> Volume 6 > Number 29


Paul Greengrass

Matt Damon
Brian Cox
Joan Allen
Karl Urban
Julia Stiles
Gabriel Mann
Franka Potente

Release: 23 Jul. 04

The Bourne Supremacy


More style than substance, the sequel to Doug Limanís surprisingly assured actioner The Bourne Identity is surprising if only for being an example of the action film Liman was distancing himself from. Thatís not to say that The Bourne Supremacy is a bad film -- in terms of simple genre excursions, itís fairly tense and still well made -- but it lacks the interesting aspects of The Bourne Identity that made the possibility of a Bond-like franchise amenable.

But Limanís nowhere to be found on this film, as the camera is handed over to Bloody Sunday director Paul Greengrass. Like Liman, this is Greengrassí first time with an action film, and he doesnít quite make the move as seamlessly. Where the shaky handheld camera work added to the intensity of Bloody Sunday, they become distracting in The Bourne Supremacy, like the cameraman is terrified not of the real commotion around him (an element that has caused this style so much success on films like Bloody Sunday and The Battle of Algiers) but that the intrepid actors having a expository conversation might catch him filming their paycheck performance.

Most of the surviving members of The Bourne Identityís cast return, some if only for moments before being carted off in body bags. Nevertheless, the only returning players that really matter are Matt Damon, whose intense gaze was as much a character in the who-am-I thematic the first time around, and Brian Cox, hogging all the good lines and delivering them like a real professional. Their attributes are barely used here, though, since Greengrass is more interested in the ticket-selling action that Universal upped upon finding that their previous property had amazing power in the video marketplace.

Settling for the lukewarm suspense that can come with mediocre Bond films, The Bourne Supremacy skitters into a faultless if unimpressive series of action sequences. The disappointment is more in the backward motion of this franchise, not in this single film -- as a genre film, itís actually not that bad. I just worry that the bipolar antics of Jason Bourne found in these first two films will be correctly reconfigured by the third installment, promised by the type of stylized exit posturing (complete with a refrain of Mobyís ďExtreme WaysĒ) that would have actually seemed more at home with a pre-Bourne Liman film, if not for the fact that it turns the modest super spy into a fashion model, or at least a Michael Mann-fitted 60 Minutes producer

©2004, David Perry,, 16 July 2004