Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Brian Cox, Julia Stiles, Karl Urban, Gabriel Mann, Joan Allen, Marton Csokas, Tom Gallop
Robert Ludlum (novel), Tony Gilroy
They should have left him alone.
The Bourne Supremacy re-enters the shadowy world of expert assassin Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), who continues to find himself plagued by splintered nightmares from his former life. The stakes are now even higher for the agent as he coolly maneuvers through the dangerous waters of international espionage - replete with CIA plots, turncoat agents and ever-shifting covert alliances - all the while hoping to find the truth behind his haunted memories and answers to his own fragmented past.
$52.521 million on 3165 screens.
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Runtime: 109 min.
Release Date: 12/7/2004
• 10 Minutes of Deleted Scenes
• "Crash Cam": Car Chase Stunt Featurette
• "Bourne to Be Wild": Fight Training Featurette
• "Blowing Things Up": Pyrotechnical Sequence Featurette
• "The Go-Mobile Revs up the Action": Action Photography Featurette
• "Anatomy of a Scene": The Explosive Bridge Chase Scene
• "Matching Identities": Casting Featurette
• "Keeping It Real": Photo Shoot Featurette
• "On The Move with Jason Bourne": Travelogue Featurette
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The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
Reviewed by Brian Ludovico (December 8, 2004)
The sequel to 2002ís The Bourne Identity picks up just about where its predecessor left off. Amnesiac CIA black ops agent Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) and his girlfriend Marie (Franke Potente) are on the run, hiding out in Goa, India. Their main focus for the past two years has been trying to force Jasonís memory to the surface. The search has been frustrating; theyíve found pieces but have no idea what any of them mean when theyíre put together.
Jason spends his days keeping his mind and his body sharp, knowing that this vacation-like period of extended peace canít last forever. Eventually, one of the various entities after him will find out where they are, be it the CIA, assassins from the international espionage community, or the clandestine group Treadstone. In the two years since his rescue in the Mediterranean and the business with Wombosi in Paris, Bourne hasnít found a connection between himself and any of those groups and himself. He knows he used to work with Treadstone, which was probably an arm of the CIA, but the details of what heís done are all missing. Without knowing, heíll always have the sense of pending doom thatís been haunting him lately.
Bourneís premonitions prove to be correct when he spots a stranger on the Goa beaches that just doesnít fit in. Bourne and Marie quickly take off, trying to escape, but not before the stranger can make an attempt on their lives. As Jason and Marie are fleeing, a bullet meant for Bourne strikes Marie in the driverís seat, sending their jeep off a bridge and into the water. Jason slips free, only to find that the sole person he trusts and cares about is now dead, another casualty his life leaves behind. Left with little choice and motivated by cold, calculated anger, Bourne gathers his things and decides that itís time to figure out who he is, and what his pursuers want from him. The quickest way to get access to the people with the answers: get caught.
Leading the US search for Bourne is agent Pamela Landy (Joan Allen), leader of a CIA taskforce that just lost two men in an operation gone bad in Berlin. One of the prints found on the scene belongs to Jason Bourne, whom she confirms as a government agent, but any information beyond that is classified. Landy suspects Bourne to have been involved in a treasonous and highly lucrative plot to sell state secrets to US enemies, a scam with his old supervisor Conklin at the head. Ward Abbott, the name she finds connected to Treadstone and Bourneís old boss, isnít the most forthcoming of sources, but he reluctantly lets her know what sheís dealing with: one of the most dangerous weapons in the US military, one thatís now malfunctioning and fatally unpredictable.
Just as the task force to hunt Bourne is being assembled, something strange happens: Bourne shows up on the grid. Heís using his own passport in Naples, Italy, and is now detained by Italian authorities, awaiting a field agent from the US Consulate to arrive to talk to him. Bourne has made his first mistake, it seems. Of course, once the US agent arrives, Bourne summarily dispatches with him in typical fashion, with explosive physical force. Quickly it becomes clear why Bourne allowed himself to be caught: he wants a window into whoís after him, hoping it will help clear things up. He takes the agentís car, quickly bugs his Blackberry and downloads whatever information is in it.
