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May 12, 2006 |

By Dustin Rowles | Film | May 12, 2006 |

In The Bourne Supremacy, Matt Damon continues to distance himself from Will Hunting, this time by reprising his role as Jason Bourne. His character is quiet, engaged, and — especially while deterring a knife-wielding attacker with a magazine (!) — ruthlessly intense. Indeed, movie critics across the nation are phoning in their reviews of The Bourne Supremacy with well-deserved — though aggressively trite - comparisons to roller coaster rides.

Supremacy opens in India, where Bourne and his girlfriend from the last film, Marie (Franka Potente), are in exile. Despite their attempts to remain below the radar of various international intelligence agencies, they soon find themselves being chased by an unknown attacker. Bourne, who still has little memory of his former life as a CIA assassin, narrowly escapes his own assassination, though Marie unfortunately does not. (The one major drawback to The Bourne Supremacy is that the movie fails to live up to one of the great unsung moviemaking maxims: Every movie needs more Franka Potente.)

Meanwhile, a CIA operation goes wrong, agents are murdered, Bourne’s fingerprints are left at the scene by the very folks who unjustly reduced Potente’s screen time, and the audience settles in for an adrenaline-filled 112 minutes.

The remainder of the movie is, at its core, not that different from the average summer blockbuster, except instead of a glossy Los Angeles locale, CGI explosions, and big Hollywood kisses, Supremacy is set in Western Europe and Russia, locations with tiny cars with weak horns and a decidedly ‘Euro’ dance soundtrack, all contributing to the illusion that this movie is smarter than standard-fare Bruckheimerian bullshit. The Bourne Supremacy checks its sentimentality at the door and, instead of high-tech explosions and melodramatic throw-away plot lines, the movie is narrated with a sense of urgency, never wasting a scene on overblown special effects or narrative contrivances.

The movie amounts to a high-IQ James Bond, thanks in large part to the quiet passion Damon brings to the role. While Jason Bourne is cold and detached, Matt Damon makes the character interesting, and even moving, by bringing poignancy to Bourne. He says little, but Damon conveys a sense of menace beneath his boyish good looks, bringing a certain amount of humanity to his cold-blooded killings.

Credit the granular visuals, sophisticated espionage story lines, and perhaps the best car-chase scene in the history of cinema (in, of all places, the underground tunnels of Moscow) to the fact that The Bourne Supremacy nearly outdoes its predecessor. However, Robert Greengrass’s shaky, handheld style - while successfully conveying the chaotic urgency of the action sequences — doesn’t quite match the edgy, kinetic, unhurriedness of Doug Liman, director of The Bourne Identity. Greengrass’s sequences are less methodical, messier, and often more dizzying than were Liman’s. By splicing together, for example, quick shots of a knee, a steering wheel, a windshield, and the fender of an unevenly framed car and blurring them together with bang-pop sound effects, the audience doesn’t observe the action sequence as much as feel that an action sequence is happening to them. The frenzied end result is similar either way, but Liman’s approach looks more skillful and less rushed.

Supremacy undoubtedly has its plot holes and the occasional bad scene, but it moves so skillfully and with such immediacy that we are left with little time to unravel the confusion before we are set in motion once again.

Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba and managing partner of its parent company, which prefers to remain anonymous for reasons pertaining to public relations. He lives in Ithaca, New York.

The Bourne Supremacy / Dustin Rowles

Film | May 12, 2006 |

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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