BOURNE SUPREMACY, THEPG-13
Given a narrative thread as thin and choppy as cut-up angel-hair pasta, Universal's Bourne Identity sequel might be expected to leave audiences hungry. But with ample servings of atmosphere, style and nano-speed action, audiences into rarified spy yarns or just plain old summer movie thrills will go away satisfied. On many levels, The Bourne Supremacy delivers as long as quibblers needing story, character and credibility can set aside their priorities.
Perhaps this Universal follow-up is most blessed by the contribution of Brit Paul Greengrass at the helm. Greengrass, a former journalist, previously directed the remarkable Bloody Sunday, a highly realistic docudrama recreation of the infamous Northern Ireland tragedy decades ago that left many innocent demonstrators dead and questions surrounding the actions of Protestant law enforcement still unanswered today. With Supremacy, Greengrass delivers the same remarkable immediacy, verisimilitude, and immersive experience of electrifying sound and visual collages that will have audiences grabbing their cupholders and holding on for dear life.
This sequel sort of takes up where Identity left off. There's a botched plot in Berlin that leaves two CIA agents dead. Were the assassins Russian or was it rogue agent Bourne? Killing machine Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), the memory-challenged former CIA man of few words and no recollection, remains in the dark regarding the murky circumstances that turned him into a programmed assassin in the ultra-secret Treadstone.
As Supremacy begins, Bourne is chilling in faraway Goa, India with his lover Marie (Franka Potente) when Russian assassin Kirill (Karl Urban) tracks him down and goes for the kill. Hitting a lot of locations, the story breathlessly bounces to Berlin, Naples, Amsterdam, Berlin, Munich, Moscow and New York, as Bourne goes after the Russians and clues to his real identity. Meanwhile, American intelligence, led by task-force honcho Pamela Landy (Joan Allen), who works alongside sinister spook Ward Abbott (Brian Cox), chases the frustratingly elusive ex-agent.
The cynical, farfetched, inscrutable intrigue is really beside the point, because style and action are all. Greengrass, taking a few cues from Identity director Doug Liman, shakes up a dizzying cocktail of fast cuts, close-ups, swish-pans, blurry memory montages, handheld shots, sound collages, gripping and often steely-blue establishing shots of far-flung places, etc. His m.o. is to reduce cinema to its etymological roots of kinetic movement.
Damon's dialogue as Bourne, in German and Russian in addition to English, might possibly add up to three script pages. But screenwriter Tony Gilroy, who penned the first Bourne installment, again delivers the bare necessity to provide Greengrass the opportunities for pyrotechnics. An unlikely action star, Damon renders Bourne as a laconic, if not quite iconic, hero. He also shows his ironic stripes in the cat-and-mouse game he plays with Landy. And hats off also to a number of returning cast members who enlivened Identity, including Cox as a juicy villain, Potente, Gabriel Mann and Julia Stiles.
The Bourne Supremacy--like a big, loud, glitzy party--is a very entertaining near two hours that quickly evaporates as real life settles in. But it's summer escapism the way many audiences, even demanding ones, like it.