"Who's giving him targets now?" "Scary version? He is."
"The Bourne Identity" became a surprise hit in the Summer of 2002, as it offered a thriller that boasted well-defined characters, a strong plot and an unexpectedly solid performance by Matt Damon, who I don't think anyone would have thought of as an action hero. Doug Liman, who had previously directed the slick smaller films "Swingers" and "Go", also was an unexpected success, shuttling the action along at a rapid pace and also, giving fine balance to the characters and thrills.
At the end of the film, Bourne had found love in Marie Kreutz (Franka Potente), who earlier had accepted Bourne's offer of $20,000 to drive him out of danger. As the second film opens, the two have settled down together and despite some surface assurances that the worst has ended, it isn't over. Another killer (Karl Urban) is tracking Bourne, and, around the same time, Bourne is framed for a crime involving the CIA that he didn't commit.
Despite Bourne's warnings to the CIA in the first picture that he'd come after them if they came after him, the CIA comes back in the picture, lead by Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) and Bourne's old boss, Ward Abbott (Brian Cox). Thinking that the CIA is responsible, Bourne strikes back, with the kind of swiftness and force that his warning in the first film carried. There is, however, an event early in the story regarding a character that is handled so abruptly that it took me out of the film for a little while.
Director Doug Liman did not come back for this time (after problems with the studio on the first film, he returns as a producer here only), although the screenplay has once again been adapted by Tony Gilroy from Robert Ludlum's novel. Director Paul Greengrass, whose tragic and powerful "Bloody Sunday" impressed me, takes over the helm this time around. Where Liman was swift and slick, Greengrass is relentless in his persuit of the action, trying to literally put the audience into the experience of the characters. Both approaches are perfectly fine, although Greengrass's efforts are going to work for some and be too dizzying for others. Personally, I thought it added to the urgency of most of the movie, but took away from a fight scene that seemed too shaky.
Also back from the original film are cinematographer Oliver Wood and composer James Powell, whose propulsive themes (one of my favorite scores of the year, it's somewhat similar to that of the first film) push the movie forward with great intensity. The film's action scenes snap and crackle - despite one that seemed a little too hand-held for it's own good, the action sequences (such as the major car chase) seem fast and chaotic, yet still well choreographed.
The performances are also good. Joan Allen is an excellent actress, but still an inspired, unexpected choice as the CIA operative after Bourne. She provides a stern, convincing performance that I liked a lot. Damon is once again an excellent, quiet spy - the performance isn't showy and Damon's performance says a lot with or without dialogue. The supporting performances are solid, as well.
Overall, I think "Supremacy" doesn't quite match the heights of "Identity", but it's a solid sequel that is smart, exciting and nearly always involving.
VIDEO: "The Bourne Supremacy" is presented by Universal in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Picture quality is mostly first rate, although there's the occasional fault that keeps this from being a flawless effort. Sharpness and detail seemed solid for the majority of the film, although the occasional wide shot and a couple of chaotic moments looked slightly softer in comparison. Most scenes, though, looked crystal clear, with fine details visible.
The picture does show some faults - brief, slight traces of pixelation are glimpsed on a couple of occasions. Light edge enhancement also shows up at times, but it's not distracting. Some slight grain - an intentional element of the photography - is also present at times. The print used looked to be in fine condition, with no specks, marks or other signs of wear. The film's steely, cool color palette looked accurately rendered here, with no smearing or other faults. Flesh tones looked accurate, while black level looked solid.
SOUND: "The Bourne Supremacy" is presented by Universal in Dolby Digital 5.1. Despite being a fairly dialogue-driven film at times, there's elements that really push this soundtrack rather hard. Powell's score is often thunderous, and fully engulfs the viewer. The score really hits hard, sounding full and rich. It also gives a real tension, energy and atmosphere to the film. Surrounds aren't always on, but they do offer some effective sound effects in the action sequences and solid ambience in other sequences.
EXTRAS: Director Paul Greengrass goes solo for an audio commentary on the film. The commentary has some slow moments and Greengrass spends some time narrating the story, but when he does get going, he does do a fine job explaining some of his choices on the look and feel of the film. We also learn more about the production and hear some enjoyable behind-the-scenes tidbits.
Next is about 7 minutes of deleted scenes. Offered without any optional commentary, these scenes offer some fairly interesting moments, but weren't really necessary in the film. "Matching Identities" is a 5-minute look at the casting of the film. "Keeping It Real" is a 5-minute look at the "realistic" feel and visual style of the film. "Blowing Things Up" is a 4-minute look at an explosion sequence and the production behind the scene. "On The Move" is a nearly 5-minute look at the locations.
"Bourne To Be Wild" (geez, who named the featurettes on the disc?) is a nearly 5-minute look at the fight training required for the film. "Crash Cam: Racing Through the Streets of Moscow" and "The Go-Mobile Revs Up the Action" are short pieces that look at some of the driving and stunt work in the film. "Anatomy of a Scene: The Explosive Bridge Chase Scene" looks at the moment where Bourne jumps in front of trains to escape. Finally, there's a look at the work of composer John Powell and cast/crew bios. The movie had a great trailer but it's not included here, unfortunately.
Final Thoughts: While "Supremacy" isn't quite as consistently strong as "Identity", it's a solid sequel that's smart, entertaining and offers fine performances. Universal's DVD edition is a very good release, with strong audio/video quality and a series of generally insightful and entertaining supplements. Recommended.