Director: Paul Greengrass
Cast: Matt Damon, Franke Potente, Joan Allen, Brian Cox, Julia Stiles, Karl Urban, Martin Csokas
Plot: A mysterious Russian hitman (Urban) is hired to frame Jason Bourne (Damon), causing a confused CIA to pick up the chase once again.
In many ways, the Bourne series didn’t really become the Bourne series until Paul Greengrass stepped into the mix. That is not a slight to the Bourne Identity, as it is a remarkable piece of cinema. The story of a cold-blooded killer seeking redemption, when he loses all memory of his former self is a surprisingly gripping one, the ideal ingredients for a complex political thriller, teaming with nail-biting action and a great character for Matt Damon to come to grips with. However, Identity, when it comes to the Bourne movies that Damon takes the lead with, does come across as the weakest in the collection, upon reflection, something rarely said when it comes to franchises of this flavour. There is just a sense that Greengrass comes into the fold and builds upon a good idea, making it a great one.
It is the small flourishes that make Supremacy much more polished than Identity. The fight scenes and chases are taken to a new level with the infamous shaky-cam technique. As Bourne and his latest opponent do battle, we have little idea as to what is going on, the camera blurring the movements. It creates the sense of these fighters being quicker than the eye can perceive, meaning that Greengrass can create the illusion of awe, without having to ask his actors to do too much in the way of stunt fighting. The chases are a lesson in how to dial up the tension to the maximum. It never gets old, watching Bourne weave his way through busy streets, crowded with police officers or CIA agents trying to hunt him down. Damon might only really have to engage with the true essence of his character in a few heart-breaking scenes (the opening on the beach, opening up to the girl whose parents he killed), but he is always projecting the character’s quiet calculation and desperation. The final battle through the streets of Moscow is a thing of beauty, Greengrass at his best. Damon and baddie Karl Urban shoot chunks out of each other in a car chase that fills the screen. It is non-stop action, until the final crash and then the pace of the film comes to a crashing halt. It is the very definition of a rollercoaster ride. Perhaps the best thing about Bourne over other blockbuster movies (James Bond, Marvel), is that it never feels like a blockbuster. The direction is so intimate, so personal, that it sometimes feels like an independent director, trying and succeeding to play with the big boys. The budget is still there, as referenced by the occasional explosion and breath-taking stunt, but in between the set-pieces, it feels like a quieter affair. It says a lot for the power of the Bourne franchise that we are just as happy for the quieter displays of intelligence from the title character. The best moment in the film could be the moment the CIA are frantically trying to trace a phone call from him, only for the reveal of the scene to show that he is calmly watching them from outside. The movie gets away with this trick twice and it still hits home fantastically.
The plot is a mixed bag, but Greengrass never feels like he needs to be controlled by the story. Pamela Landy is a CIA operative who has nothing to do with Treadstone, but crosses their path, when her lead suspect’s fingerprints need Treadstone clearance to help her continue her hunt for the killer of her two agents. As Treadstone reveals, it was Jason Bourne who returned from hiding to kill her men, something we know is a lie, as this plays out parallel to an opening shoot-out in Goa, India. This is a refreshing change of pace as this time the people hunting Bourne are good guys as well, throwing an interesting dynamic into the relationship between the hunter and hunted. The reveals and plot twists come thick and fast, often throwing off the viewer, but Greengrass makes sure that never really matters. The final forty minutes are almost devoid of a plot anyway, merely showing Bourne race away from his pursuers in a desperate bid to apologise to the girl whose parents he killed in Berlin, before the amnesia. It is a touching note and it says a lot for Greengrass’s control of his movie that we don’t need the background details to enjoy the thrill of the chase. Identity was good, yes, but Supremacy is just on another level.
Final Verdict: Greengrass builds upon one of the more refreshing spy heroes to date and brings Bourne back in a thrilling race against time.