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DIRECTOR  -  paul greengrass

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  espionage

LENGTH  -  108 minutes

RELEASED  -  23 july 2004

DISTRIBUTOR  -  universal pictures

OFFICIAL SITE  -  bourne supremacy

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $75,000,000
the bourne supremacy - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from the bourne supremacy at

buy the dvd from the bourne supremacy at

when jason bourne is framed for a botched cia operation he is forced to take up his former life as a trained assassin to survive.


poster from the bourne supremacy
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based upon the 1986 novel by robert ludlum which forms the middle third of the bourne trilogy.


picture from the bourne supremacy

picture from the bourne supremacy

picture from the bourne supremacy

picture from the bourne supremacy


four out of four possible stars

In visiting the dark world of author Robert Ludlum's "Bourne" trilogy, director Paul Greengrass is a new addition to the crew to the series (the first "Bourne" film having been directed by Doug Liman), but Greengrass seems to fill the role with ease, bringing back in full force the familiar dark and dirty European feel of the first film. So many times from an American perspective, Europe seems to be portrayed as dark and dirty, something that's especially prevalent in Supremacy as the film's creators have passed over the more picturesque vistas of the cities depicted in the film in favor of dirty streets and graffiti-ridden walls.

But with the genre of this film almost requiring a dark and shady look (espionage is always dark and shady, is it not?), each of the technical elements of the film seem created with a single goal in mind: that the characters be bathed in shadow and darkness. From the moment Jason Bourne leaves the sunny climes of India, grit and dirt cover him and the rest the characters. Even when he is in a gorgeous location on the coast of Italy, there's still a sense of grime and coarseness blanketing the scenes.

Like Bloody Sunday, the director's 2002 film, The Bourne Supremacy is filled to the gills with weaving and shaky cinematographic moves, reminiscent of any on of the scenes in an episode of "Law & Order." This buoyant and fluid method of photography will not please everyone. The visual discomfort a viewer might receive from the look of the cinematography might eventually turn into appreciation though as the physical details of the film, like the dirty European cities, dark costuming, and beat-up automobiles, really require a primitive, raw approach to the camera work.

The cinematography is bolstered by an excellent grasp of action-sequence editing by editors Richard Pearson and Christopher Rouse. During the final car chase scene in particular, the editors have a field day with ripping into the audience with hundreds of cuts in just minutes of film time. With much of the second act of the film unfolding in a more methodical and quietly intense manner, this final climactic sequence is so rip roaring and breakneck that it's almost unbearable (a harsh word, but it's a compliment).

But where would the film be without a competent cast? Supremacy is fortunate to boast a cast who seem to delve deeper into their characters than one would typically see in an action film. The appeal of the Bourne world in feature film form is an emphasis on both the physical and the mental. The action sequences are quick and demanding and the talkative bits reveal more than simply a character's location in the plot.

The screenwriter, Tony Gilroy, who was also the pen behind the Identity adaptation, has thus far brought the twists and turns of each novel into two manageable screenplays. The plot is not simple and because Jason Bourne has the specific dilemma of amnesia plaguing him, his trek to figure out why the CIA has begun hunting him again is not his sole problem. In the true spirit of the modern human condition, Jason Bourne has "issues" that he must deal with concurrently while he navigates the plot.

Coming back for a second round as the title character, Matt Damon again slips easily into the warped mind of Jason Bourne and gives actors in films that would be considered "thinkers" a run for their money. Supremacy is a thrilling action film, but the requisite single-track characters are entirely missing from the story. The beautiful Joan Allen, playing a CIA executive on a mission to bring Damon to justice, is a proper foe for rogue agent Bourne, and her path over the course of the film is not nearly so cut and dried as one may expect from her type of character.

How many antagonists in how many films have been ruled by one emotion and been set on a singular path to destroy or intercept the protagonist or main character of the story? Perhaps the intricate source materials, Robert Ludlumís novels, were especially suitable for feature film adaptation. Whatever the case, Allen grips the role with an iron grip and is a formidable presence. As is Brian Cox, playing another CIA executive who seems to be bent on bringing Bourne to an early grave rather than to justice. Cox and Allen project and interesting amount of emotion and character onto their faces in addition to the inflection their dialogue, just as Matt Damon does.

More minor characters in the film are treated with respect as well with Julia Stiles reprising her role as young agent "Nicky" and Franka Potente playing again Damon's love interest, "Marie." Karl Urban plays "Kirill," an assassin sent to dispatch Jason Bourne, though it's probably fortunate that his speaking role is not extensive, as he has yet to prove himself a more than average actor in front of the camera (his melodramatic performance in The Chronicles of Riddick comes to mind).

The musical score, a final piece of the feature film puzzle, is deftly inserted into the movie's soundtrack, with composer John Powell reprising his job from the first film. Using again the modern, trance-inspired cues of the first movie, Powell kicks his orchestra up a giant notch and takes those cues further and faster than one might have thought possible. Far from simply copying the tracks of the first film and adding slight variations and/or extensions onto them, Powell takes his original music and slaps it into action with a fierce tempo and the volume set on slam.

Character, story, plot, cinematography, editing, music, the elements are all crafted into a tightly wound movie that sinks its claws into the audience and refuses to release its hold until the final credits start rolling. The now nearly signature car chases (the box-like European body-styles an interesting change for American fans of auto chase sequences) are easily labeled incredible, as is nearly every element of the film. An anguished and intense performance from lead Matt Damon would be sufficient in most cases to ground a less accomplished film, but with clever filmmaking surrounding him at every turn, The Bourne Supremacy can't help but succeed on every level.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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