Landy calls to check on the progress of Bourneís apprehension and hears the bad news that heís already gone. She and her team are off to the scene of the crime, in Berlin, to find Bourne and bring him in. What they havenít figured out yet is that Bourne is after them, too, and heís a far deadlier pursuer. Landyís chase will lead them from Prague to Berlin to Moscow, and uncover under-the-table type of big dollar deals, as well as a pair of dead Russian diplomats, long before they get to Bourne.
As is his specialty, Bourne stays one step ahead of his pursuers, racing to solve the mystery of who he is, who is framing him for murder, and why. When one combines this kind of intrigue heavy plot, the outstanding performances highlighted by Matt Damon and Joan Allen, some high-octane and unforgettable action sequences, the result is one of the better summer action flicks to hit theaters probably in the last ten years.
There are so many things to appreciate about The Bourne Supremacy that itís difficult to know where to start. Since most every movie trades specifically on the performances of its leads, thatís a good a place as any. In the hands of a lesser actor, say Ben Affleck just for argumentís sake, Bourne might have come off as the corny superhero type (think Punisher). Damon textures his performance with a dimension unrivalled in the action genre. He really understands the character, and plays him with intelligence, ice cold decisiveness and emotional conflicts, all in a simmering brood of anger and betrayal. This entire depth of character is on full display in one of the filmís best scenes, the sequence near the World Clock, as Bourne abducts Nicky (Julia Stiles). Bourne might be the hero of this story, but Damon and Greengrass never let us forget that inside, heís a killer.
It isnít an action movie without action, obviously, and Supremacy has it in spades, from very early in the picture. The pacing reminded me a little bit of Raiders of the Lost Ark, with a rollercoaster structure: tense set-up followed by high speed action. The signature piece in Supremacy is the same as it was in Identity, the impossibly cool car chase that careens through the overpacked streets of a European metropolis. Greengrassís camera is right in the passenger seat with Bourne, giving the viewer a far more visceral experience than a run-of-the-mill chase scene. The sequence alone is worth the price of admission. Thereís plenty of fighting, running, and escaping in the film, but none of it is quite as cool as the Moscow car chase.
Perhaps what I appreciate most about this movie is that it doesnít just decide to be what Bond has become: a brand-name popcorn fest no better than MI:2. Bond lives on just having the James Bond name, and the character has become a cartoon, a self-parody thatís too self-aware. Bond dresses well, scores with a woman who has a Single Entendre for a name (I swear the next one will be named Juana Fellatio), defeats some villain with a ridiculously over-the-top scheme. Bourne is what Bond used to be, what the Mission: Impossible tried to be: genuinely gripping, character driven and fast-paced fun. Bond is all about gadgetry and fancy cars, while Jason Bourne is armed only with his instinct and intellect. This is an action movie that expects its audience to think a little, something that the standard summer schlock doesnít trust an audience to do.
As much as I enjoyed Supremacy, itís definitely not beyond all reproach. Part of what works for the movie can also work against it: Greengrassís valiant design to make this movie feel different than other espionage films. For the most part he succeeds, by imbruing the film with an ad-hoc, documentary feel through the extensive use of hand held cameras.
In the scenes where weíre watching the action from afar, I think this works best. In fight sequences, though, itís far too close for the audience to appreciate the action. It gets muddled and frantic, which is the desired affect, but Iíd rather see the whole thing. After a while, this hand-held technique starts to feel a little gimmicky, which undermines its affect. I also felt like the writers were trying to stuff two books into one movie, but having never read the source material, I canít say for sure. It feels like a secondary story line was wrapped up far too quickly, and combined with the lack of an entry for The Bourne Ultimatum on IMDb, that leads me to believe Iím right.
The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus C+
Since the inception of DVD as a medium and its subsequent rise to become the dominant force in the video market, Universal has been a consistent performer in producing above average discs. The Bourne Supremacy is no exception, as its technical specifications are highly respectable and its features menu offers a large quantity of supplements.
The Bourne Supremacy appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Donít expect a super slick reference quality presentation, though.
