The Bourne Supremacy
2004
Flushed from his momentary refuge by an assassin, amnesiac -- and ex-CIA killer -- Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) finds himself thrust into secret alliances, setups and shootouts in this riveting sequel, the second leg of scribe Robert Ludlum's espionage trilogy. Still haunted by a murky past, Bourne attempts to piece together the shards of his life while protecting his girlfriend (Franka Potente) and thwarting an international incident.

Scott Hardie: “It ruled.”

Not all trilogies have a weak middle installment. I was underwhelmed by Doug Liman's version of "The Bourne Identity," finding that it lacked something like James Bond's wit to carry it through the more slack moments. "Supremacy" solves that problem by thoroughly removing all slack: This is a throbbing, intense, restless thriller, the kind that leaves you panting after each chase and exhausted by the final credits. Some viewers were bothered by the hand-held camera work and fervent editing (director Paul Greengrass seems constitutionally incapable of holding a shot for more than three seconds), but it's a subjective complaint; I could count the rhythm of his beats and tell that he knew exactly what he was doing. There's briskness for sake of flash and briskness for sake of film, and here the style serves the tension being created. This is near-flawless suspense entertainment, constantly engaging your brain while turning your knuckles white, as smart and sophisticated as adult audiences deserve.

A major element of the film's success is the exceptionally good soundtrack by John Powell, who apparently has a fan following that I'm just now discovering. His brooding music keeps the pace and tension of the action on screen but is unafraid to experiment with melody, rearranging the first film's theme and putting it to better use. More than once it seems as though the action on the screen is an accompaniment to the music! The first few times I was impressed by the score, I thought, "Huh, this music's pretty good, and I barely ever notice film music." After a half-dozen such moments, I thought, "This really is some great music; I'll have to add this to my Amazon wishlist." It didn't take much longer for me to think, "God damn, I've gotta buy this soundtrack tonight." And still it continued to impress me. John Powell is going to win an Oscar someday.

Few actors are able to ground what could be preposterous material around them and still be an "everyman," because the everyman is supposed to be astounded by what he encounters in film. Matt Damon seems to have graduated from the Harrison Ford and Keanu Reeves school of action stardom, playing every scene straight, keeping the emotion contained within the emotional scenes and keeping the heroism out of the film entirely. Jason Bourne may have woken up one night with the ability to kick ass and some enemies whose asses needed kicking, but Damon has him go about his business with a tireless, working-class mentality about a job that needs to be done. When he's finally offered some peace of mind in the final minutes, he seems too tired to accept it, and after two hours of chases and fights this intense, we're too tired to argue with him.

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