Movie Review | The Bourne Supremacy
Movie summary: When Jason Bourne is framed for a CIA operation gone awry, he is forced to resume his former life as a trained assassin to survive. (IMDb)
In my review of The Bourne Identity, I mentioned that I was expecting a lot of 'shaky-cam' as that is known as one of the primary visual identifiers of this series of movies and was pleasantly surprised that the action was actually fairly easy to follow. Well, it turns out that I was one film too early and The Bourne Supremacy has enough shaky-cam and quick-cutting for an entire trilogy.
No joke, it's ridiculous how difficult it can be to follow the action in a few of the scenes in this movie. Two of them were so bad that I actually started to feel a little dizzy thanks to what felt like a jumbled mess of constant movement being jammed into my eyes. It's not just during the action either, the camera is constantly moving and bouncing in practically every scene.
You could argue that it's actually narratively-appropriate, keeping the audience as off-balance as all the characters, but it just doesn't work and actively detracts from the movie. During the final showdown between Bourne (Matt Damon again) and Kirill (Karl Urban), I had to almost force myself to not pay too much attention because I didn't want a headache.
Whichever way you want to frame the constant shaking, moving and cutting, making it such a problem that it can make someone almost want to stop watching isn't great. Many modern action movies get criticised for the action being difficult to follow, but compared to The Bourne Supremacy, they're as easy to watch as Saturday morning kids' cartoons.
With the style actively working against the movie, it's up to the story and characters to provide the substance, which turns out to be okay for the most part but doesn't come anywhere close to the first movie. Matt Damon is very good again, even if Bourne seems a little colder and meaner than in The Bourne Identity, although considering how the movie starts, it's fairly justified.
And that start is quite problematic, with Franka Potente exiting the series in unceremonious fashion, her existence in The Bourne Supremacy solely to motivate the male lead. I don't know if there were any issues the actress had with the role or was possibly unavailable going forward, but the loss of her character, Marie, robs the movie of the heart the first film.
That's probably the biggest issue with this movie - it lacks warmth. This isn't just the cold-feeling colour palette of a lot of the movie, but so much of the running time is filled with highly-skilled and super-competent people essentially just doing their jobs that you wish there was a little more time to get to know them better as people.
Don't get me wrong, it's very satisfying seeing everyone - including the villains - actually being good at what they do, as it highlights just how skilled Bourne is to constantly evade them while also reinforcing just how deadly the threats are to his life. There aren't any contrivances to give anyone an advantage at any point, but rather very capable professionals gaining the upper hand when things go their way.
In fact, the most human part of the story goes to a very minor character who only appears in one sequence late on, played by Oksana Akinshina. She goes from terrified to confused, then on to some form of cathartic relief via shock and sadness in very little time at all and the actress really sells every single one of those emotions. It's a great mini-performance that stands out as a very human character in a world of hardened professionals.
If you're looking for an action film that allows the balance of power to shift naturally between everyone involved because they're all so good at what they do - with Bourne ultimately proving the best, obviously - then The Bourne Supremacy is the movie for you. Personally, I just wish that they weren't all so good at their jobs that we got to see them screw up and see how the react to adversity of their own cause rather than simply being outmanoeuvred at certain points.
As far as the main story goes, it's a little convoluted and takes certain liberties with the set up of the first movie and certain characters from The Bourne Identity that reappear here (even if very briefly in the shape of Chris Cooper's Conklin), but is still relatively simple to follow, even if the action isn't. There are a few diversions that don't feel entirely necessary, but they never derail the plot.
Despite the amount of criticism above, I enjoyed watching The Bourne Supremacy again as Damon still makes Bourne a character you want to follow and succeed, including my favourite scene of the movie where he outwits the CIA team led by Joan Allen's Pamela Landy hunting him. It really is the look of the movie that stops me from liking it more.
The Bourne Supremacy doesn't live up to the first movie and isn't helped by the almost-nauseating amount of 'shaky-cam' and constant cutting that renders the majority of the action almost incomprehensible - not great for an action movie. Damon is still good as Bourne though, even if his arc isn't quite as satisfying this time around.