feedingbrett’s review published on Letterboxd:
It has been two years since the release of Doug Liman’s The Bourne Identity, a spy-thriller that has earned modest success, both critically and financially. It has introduced us of a character, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), lost in his amnesia, in search of the keys that would unlock the secrets of his past, a man with such remarkable abilities, that the further he advances, the more shocking the outcome than he had anticipated. A multi-million dollar government weapon he is defined by his previous employers, whom now wants him eliminated, a risk that can no longer be leashed, but given his cunning instinct and skill, he triumphs over them and seeks refuge away with his girlfriend from his once horrifying reality.
Though the premise of The Bourne Identity was a solid one, it is in the execution where it fails to thrive, placing demanding focus on the romantic relationship between him and Marie (Franka Potente), intruding on the fascinating search of this man’s past. Its inclusion would not have been so bothersome, if it ensured the film’s pacing and tone is not affected, which unfortunately was throughout the film.
In this two years, a sequel was spawned, and now with a new filmmaker in the chair, Paul Greengrass, whose success in this film would return for the closing chapter of the trilogy and the upcoming return that is set to release in a couple of days. I felt the new direction that Greengrass has installed for the franchise is a critical one, realising the potential of the modern action spy-thriller, pulling back from the perspective of Jason Bourne, but now having as much time dwelling in the minds of those in search of him, to feel the sense of danger and paranoia in tracking his movements, to truly capture the grand impact of his unwelcoming return.
The first thing that Greengrass and writer Tony Gilroy for The Bourne Supremacy is the removal of Marie, utilising her death as a catalyst for Bourne’s return to reality, to actively seek for the ones responsible for his condition, his dreams and blurring memories of Treadstone is his only lead. The film expands further on the location scouting as now we see the story enter into more countries and continents than before, generating a greater impact in the manhunt than what it would have it remained stasis in a singular location.
The film’s storytelling no longer suffers by intrusive elements that diverts the focus of Bourne, as from start to end he inches closer and closer to the revelatory information that he desires, and now he faces an equally compelling antagonist, a CIA Task Force Director, Pamela Landy (Joan Allen), who is thrusted into the subject of Bourne after one of her operations in Berlin was compromised by Bourne, whom the film makes it clear from the get-go that such an accusation is falsely planted. Landy is forced to work with Ward Abbott (Brian Cox), who was also in the first film, whom creates tension in the room as his agenda clashes with Landy’s, wanting Bourne dead in the hopes of covering his own connections.
The first film showed Bourne showcasing his skills as an assassin, but here we find his abilities closer in self-actualisation as we gain a sense of stronger confidence in his actions and motives, a figure more introverted in ensuring the professionalism in his delivery. Greengrass finds ways to shock Landy and Abbott, and in those moments we find ourselves shocked with them, as he cleverly places the audiences with a feeling of being in a box, quietly in surveillance by a hunter, in anticipation of when he may strike.
Paired with this is the greater intensity of its action set-pieces, now popularising the infamously shaky-cam, inducing a sense of chaos and desperation that reflects the mindset of those involved, shaping the atmosphere that could certainly polarise audience. Though I am not always an advocate of the style, it does prove itself effectively under Greengrass’ direction and Oliver Woods’ capable hands. Fight scenes leave a bruiser punch and chase sequences carry a greater haste, and with it, audiences find themselves compelled, anticipating whether he would come out of it in one piece, to see whether this time maybe Bourne may find himself defeated, despite deep down we know that is far from the truth.
The film finds itself in a conclusion, much like the first one, where the franchise can simply hang its hat if not given the green light for the follow-up, but with it, also came a number of unresolved issues and unexplored questions that would also warrant a continuation. It is a film that has done its primary job, was to stimulate and provide a minor escape for its audience, but The Bourne Supremacy is a rich thriller that succeeds due to the attentive detailing it provides beneath its sheen, a film that is facilitated by character development, a man in search of himself, it simply just has sprinkles of tension and frantic along the way.