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The Bourne Supremacy

01/09/2004. Contributed by Mark R. Leeper

Buy The Bourne Supremacy in the USA - or Buy The Bourne Supremacy in the UK

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Robert Ludlum's mysterious United States government assassin again returns to the big screen from what some assumed and hoped was death. Again we have a complex plot with twists and doublecrosses. Again the infallible and deadly assassin is pitted against the agency that made him what he is.

CAPSULE: Robert Ludlum's mysterious United States government assassin again returns from what some assumed and hoped was death. Again we have a complex plot with twists and doublecrosses. Again the infallible and deadly assassin is pitted against the agency that made him what he is. Joan Allen and Brian Cox play senior intelligence officials trying to track down the man most dangerous to all sides, the loose cannon agent Bourne. Dizzying editing and camera work will bother some, and the sheer complexity of the telling will confuse more people. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

THE BOURNE SUPREMACY is a sequel to THE BOURNE IDENTITY with Matt Damon again playing Jason Bourne, the enigmatic United States government assassin whose amnesia makes him as mysterious to himself as to anyone else. In some senses Jason Bourne is the thinking man's James Bond. Bourne is very good at what he does for a living. Unlike James Bond there is no evidence that he is good at baccarat, skiing, sky diving, skin diving, or skeet shooting. Beautiful women do not fall at his feet.

The skills he has are those that an assassin really needs. He knows what to do in a fight. He is a good driver when he has to be. His ability to turn objects around him into weapons is intriguing. And most important he can think three moves ahead of his opponent. He makes very few mistakes. But as in the last film his opponents are frequently those from his own organization who made him the way he is.

The story is set against the backdrop of several different countries: the United States, India, Italy, Germany, and Russia. Jason Bourne has gotten away from his old dirty business and has gone into mellow retirement in Goa, India. Like Michael Corleone just when he thought he was out they drag him back in. There is an attempt to kill Bourne and his girlfriend is killed instead.

Why does his old agency not just let sleeping dogs lie? In turns out there is a plot against Bourne that will again get him and the agency stalking each other. The camera seems always anxious to show us stacks of passports that are part of the standard quick-change identity kit. Bourne and the story seem to constantly flit from one country to the next with just the right passport he needs.

Even more than the last film the torrent of names and plot twists will be hard to comprehend on a single viewing. Names fly back and forth at times and plot complications come even faster. Not that there is much doubt all along as to whom the real villain will eventually turn out to be. The real mystery is not whodunit but just what is happening to whom and why. More than once my audience gasped in awe at the coups Bourne is able to accomplish, even if he is just a fictional character. Occasionally Bourne tries things that would seem to be not humanly possible, e.g., giving mouth to mouth resuscitation when totally submerged in water.

Supporting Damon are Joan Allen who so well plays women of iron will. Also there is Brian Cox who is always watchable is Brian Cox who generally has a subtle menacing manner. Cox is probably tired of having people note he was the first Hannibal Lecter. I will point out how good he was as Hogan in the Sharpe series. Chris Cooper has an uncredited cameo reprising his role as Conklin.

What some will find off-putting is the style of the editing and the camera work. There is frequent use of hand-held camera combined with a staccato of short jumpy edits that will add to the dizzying effect of the complex story. Frequently the viewer will find that it is not clear what some half-second shot is showing. The effect of the editing and the over-fluidity of the camera for a moment puts us in the rapid-fire mind of Bourne. The climax of the film is one of the most exciting car chases we have seen in quite a while that is done without recourse to computer graphics.

This is a film with fast action and some clever ideas. I rate it a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10

Mark R. Leeper

Copyright 2004 Mark R. Leeper

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