Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Bourne Supremacy Movie Review

If The Bourne Identity was the grounded, relaxed version of an action spy film, then its first sequel The Bourne Supremacy is the next step in kineticism, ratcheting up the energy as Bourne remembers more about his past and becomes more deeply embroiled in layers of cover-ups he can’t understand.

It picks up two years after the events of the first film. Bourne and Marie are hiding out in India until an assassin (Karl Urban) shows up and accidentally kills Marie (Franka Potente) instead of Bourne. Meanwhile in Berlin, Pamela Landy (Joan Allen), a CIA bureaucrat, is working a case to uncover a mole within the organization. Someone is also setting up Bourne as a rogue agent. The old Treadstone project that made Bourne has become Blackbriar. Landy is kept at arm’s length by Abbott (Brian Cox, returning in his role as the head of the Black Ops program).

The plot involves an old Bourne assassination that he recalls only in fragments and flashes. A Russian politician and his wife were killed and it was made to look like murder-suicide. Bourne struggles with his past and who he was. The first film was called The Bourne Identity, but in Supremacy, he is truly coming to terms with his true self. For what does it say about the person he is now, not remembering his past and not wanting any part of that old life, if he was a killer? Do his actions still define him even if, in his mind, they might as well be the actions of a different person altogether?

Director Paul Greengrass brings an entirely different visual style to the series. He uses high-speed push-ins, zooms, quick cuts, kinetic camera movements, and hand-held styles. He rarely holds on anything for any length of time. Most directors who attempt this style end up with confusion, but Greengrass has an instinct for how to tie those things together into something that is pretty close to coherence. He turns formal film technique on its head, adding immediacy and amping up the tension.

By the time Supremacy came out, the U.S. was deeply involved in two Middle East wars which were highly dependent on the kind of spying and back door maneuvers that the Bourne movies make so enthralling. I don’t think we had yet learned the extent to which we were abusing detainees, but incredibly that parallel becomes a crucial part of the next chapter and you can already see the groundwork being laid for it.

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