The Bourne Supremacy

The Bourne Supremacy continues the parade of major summer blockbusters, so there are inevitably some furrowed brows and vapid introspection in between stunning fight sequences set in exotic international locales. All in the game, as Hollywood might say, and indeed, Jason Bourne, the intrepid hero in the adaptation of the Robert Ludlum novel of the same name, goes through more than the usual paces in this typical summer thriller.

In The Bourne Identity, the climactic parts of the film centered on the amnesia of Bourne, a former secret service agent. The Bourne Supremacy, as the name suggests, is the second film in the Bourne trilogy of a single person triumphing over legions of firm-jawed intelligence officers of the state, but the original conceit of amnesia remains a core plot element. This time, Bourne, still solidly amnesiac, is enjoying a leisurely life in India before his past catches up with him.

For lovers of “international men of mystery,” Ludlum appears somewhere between a dime novel and John le Carre. Ludlum’s plots are so repetitive, it is almost better to focus on the action, of which there is enough in the book and the film to give Spiderman fans a complex. In an ode to the James Bond movies, each of which was filmed in a particular country, The Bourne Supremacy also takes its colors and quirks from the different countries in which Bourne operates. In quick succession, Bourne rampages through busy thoroughfares in the lush tropical environs of India and pursues his enemies in the cold clean images of the international city of Berlin.

Bourne wishes he had remained in the idyllic coastal town of Goa, India instead of chasing and being chased by crooks and government agents in Europe. With both well-meaning government officers and respectable private citizens out to wring his neck, Bourne decides that violent action is better than explanation, and some of the car chases in and around Berlin are, despite their predictability, thrilling to even the most jaded viewer. Some of the best moments in the Bourne Supremacy come from finding out how quickly Bourne eases into his role as a blood-thirsty secret agent. At an Italian airport, not only does he manage to disarm pesky immigration officials, but he also has the presence of mind to tap their cell phones, all in a matter of seconds. Little is lost on him, except the unimportant matter of who he is and how the hell he got into this mess in the first place.

Matt Damon as Bourne is an intriguing piece of casting since he neither has the movie star looks nor any movie star persona. But he has a pixie boy next door charm that makes for some interesting incongruity between him and the action scenes. Franka Potente as his girlfriend Mary has an almost inconsequential role to play, weakening the film’s attempt to show Bourne’s more vulnerable side.

Despite the high speed car chases and the gleaming high-tech weaponry, The Bourne Supremacy is empty of any lasting impressions. Unlike Damon, whose lost boy charm can keep a film firing on at least one cylinder, the other actors go through the motions without getting into the skin of their characters. One exception to the listless acting is Julia Stiles, who as Nicky, a CIA agent, looks genuinely scared at the prospect of Bourne back in the game. Unlike Bourne, who has forgotten his past and does not know his future, Nicky knows Bourne only too well, and since Bourne will return in the final installment of the trilogy (inevitably called The Bourne Ultimatum) she also knows the bloody future that awaits everyone.

– Nigam Nuggehalli