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Arts & Culture

The Bourne Supremacy

The Bourne Identity ended with Bourne having given the CIA the slip.

The Bourne Supremacy hooks up with Bourne two years later. Hes been living with Marie (Franka Potenta), the young woman that he initially coerced into helping him in the first film. Hes never stopped looking over his shoulder but hes had a relatively quiet couple of years and that has afforded him a chance to try and further piece his life together because hes still troubled by fragmentary nightmares of his former life. The realization hes slowly coming to is that hes done some pretty horrible things.

Julia Stiles and Matt Damon in The Bourne Supremacy (Universal)

The calm hes enjoyed, however, is about to end as hes pulled back into the world of international espionage with its covert plots, turncoat agents, secret agendas and office politics. He has to contend with an old CIA nemesis, Ward Abbott (Brian Cox), whose shady dealings we began to get a glimpse of in The Bourne Identity . He also faces two new players: Pamela Landy (Joan Allen in a hard-assed change of pace role), a determined CIA agent whos certain Bourne has resurfaced with a vendetta against the company; and Kirill (Karl Urban), a Russian with orders to kill Bourne. Now Bourne must once again rely on his lethal training to elude both American and Russian agents.

The Bourne Supremacy is an excellent follow-up to the first film. It maintains the lean efficiency and cold matter-of-fact approach to the material. It globe trots with Bourne and takes us to various locales, but not in the glossy way that the Roger Moore/Bond films used to use exotic settings merely as window dressing. Here the locations add authenticity and convey the global nature of todays espionage.

Joan Allen joins the team in The Bourne Supremacy (Universal)

Tony Gilroys script for The Bourne Supremacy (as with his script for the first film) discards Ludlum's Cold War background in order to update the story to the present day. His success in doing so proves that Ludlums material is not tied in to any particular events nor is its primary interest in politics or even the state of the CIA. Gilroys scripts for the Bourne films use the spy world as an effective and tense environment for a thriller rather than as a means of making a timely commentary on the CIA. This is not the paranoid political cinema of The Parallax View and All the Presidents Men . Here politics and the CIA are just convenient plot elements to drive the action, and they do work well in creating an atmosphere of danger and uncertainty, as Bourne never knows whom to trust. Gilroy keeps the plot dense but not really complex, and the pace fast.

Paul Greengrass is a smart choice to take over directing duties. His prior work in non-fiction filmmaking and on the feature film Bloody Sunday prove useful as he tries to create a sense of immediacy in The Bourne Supremacy . He uses, almost exclusively, a hand-held camera that makes you feel like you are right there and a part of the action. This approach heightens the tensions and keeps audience in the heat of the moment. He handles the violence well, giving it grit and abruptness. Theres very little CGI or effects work, which again helps to keep the level of realism high.

In the first film, the casting of Matt Damon as Bourne was a bit awkward, like sending in a boy to do a man's job. He was too young and not physically imposing enough. But Damonwho still has wholesome, Boy Scout featureshas grown into the role and seems more comfortable (or maybe Ive just gotten used to him). The brisk pace of the story doesnt allow him much time to wallow in emotions and thats probably a good thing.

The Bourne Supremacy (rated PG-13 for violence, intense action, and brief language) maintains the high level of craftsmanship that made the first film a surprising hit. It is a spy film for adults and it avoids over the top pyrotechnics and jokey one-liners and instead delivers a mature, intelligent thriller.

Companion viewing: The Bourne Identity , Three Days of the Condor, The Ipcress Files -----