The Bourne Supremacy

The Bourne Supremacy

2004, PG-13, 108 min. Directed by Paul Greengrass. Starring Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Brian Cox, Joan Allen, Julia Stiles, Karl Urban, Gabriel Mann.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., July 23, 2004

If amnesia victim/former CIA killing machine Jason Bourne (Damon) were a demonstrative man, then some Corleone-style grandstanding – "just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in" – would have been well within his rights. And who could blame him for thinking he was in the clear, having in the previous installment successfully eluded his CIA handlers and disappeared to an exotic island locale with his best girl Marie (Potente)? But The Bourne Identity 2: Jason’s Adventures in Running a Surf Shop With His Cute German Girlfriend this ain’t, so it’s really no surprise when a Russian assassin (Urban) shows up in India to retire Bourne for good. This time, Bourne is running solo, in and out of scenic European cities, with both the Russian assassin and a CIA agent named Pamela Landy (Allen), whose interest in Bourne spikes when his fingerprints inexplicably show up at the crime scene of two murdered agents, on his tail. The problem with running solo, however, is that Bourne doesn’t have anybody to talk to. Sure, he puts in the occasional teasing call to Agent Landy, but there’s no one in Bourne’s close proximity to bounce off of, no one to whom he may deliver that soul-stirring Corleone speech we just know he’s got buried deep in his hired-assassin heart. Potente served that purpose in the first film, and beautifully, providing a pleasingly spacey/spunky contrast to Damon’s ever-furrowed brow. Damon’s still good, an efficient and effective thinking-man’s action hero; it’s simply that his unbearably terse Bourne is an even greater enigma in this second outing than in the first. But if Bourne is a man of few words, then the CIA agents are men and women of too many. They vacillate between barking orders and growling threats, looking and sounding like they’re all mugging to make the trailer cut. At one point, a government official (played by returning actor Brian Cox) snarls to Allen, "You talk about this stuff like you read it in a book" – and indeed, that’s exactly how these people talk. One might argue that talk is cheap in an action flick, but a convincing case for the contrary was made by Liman’s well-rounded, terrifically satisfying precursor. The reins to the sequel have been handed over to Irish filmmaker Paul Greengrass, coming off of the superlative, docudrama-like Bloody Sunday. He’s carried over elements of that film’s cinema verité approach to The Bourne Supremacy – all herky-jerky camera movements and no pussyfooting around with the interior lives of these characters. Much like Bourne, the film is a lean, mean, killing machine, and the action, near constant, is frightfully good – ingeniously choreographed and breathlessly executed, culminating in an extended car chase through snow-swept Moscow that would have made Papa Frankenheimer proud. The film’s denouement, which plays like an afterthought, makes a brief, belated stab at character insight, but it’s enough to make one hope that just around the corner lurks The Bourne Identity 3: In Which Jason Bourne Hunkers Down With His Inner Demons.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Paul Greengrass Films
News of the World
Tom Hanks evokes one of his most celebrated roles in this tragic Western

Richard Whittaker, Dec. 25, 2020

22 July
Horrific Norwegian terrorist attack dissected a little too cleanly to be moving

Marjorie Baumgarten, Oct. 5, 2018

More by Kimberley Jones
Abya Yala: The Story Behind the Photos
Abya Yala: The Story Behind the Photos

Sept. 29, 2023

Fair Play
Office romance and intrigue intersect for tension with little weight

Sept. 29, 2023


The Bourne Supremacy, Paul Greengrass, Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Brian Cox, Joan Allen, Julia Stiles, Karl Urban, Gabriel Mann

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle