It’s two years on and Jason Bourne (Damon) is living off the grid with girlfriend Marie (Potente), still haunted by nightmare flashes of his past life as an elite assassin. After a sudden attack from a Russian hitman (Urban), however, Bourne learns that he’s been framed for the murder of a couple of CIA agents and is forced to come out of hiding. While the agency dispatches Deputy Director Pamela Landy (Allen) and former Treadstone overboss Ward Abbott (Cox) to bring him in, Bourne decides to take the fight to them, while memories of his past continue to surface…
Having revolutionised and reinvigorated the ailing spy genre, following up the surprising success of Doug Liman’s ironically memorable The Bourne Identity was always going to be tricky. But while replacement director Paul Greengrass employs the same cast and musical cues (as well as the crucial use of Moby’s Extreme Ways) whilst boasting impressive continuity, his follow-up isn’t nearly as satisfying or involving. More rapid and impatient, The Bourne Supremacy is far less suspenseful and engrossing as a result. While last time the camera work felt fresh and intimate, here Greengrass’ trademark shaky-cam (which the series is now known for) often feels tiring and disorientating. Where before the fights and chases were thrilling, here you’re occasionally waiting for them to finish (particularly the overlong climactic car chase).
That said, there’s still lots to like about The Bourne Supremacy. Taking the right direction story-wise (Bourne having flashes back to his first mission), Tony Gilroy and Brian Helgeland’s script is appropriately murky while Greengrass realises a handful of memorable scenes throughout (Bourne’s early frustrations with his ongoing flashback-nightmares, his late confession to a young Russian girl). Importantly though, while Supremacy undoubtedly enlarges the ongoing Bourne mythology, our hero’s internal dilemma still isn’t nearly as interesting or compelling this time.
Again, Matt Damon is flawless, but given a certain brave plot development he’s hardly given anyone to have dialogue with, spending most of his screentime either fighting, driving, observing or walking purposefully through a crowd. Still, the supporting cast is great (Karl Urban as a Russian hitman, Joan Allen as an icy CIA director), while Brian Cox is debatably the best thing about the picture in an expanded role as the agenda-hiding Ward Abbott (“You’re in a big puddle of shit Pamela, and you don’t have the shoes for it!”).
While a solid expansion of the Bourne mythology which saw the franchise’s popularity explode, The Bourne Supremacy is a much less satisfying and suspenseful affair than The Bourne Identity.