By design, Supremacy is a visually ambiguous presentation. Much of the action takes place at night, in the dark streets of Europe, which means that the black levels are tested often. Unfortunately, they donít respond with the sort of oomph that high end home theater enthusiasts might be hoping for. The level of black is excellent, but the shadow delineation, or lack thereof, makes for a somewhat frustrating picture. These problems are most notable in the CIA headquarters scenes while Landyís crew hunts for Bourne in Berlin.
Thankfully, thatís where the weaknesses in this area end, because otherwise, itís a fantastic presentation. Color work is outstanding, popping off the screen without looking fake or over-saturated, particularly during the explosion at the agentís house. Fine grain detail is also superb, producing an almost 3-D type of image, with each shard of glass in the chase scenes distinct and clear. The movie seems to have a very thin veil of grain over it, but this is most certainly a stylistic decision by Greengrass to maintain the documentary feel he was going for, and hence does not cost any significant points. Top it off with outstanding menu art and animation, and the grade is well above average.
The main audio track on The Bourne Supremacy is a Dolby Digital 5.1 that isnít nearly dynamic enough for an action movie, the genre in which itís likely to end up. Most of the action collapses into the center channel for two reasons. The first is that the movie is focused mainly on one man, a solitary weapon, and as a result, he doesnít have as much dialogue as his screen time might merit. Less confident producers and directors would likely have a Bourne character talking to himself or narrating his own actions because they donít trust the audience, but Greengrass and co. eschew this route.
For an action film, Bourne is also surprisingly light on explosions to activate the surrounds. The one major explosion we do have ends up echoing in the surround elements and thumping the subwoofer, an otherwise dormant factor, but for the most part, this is a very stagnant mix. I was especially disappointed in the audio during the Moscow car chase, which seemed like an ample opportunity to stretch out. For the most part, this opportunity is wasted. The reason Supremacyís grade isnít any higher has nothing to do with clarity, which is expectedly good; the problem is with its lack of audio imaging and depth of field. Even Powellís interesting score resides mainly in the center channel, it just doesnít make sense, particularly when the original installment had such a good one. Penalties here for small sound field, not for clarity problems.
The supplements start out with five Explosive Deleted Scenes that have not been fully produced. Iím not sure why theyíre called ďexplosive,Ē though, considering one of them is called ďBourne Writing in Book.Ē The only one I really thought could have stayed in was ďShack.Ē These scenes are not separated, instead running all on one reel at about seven minutes total.
Following the order the menu lays out, the next supplement is a pretty fluffy featurette called Matching Identities: Casting. Director Paul Greengrass talks about casting the roles that support Bourne, like the poor manís Brando, Brian Cox, Julia Stiles, and Joan Allen. The strange thing about all this is that Greengrass didnít have anything to do with the casting of the main players. Except for Joan Allen, the principles were all involved in The Bourne Identity, Doug Limanís project. Since thereís never any heavy Ďcontentí in these sorts of pieces, they get tedious in a hurry. There are only so many times I can listen to Head X saying ďActor Z is a genius.Ē
Another five minute featurette, Keeping it Real, has a lot of the producers and other behind-the-scenes types talking about how they wanted to visually and stylistically differentiate The Bourne Supremacy from the run of the mill summer blockbuster type of thriller. Mainly the featurette highlights the selection of Paul Greengrass as a director, and the visual style he brings to the picture. Greengrass is an interesting choice as he doesnít exactly have the pedigree to make one think he would excel with this sort of project. As I mention in the review body, I think Greengrassís style works both for and against Bourne.
The creatively titled, four minute long Blowing Things Up featurette looks mainly at the technical challenges of blowing up the Treadstone agentís German house without the assistance of computer generated imagery. This has become somewhat of a hot button topic with a large number of film fans, myself included, and Iím glad to see that at least in some circles, the pendulum is starting to swing back the other way. Like it or not, real effects just ďlookĒ different. CG is fine for the tiny details, but composing entire scenes of it is not a good idea.
The onslaught of featurettes continues with the five minute long On the Move with Jason Bourne. This one looks at the exotic locations used in filming, from Berlin to India to Moscow, and the challenges inherent at each location.
