox
Directed by Paul Greengrass

"It was like this when I found it. I swear."

     The Bourne Supremacy is not unlike a car wreck and certainly as jarring with its fast pace and sock to the mouth editing. But after I walked away from the car wreck, my head still spinning, I was ready to get in line to have it spun again.

     At the end of The Bourne Identity, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), an amnesiac CIA assassin and his girlfriend Marie (Franke Potente) where embracing in paradise, having survived a number of death defying action sequences. With Bourne’s enemies dead and CIA project Treadstone forgotten, they seemed destined to live quietly ever after. But people never really live quietly ever after when one of them is an amnesiac CIA assassin.

     Supremacy picks up where Identity left off (the obvious move) and decides to shake Bourne’s life up yet again. I just didn’t expect Supremacy to shake him up as much as it did. This time, he knows who he is, but he can’t seem to get a handle on why the CIA won’t leave him alone.

     The answer is known early to the viewer, but kept dangling in front of Bourne for longer than what I thought possible. Someone has killed two CIA operatives and framed Bourne for it. While the CIA is more than eager to put on a enthusiastic manhunt for Bourne, the man who framed him is on his own hunt to kill Bourne. So, Bourne has to clear his name and walk away from the ensuing action. The last part is harder than it would at first appear.

     Identity was a great action film, notable for its classic car chase, farmhouse showdown between assassins, and a bit with a staircase that left me staring at the screen in sweet disbelief. It was a great spy film too. Picturesque European counties, passports, aliases and agents. There were tense agency operatives constantly grasping at the straws Bourne breathlessly left them with.

     Supremacy employs many of the same things and can be likened to the sibling of its predecessor, but it is different enough in execution to allow me to love both films for different reasons.

     Identity will never be confused with subtlety, but it does not employ the editing and break neck pace of Supremacy that amounts to a shock to the senses. Some will feel nauseous when they partake of Supremacy’s handheld camera work and split-second editing, but I loved every minute of it. I was constantly in a daze, but alas, it was a gloriously stylized daze.

     Damon again steps outside that choir boy label that he has gotten, but never really earned with a brooding stare and quiet menace.  Bourne broods a lot in Supremacy, but Damon seats the angst in rage and when it all boils over, you believe it.  Bourne gets shot, kicked, punched, jabbed, and hobbled in Supremacy and Damon sells it so you have to buy. He’s not invincible, just the best at what he does - Damon (as action hero) and Bourne (as killer).

     I could talk for a long time about the supporting cast, but I won’t. Nobody is spectacular, but everyone is perfect for what they have to do. It’s not their show. It’s Damon’s. They support. He leads.

     Part of the genius of the Bourne franchise is it boils the spy thriller down to what it should be: sparse, good dialogue and climatic action set pieces. It may seem like everyone is talking a lot, but they’re not. They tell you what you need to know and then the characters move on. None of it is generic or dry. You won’t hear Bourne spew a catch phrase after he finishes off a baddie.

     The story is good and involving enough, but new director Paul Greengrass (Bloody Sunday) also knows how to stage a great action sequence. He takes a new approach to directing action and the differences between his style and that of Doug Liman’s style for the first film are what truly set them apart. I didn’t think Greengrass could top the car chase from The Bourne Identity and he doesn’t. Nor does he try to. He makes his own classic scene in his own way.

     I cannot avoid the trap of comparing the two films.  In truth, I think The Bourne Identity is superior, but that does not stop Supremacy from displaying its superiority over the slew of other genre films.

     Bourne has been called a new breed of action hero in ads for the franchise, but I can’t really buy that. He’s not new, just preferred.


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