The Bourne Supremacy (2004)

This sequel to the Matt Damon version of The Bourne Identity takes so little from Robert Ludlum's cold war era thriller that the title goes unexplained. Directed in an edgy, cutty, disorienting style by Paul Greengrass, it works hard to carve its own (Bourne) identity but falters because its plot seems very much an afterthought to the original.

At the outset, two CIA agents in Berlin are murdered for getting too close to a big but nebulous Russian baddie and a fingerprint is left to incriminate the now-disappeared amnesiac rogue agent known as Jason Bourne (though why everyone keeps using a name which was always a thin cover is a mystery), and a Russian hit-man (baddie of the year Karl Urban) shows up in India to kill him only to plug his leftover girlfriend (Franka Potente, literally taking an early bath) and draw him back into the country-hopping, martial arts-battering game. It all has to do with his first job as an assassin, dim memories of which resurface, and the realisation that someone high up in the agency (Brian Cox - big surprise) is a baddie, and brings him into some long-distance conflict and contact with a new CIA controller (Joan Allen). Towards the end, there's one terrifically-staged chase scene in Moscow traffic, with Bourne in a stolen taxi taking a hell of a battering, and an emotional payoff as the hero breaks down while telling the daughter of his victims what happened to them - part of his crawl to mental redemption, which involves refraining from killing any more (he even leaves Urban wounded but alive and lets Cox shoot himself) and thus perhaps undermining the possibility of more instalments. The ending revives the issue of the hero's real identity as Allen rewards him with a name, a birthday and a birth-place; but that whole who-am-I thread has been back-burnered for most of the film.

Apart from Allen and a conventionally-cast Cox, the supporting players are faceless agents, so much so that it's hard to recall which of them were in the first film or to whom they are supposed to be affiliated. Watchable thanks to the jigsaw style, but Damon flatlines in performance until the jolt at the finish.
KIM NEWMAN

First published in this form here.


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