A no bullshit, intelligent thriller - with (triple joy)
no (noticeable) CG. I can forgive wire removal and the FX
that never call attention to themselves but this slick,
impressive sequel manages to thrill without a single altered
pixel. The Bourne Supremacy is a movie
that treats its audience with respect and earns it back
effortlessly. Matt Damon's too all-American smile is condemned
to a single past times happy snapshot with his live-in girlfriend
(the impressive Franka Potente of Lola Rennt fame).
This is Damon as an automaton, a highly trained killer and
he's the bee's knees. As a leading man, he must have had
the fewest lines to learn since Mel Gibson's iconic but
monosyllabic turn in The Road Warrior but
Damon's body language and demeanour are pitch perfect. It's
so much easier to regard American square jawed heroes with
a laughable contempt but Damon does such an impressive job
that I was sold. This is practical secret agentship, not
Bondian wave surfing fantasy.
what crisis nudges Bourne out of his hiding place, nestled
in with Lola in Goa in India? A Russian assassin is working
to frame him, kill him and have the CIA running in circles
trying to find the 'dead' killer. In an unusually clumsy
bit of exposition, we are asked to believe that a super-spy
would leave a fat, juicy thumbprint on a bomb that was never
meant to go off. It's the only wrong foot The Bourne
Supremacy makes. As the assassin catches up with
the tortured but seemingly content Bourne in India, he misses
his literal shot. The miss (and what he hits) leads to one
of the most haunting images of loss I've seen in a cinema
for many years. As 'inciting incidents' go (as our screenwriting
gurus would have us believe), it’s hard to top.
then on Bourne has his own mission; find out what the hell's
going on whilst trying to remember his past wiped clean
in the previous movie. The film's style is Bourne
Identity x 3. The camerawork is faux-verité,
always edgy, moving around, no line of frame ever truly
locked down. It's an urgency that works. The editing doesn't
make any nods to specific continuity (jump cuts abound)
but - and this is the important thing - the narrative is
crystal clear. The shots that are cut in to make us understand
how or why something is happening are mere frames, not even
full seconds but do they work. Bourne is visiting a hotel
room where significant events took place. He ascertains
that the authorities are on to him from seeing flickering
shadows under the hotel room's door-frame. It's such a brief
shot but it allows us to hang on the coat tails of a movie
that is always moving just that bit faster than its audience.
Watching the film is a constant reward of the chilled drink
after exercise when you've been led to believe it would
CIA contact is played by Joan Allen. I admit I sat in the
cinema speed-dialling my memory trying to figure out where
I had seen that chiselled, beautiful face before and in
what context. Then it hit me. Joan Allen and Brian Cox had
appeared in another movie though had played no scenes together.
It's definitely an Outsider movie – Manhunter...
Cox played Hannibal Lector and Joan Allen was Reba, the
blind girl who turned a monster into a man. In Bourne,
she attempts to turn a trained assassin back into a man,
a man called David Webb, his name before the US government
chose to wipe the hard disc and reformat.
Bourne Supremacy globetrots. I mean, before you've
been slightly patronised with the subtitle 'London, England'
or my favourite 'New York, New York', you are whisked to
another continent. This gives me hope for US education.
After being bombarded with terrifying statistics like 11%
of Americans own passports or President (Governor at best)
Bush had never visited a country pre-presidency, outside
the US, it makes a warm body feel good that other nations
exist albeit in celluloid form. Europe is brought to life.
I mean even Germany is brought to life and for an American
film I see this as an extraordinary feat of recognition.
"Look, Ma, them's other folk in other places."
visits another Bourne-like assassin. For a fleeting moment
during their brutal fight, I flashed on 'Red' Grant's tussle
with a certain James Bond on the Orient Express. The fact
that I mention that epic scrap in the same paragraph should
convince that I was impressed with the fight. It even echoed Torn Curtain – how hard is it to kill a
man? Two expert killers trying their mojo on each other,
each man able to parry or deflect any move each would make.
It was brutal and as a moviegoer, eminently satisfying.
As Quentin once said "People love violence in movies."
Who'd have thought that one of the chief purveyors of violence
in the movies would be named 'Quentin'? In my high school,
that was the sort of name that got your face intimately
acquainted with the ground part of the playground.
Paul Greengrass does a superlative job making a film that
simply is a thriller, revels in its straightforwardness
and delivers in almost every department. If the Bourne series
can maintain such high standards, there's no reason to believe
that subsequent episodes would simply pale… Bring
on the Bournes.