The Bourne Supremacy (2004)

Rating: ***
Release Date: 7/23/04
Director: Paul Greengrass
Fight Choreography: Jeff Imada
Cast: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Brian Cox, Joan Allen, Karl Urban, Julia Stiles

Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) and Maria (Franka Potente) are living the simple life in India, but Jason is still plagued by the fragmented memories of his past. Their idyllic existence is shattered when Bourne is framed for an assassination in Berlin and relentlessly pursued by a Russian agent played by the tough and sexy Karl Urban. As he promised in "The Bourne Identity" (2002), he takes the fight back to the CIA and goes up against a tough as nails Pamela Landy (awesome Joan Allen). She uncovers some skeletons and gets into all sorts of trouble with the top secret Treadstone Project, and more secrets surrounding Bourne's past are revealed. Bourne also puts together some of the pieces himself, with bittersweet results. He amazingly manages to clear his name and get away, presumably to star in "The Bourne Ultimatum," which will undoubtedly be made if this film is successful.

A good and well-paced thriller that cranks up the action much higher than the first film. With a considerably larger budget, "Supremacy" is a much more conventional film than the artsy and low budget original, but it also suffers from that as well. The writing and acting are good, but character development is almost non-existent. Several key players from the original reprise their roles, with some interesting revelations. While she only has a couple of minutes onscreen, I was very impressed with Julia Stiles' character and the broad range that she managed to pull off with such little material. However, it's very frustrating that most of her scenes that were in the trailer didn't make it into the film. Joan Allen does an excellent job as the cold and seemingly sinister director who is after Bourne, but just like everyone else, she's just doing her job and doing what she thinks is right. The music score is also very nice at setting the mood and keeping the tension up.

All that's left to talk about is the action, which is a mixed bag. While the action scenes appear to be well thought out and executed, the film features some of the worst cinematography I've seen in years, which does a great job of nullifying any excitement you might otherwise get from the film. And it's not just the action scenes that suffer. Even when we're just sitting there watching Jason read a book, the camera is shaking all over the place. Are we having an earthquake here? Use a tripod, people! THAT'S WHAT THEY'RE FOR. Jeff Imada's choreography for the one fight scene in the film is probably very good, but you can't tell because the camera is so tight and shaky, and the cuts are so rapid. They could be brushing their teeth or eating breakfast for all I could tell. Very frustrating and very disappointing. The big set piece in the film is a car chase through downtown Moscow, which needlessly cuts between shots of Jason's steering wheel, feet, and gearshift, as if we need to know exactly when he's shifting and what gear he's in. This does nothing but cheat and confuse the viewer, and break the cinematic narrative. The cuts are also tight, shaky, and super quick, which makes following the action a serious chore. Things improve when they finally enter a tunnel, which is such a claustrophobic space that the camera doesn't have much room to move around in, so we can see more of what's going on. Things in the tunnel get very tense with excellent results, and I haven't seen such an exciting piece of car action since "Ronin" (1998). Overall, a flawed, but enjoyable piece of summer action, full of intrigue and exotic locales.