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The Bourne Supremacy

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The Bourne Supremacy

Starring: Matt Damon, Franka Potente
Director: Paul Greengrass
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 108 Minutes
Release Date: July 2004
Genres: Action, Suspense

*Also starring: Brian Cox, Joan Allen, Julia Stiles, Tomas Arana, Tom Gallop, Wanja Mues, Oliver Tautorat, Karl Urban, Karel Roden

Review by Harvey Karten
2 stars out of 4

For a while since the end of the Cold War, the CIA was not supposed to be engaged in political assassination. That's before names like Osama Bin Laden came up, allowing the present administration to change the rules. To what extent was the ban on killing for the U.S. made with a wink-wink, nudge- nudge? The average American may never know, but two years ago Doug Liman directed Matt Damon and Franka Potente as a CIA assassin and his girl friend in "The Bourne Identity," a crackling spy thriller from the Robert Ludlum novel, the former having no memory of what he had done. The amnesia, for cinematic purposes, may be metaphorical as well as literal in that killers-for-hire are supposed to "forget" their evil deeds, particularly if they are reformed or if they've been discarded by their government.

Now with "The Bourne Supremacy" under the helm of Paul Greengrass–whose "Bloody Sunday" about a clash between British soldiers and Irish civil rights workers in the Northern Ireland of 1972 make him a wise choice for a down-and-dirty fictional piece–Bourne is back. This time he's running–in a Jeep, in a taxi, on his legs–from people who are chasing him in commandeered cars and high-power rifles. His girl friend thinks he's paranoid since, after all, he has little idea why anyone would want to get him, but piece by piece his memory is to return showing him to be not so much an evil killer as a man just his recent past.

Greenglass keeps the action as taut as his predecessor, including a car chase that's among the best in years, but while the picture is built around the cat-and-mouse game involving CIA operative (Joan Allen), agentWard Abbott (Brian Cox) and field operative Nicky (Julia Stiles), we are oddly so distanced from these characters that it's difficult to care for any of them. Do we want Bourne to get away? Who knows? The plot runs strictly on adrelanin, but though the performances from Cox, Allen and Damon are on target, there is so much going on that even by the film's conclusion we're not clear how a Russian Secret Service agent--who appears on the take from a strange bespectacled man who wants Bourne as dead as the CIA that washed their hands of him--is part of the story. Tony Gilroy, who scripted the original as well from the Ludlum novel, may wonder how his plot lines became so muddled.

In his New York Press review, critic Matt Zoller Seitz indicates that "like the original, the sequel throws out so much tangled information at such a hell-on-wheels pace eventually gives up trying to keep the story straight and responds to the picture as a work of pure cinema." That's simply not enough.

Copyright © 2004 Harvey Karten

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