Bourne Supremacy, The

Reviewed By MP Bartley
Posted 09/03/04 23:54:57

"Memo To Bond: Somebody's Doing It Better Than You."
5 stars (Awesome)

"Nobody does it better" sang Carly Simon about James Bond in 'The Spy Who Loved Me', and I'm all for agreeing with her. I'm a huge James Bond fan and proud of it, and if the series has been coasting of late it's simply because no-one is doing it better. 'xXx' tried and failed miserably while Jack Ryan just isn't sexy enough to take our affections. But Bond had better start to buck his ideas up because there's a new kid in town and he's taking your crown.

'The Bourne Identity' was one of those great sleeper flicks that doesn't sound promising (an amnesiac secret agent? Matt Damon as an action hero?) but turned out to be an unexpected treat. It was a superior flick but still one that I didn't think would support a sequel. But whaddya know? Along comes 'The Bourne Supremacy' which is up there with the very best that Bond has to offer.

The last we saw of Jason Bourne he had escaped the authorities and his old CIA employers and was living in Goa with girlfriend Marie. His happiness is soon shattered however when he's dragged back into his old life. The CIA have been stung in Berlin with the result of losing two agents and 3 million dollars. Whose fingerprints are all over the crime scene? Bournes. So now he has to take the fight to them to clear his name whilst avoiding the lethal attentions of the hitman really behind the kill (Karl Urban).

Paul Greengrass has taken over from Doug Liman behind the camera and what was seen as an unusual, leftfield choice quickly becomes inspired as 'The Bourne Supremacy' achieves what all great sequels should do: it takes the original, deepens and builds upon it. It isn't simply a re-run of what made the first great (the first at times like 'Spider-Man' - feeling like an extended trailer for a follow up), but it uses it as touchstone to spin its own yarn. And what a yarn Greengrass has woven.

Veering from car chases to brawls to sweaty interrogation scenes to escapes via trains and boats, 'The Bourne Supremacy' doesn't pause for breath for a minute. But it isn't at the expense of the plot either. No, this is one of the most intelligent blockbusters for years, as Greengrass teases the audience along with fresh revelations and twists to keep everyone guessing, as well as Bourne and the CIA, who are constantly trying to second guess each other. There's no set-pieces grafted on top of the screenplay, everything grows organically out of Bourne's mission and purpose.

But when the action does come, it roars out of the blocks. A punch-up in an apartment fizzes brutally and the much talked about car chase at the finale may well be the best since 'The French Connection'. A screeching, pounding, bruising pursuit, it will have the James Bond execs tugging at their neck ties nervously. Greengrass directs like '24' on speed with a constantly jogging camera urging us on and keeping the pace going.

Damon rises to the challenges superbly too. Initially uncomfortable in the original (who wouldn't be playing someone who doesn't know who he is?) he's far more settled here in a tough performance constantly on the edge of bursting into violence. Take a look at scene where a docile Bourne under interrogation explodes into life and wipes out his guards in a few seconds. Throw Damon, Pierce Brosnan and Vin Diesel into a crowded room and I'd happily take bets that it'll be Damon emerging with his reputation intact. Crucially however, he never turns Bourne into a surly muscle-bound brute, but keeps his humanity just peeking out. You can feel the turmoil and inner sadness that Bourne has, not knowing who he truly is but having to fight because of it anyway. Brave Mr. Damon.

There's great support from the returning faces of Franke Potente, Julia Stiles and particularly Brian Cox trading insults with Joan Allen throughout as the two charged with tracking down Bourne. And Urban also makes a successful transition from 'Lord of the Rings' horseman to Eastern European hitman with great conviction.

It remains to be seen whether Jason Bourne can develop into a fully fledged franchise (there's only one remaining book in the series), but in a way it's perhaps best that it doesn't. How many more times can Bourne be pulled back into his old life before it loses its appeal and dilutes the impact of the first and especially the follow up? Because if the first can be compared to 'Spider-Man' then I have no hesitation in declaring 'The Bourne Supremacy' the most exciting film of the year behind 'Spider-Man 2'. And that's a reign supreme.

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