Film Review: The Bourne Supremacy

It’s not really fair to kick a man while he’s down and after Jason Bourne had laid heavily, and successfully into Commander Bond while searching for his Identity, to come back and do it a second time just isn’t cricket. This time though, Doug Liman has been replaced by Paul Greengrass in the director’s chair and as a result, the kicking is much, much harder.

The Bourne Supremacy manages to pull off that unique feat of being essentially a standalone plot, a film capable of supporting it’s own weight, while the whole time being tied into the original story. Perfectly delving deeper into Bourne’s world and his problems, but never relying on the first movie to the point you’d be out of your depth if you let Jason Bourne into your life from here.

Once again, the world they’ve created feels true, it feels realistic. I said in my review of The Bourne Identity that I felt throughout that this truly could be happening in real life, right now “on a street near by”. And that same feeling is repeated again, albeit slightly toned down. I think it’s a case that after the success of the first movie and the raising of the genre bar, the budget increased slightly. So while the film retains it’s earthy, gritty, bitterness that underpins so much of the plot, the characters and the reasons everything ties together and works, the extra few dollars allowed the explosions to be a little bit bigger, the car chases to be a little bit longer and more destructive. And it’s that very slight, but sadly noticeable increase in the “Hollywood Bang” that detracts. That makes you think “Ok, just be careful, you’re close to the edge”.

And this is where the change in director from Doug Liman to Paul Greengrass really shines through. The Bourne Identity was Liman’s first, and sadly last real foray in serious film making – coming from a background of comedies – and then dropping onto the small screen as a producer of some of America’s finest recent exports, which makes the impact and clarity within The Bourne Identity even more impressive.

Greengrass on the other hand was making the transition the other way, he’d been making his name on the small screen – with Kavanagh QC of all things – and had arrived with a bang in Hollywood on the back of the critically acclaimed Bloody Sunday with James Nesbitt. The point though, is not one of cinematic experience, after all, neither were seasoned veterans, but rather one of cinematic style. Greengrass knew how to make the camera work for him. How to make the audience feel emotion in a way that Liman had missed, my criticism of The Bourne Identity is that it never changes pace, it never moved me. Greengrass was assigned to fix this and fix this he did.

Throughout The Bourne Supremacy the simple use of cut rates and focusing to convey ideas and emotions something so simple and yet so difficult to do with accuracy, is given the perfect touch. This film doesn’t need a rely on dialogue, it doesn’t need to explain every action, every motive, it knows a picture tells a thousand words and it knows how to paint. I started this paragraph saying that it’s simply cut rates and focusing that achieve this and it is. By blurring the footage and shaking the camera, Greengrass creates confusion, he creates misunderstanding. He wants us to feel like Bourne can’t remember and achieves it by simply giving us a brief sample, a brief flash, that never quite allows us to fully grasp. We know Bourne doesn’t make sense of this because, exactly as planned, neither do we. There are real times throughout this film where, without increasing the frame rate or pace of the film, your heart rate will race and your body tense up. Simply cut, cut, cut, Bourne, bad guy, Bourne, keep the camera spinning, keep the time between the cuts short and the emotions, the adrenaline, will flow from the screen through you without effort, without work. And the real masterstroke of The Bourne Supremacy, the real achievement that stands it out as one of my favourite pieces of film making is it’s running time. It’s not long. It’s less than 2 hours which by today’s standard is nothing. Yet it manages to pack a story which at no point feels rushed. It never feels cramped, you actually think everything feels explained and examined.

I still think that Bourne, the franchise as a whole, suffers from the fact that it verges on the ultra real, to sound like a broken record, I almost feel it could be happening in any city, right now, and this is backed up by the fact that even though these films are over 10 years old, they don’t feel dated, they look and run current. And this means that they will never be “go to” films. I will always sit them on a shelf, happy to watch them, but not often actually doing so.

8 out of 10 stars (8 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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