Following on from the surprise success of The Bourne Identity, writer Tony Gilroy returns to pen The Bourne Supremacy. This time at the director’s helm is Paul Greengrass, while Matt Damon returns as lead character Jason Bourne. The Bourne Supremacy roughly matched its predecessor at the box office taking $288m from a modest budget of $75m.
Set two years after the end of the previous film, The Bourne Supremacy sees Jason (Damon) living in isolation in Goa, India with Marie (Franka Potente), still trying to remember who he is and what he’s done. Their lives are suddenly turned upside down by the appearance of Russian FSB agent Kirill (Karl Urban) who, fresh from implicating Bourne in ‘mole’ scandal, attempts to assassinate the former secret agent.
Under Greengrass’ direction, The Bourne Supremacy keeps the emotional depth and vulnerability of its lead character but with an even more frenetic and chaotic action scenes. The quick-cut technique, with flashes of violence and bone-crunching physical assaults works perfectly for a man who almost literally explodes into combat. This much-copied technique is difficult to accomplish with a sense of realism, but Greengrass and the handy-cams manage it with aplomb.
Take for the example the final scenes in the underbelly of Moscow, which is one of the adrenaline-pumping highlights of The Bourne Supremacy. Having spent time building character through the previous emotional scenes, the stakes for this high-speed pursuit couldn’t be higher. It is this level of construction and effort that is so easily missing from a host of action films before it, which really separates the Bourne series from the rest.
There’s even enough goodwill left after this to finish on an emotionally poignant moment, with the wonderful Damon underplaying it all the way to the bank. The continued success of the franchise forced the hand of the Bond film-makers, resulting in Casino Royale. Thus you can see why The Bourne Supremacy, which betters the original has raised the stakes in the super-spy genre and forced other film-makers to up their games to compensate.