I sat for two hours watching "The Bourne Supremacy" with a full audience at a
3:00 afternoon show. After the first twenty minutes, I could not concentrate
for too long because I grew dizzy (added to that, I kept hearing an old guy
snoring behind me). The dizziness was due to the constant hand-held camerawork,
relentless to the point that the camera shakes more violently during an action
sequence or a fistfight. And yet this movie is far more enjoyable than "The
Bourne Identity," a bland thriller that coasted along its own bland energy.
The movie jumps into high action gears immediately. The
slowly-getting-out-of-his-amnesiac-shell Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is now
living in India with his girlfriend, Marie (Franka Potente), shut out from the
rest of the world. Of course, like any Robert Ludlum spy thriller, you can't
keep a good assassin down for long. Bourne notices a man dressed in the wrong
clothes and driving the wrong car near the streets of this Indian pueblo -
someone is after him and wants him killed. Bourne whisks Marie away in his
jeep, crashes off a bridge, falls deep underwater, and tries to rescue Marie.
Unfortunately, she is dead (and don't expect her to come back a la "Run Lola
Run's" time-twisting narrative). So who is after Bourne? It turns out that
Bourne is accused of killing someone during a CIA mission - his fingerprints
are planted there! This begs the question: who got his fingerprints? Definitely
not the Russian assassin who tried to kill Bourne in the opening sequence. Or
maybe the hand-held camerawork swayed from any details that couldn't stay on
screen longer than two seconds.
Bourne wants to clear his name. He goes after Pamela Landy (Joan Allen - always
a welcome presence), a new agent who wants the truth as much as Bourne does.
The trouble is that this Ludlum antihero is always one step ahead of everyone,
including Landy and the reptilian CIA boss, Ward Abbott (Brian Cox). He travels
from Naples to Berlin to Moscow, always evading the CIA. In one chilling
moment, Bourne aims his telescopic rifle at the unaware Landy while
communicating via cell phone. And he is still one hell of a fighter, even
disabling someone with a rolled-up magazine! And boy, can this guy move! He
jumps with the ease of a Jackie Chan and, at times, resembles a superhero with
his dark overcoat. Oh, and he can do wonders with toasters!
The movie is murky with details and conspiracy rings, particularly involving
Abbott who you know is as corrupt as anyone in the entire movie. We are never
sure who or what is responsible or why. We just get carried along by Bourne's
continuous search for the truth, especially the possibility that he murdered a
Russian in Berlin (an apparent introductory drill into the life of an
"The Bourne Supremacy" is dense with details that do not amount to much. It is
sort of a latter-day "The Fugitive" with Bourne visiting hotels, apartments,
train stations - they serve as reminders of long-forgotten memories that can
trigger his cabeza to dispel truths he wants the CIA to uncover. Yet we still
never discover who this Jason Bourne really is. After two movies, we just know
he is an able assassin and a quick-as-lighting fighter - Damon plays him as a
robot with no sense of humor. Realistically, it makes sense but it can get on
your nerves. To be fair, he seems more threatening than he was in "Identity"
and we do get carried along by his charisma.
As for the interminable hand-held camerawork, it is unfathomable how director
Paul Greengrass thought this was the best way to shoot. The camera swings
between 180 to 360 degrees, rotating and panning with barely much
stabilization. Some people on the movie discussion boards said it was a way of
"implying action." How can you imply when you can't tell what may or may not be
implied? Still, I grew accustomed to it (and the use of long lenses where there
would be out-of-focus shots) but it could have used the more rapid-fire,
stabilized approach of John Frankeheimer's "Ronin" or William Friedkin's "The
French Connection." I will say that the climactic car chase, involving a
taxicab and a SUV, is about as exciting as car chases ever get, and the
hand-held camera approach exemplifies it.
"The Bourne Supremacy" is entertaining enough for its two-hour running time,
but it is a hollow, cursory thriller. We don't know what is really at stake and
we learn precious little about Jason Bourne. It is the latest Hollywood thrill
ride, and it is engaging in a remote way, but it needs more carbs.
Copyright © 2004 Jerry Saravia