Bourne to be Wild, besides a delicious play on words (yes, thatís sarcasm), is a four and a half minute examination of the fight between Bourne and the last remaining Treadstone member. Thereís some brief discussion on the fight style, a couple of sound bites from Jeff Imada, the fight choreographer, and of course a couple of clips from Greengrass talking about why he wanted the fight as he did.
One of the trademarks of The Bourne Identity was its outstanding car chase, and of course, The Bourne Supremacy features one to match it, detailed in Crash Cam: Racing Through the Streets of Moscow. This six minute featurette reveals a lot of the secrets to filming the climactic chase scene. The most common method was having the car controlled by a driver in a rig fitted to the top of the actual car, to allow the camera a lot of freedom in filming. This was important, given Greengrassís insistence that the viewer be Ďwithí Bourne in these travels, not watching Bourne. So far, this was the most interesting of the featurettes.
Speaking of the car chase scenes, The Go Mobile Revs up the Action, a seven minute featurette, shows one of the coolest pieces of movie technology used to film these modern chases. Basically, this is a contraption that hooks the chassis of the car onto a rig behind a truck, which holds a bunch of cameras. The Go Mobile is a far more maneuverable unit than the traditional process trailer technique, which makes for far more dynamic footage and more freedom for the lens. I expect itís going to be the standard for chase scene tech, if it isnít already.
Anatomy of a Scene: Explosive Bridge Chase Scene is pretty much just what it says. At four minutes in length, it canít really impart a lot of good information save for the fact that Matt Damon does almost all of his own stunts. I donít understand the need to call this ďexplosive,Ē either. I guess someone in the marketing department didnít figure this had enough punch.
The final featurette is called Scoring with John Powell, and no, itís not the title of some eighties teen sex romp movie. We get to hear from the composer on the film, John Powell, who talks about musical cues in the movie, how he used music in the movie, and other such topics for five minutes. Thatís the last of the featurettes, for a grand total of nine. There arenít a lot of single discs out there with nine featurettes on them.
From there, the bonus material gets pretty tame. Thereís an extensive biographical listing for the main players: Damon, Potente, Brian Cox, Julia Stiles, Karl Urban, Gabriel Mann, Joan Allen, Paul Greengrass, screenwriter Tony Gilroy, producers Frank Marshall, Patrick Crowley and Paul L. Sandberg. Thereís a brief textual note on each and a list of their films that follows. Iím not a big fan of these bio sections, as I can learn this information by going onto IMDb in most cases.
Since I donít count DVD-ROM features as a bonus (because youíre likely to watch this on your television, not your PC), the last of the supplements, but certainly not the least, is the feature length commentary by director Paul Greengrass. As commentaries go, this one can be sort of boring. Greengrass talks a lot about the choices made in the narrative and for the characters, but at times, he can fall into the trap of watching his own creation, which leads to long silences and comments like ďI like that scene.Ē
Yes, thatís a lot of supplements (though the trailer is missing, which is always annoying), but when it comes to overall quality of each bonus, weíre looking at a little bit of a disappointment. Couldnít a feature on these types of agents, if they really exist, been put on the disc? Maybe a 20 minute History Channel-type special on black operations exposed or gone wrong? I applaud Universal for including all this stuff, but it might have worked better as a single ďMaking OfĒ featurette rather than numerous shorts. Big points for quantity, but no bonus for quality on The Bourne Supremacy.
As a film, Supremacy is a superb thriller, even if itís a shade shy of living up to its predecessor. The film injects the espionage thriller genre with a fresh, original concept without getting all XXX, throwing a bunch of hip alternative music onto a soundtrack and putting a rap star in a cameo. Though it sometimes feels a little overstuffed, itís fantastically rewatchable. From a DVD buyer perspective, one could do a lot worse than The Bourne Supremacy, even if the asking price is a little on the high side. The disc is loaded with extras, even if they arenít all of the most informative variety, and the technical ratings are well above the average. The Bourne Supremacy is a highly recommended disc, particularly at the online discount price.
Viewer Film Ratings: 4.25 Stars|| Number of Votes: 32|