The duo of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are the Hollywood equivalent of tennis' Williams sisters, Venus and Serena. It seems like whenever Ben is up (See: The Sum of All Fears, Daredevil), Matt is down (See: Stuck on You), simliar to the Williams sisters swapping the #1 ranking on the women's tennis tour. Ben is very much down right now (See: Gigli, Paycheck and all that Bennifer crap) so naturally, Matt is definitely up, with The Bourne Supremacy, the sequel to the surprise 2002 hit The Bourne Identity. As far as I'm concerned, this is the way it should always be, since I've always thought Damon was a far better actor than Affleck, in leading roles, at least. And with Damon's upcoming roles in the Terry Gilliam flick The Brothers Grimm, Stephen Soderbergh's Ocean's 12 and Steven Gaghan's Syriana, this trend just might stay this way for awhile now. But for now, Damon is deservedly on top in reprising Jason Bourne in this highly entertaining sequel.
The Bourne Supremacy starts out where we last saw Bourne: in India with his new girl Marie (Potente). It appears that he lives a fairly quiet life, except for his brutal nightmares of the past he can't remember. He wakes up, jotting sketchy memories in a notebook, trying to decipher who he was before his amnesia. But his past-memory project is put on hold when a leery stranger (Urban) surfaces in his neighborhood, and his instincts kick in, knowing trouble is afoot. Little does he know that two CIA operatives were killed in a CIA mole sting gone awry, and, due to some planted evidence, the murders are being pinned on him by Pamela Landy (Allen). So Bourne must evade everyone, while trying to figure out why the hell they're after him, yet again.In the first movie, I was incredibly surprised with Damon’s action/fighting skills. He was incredibly convincing as a well-trained operative. While I’m sure those skills haven’t faded, we don’t see nearly as much of them in the sequel, which is a good thing for a couple of reasons. One, the sequel needed to give us more story, and it definitely delivered with Tony Gilroy’s wonderful script. But the other reason is the new director, Paul Greengrass (Bloody Sunday) didn’t seem as apt as Bourne Identity helmer Doug Liman in capturing these scenes. The few action/fighting scenes we do see are very muddled, with dizzying/annoying camera work, and the same goes for the chase scenes, whether it be car chases or chases on foot. But still, knowing this is the second in a trilogy of books by Robert Ludlum, they decided to give us a lot more character background and a very good story.
Damon delivers once again in a superb performance as Jason Bourne. He shows a lot more range here from the first one, but from his previous work, we’ve known all along that he’s had it. His character deals with a lot more conflicts than in Bourne Identity, and Damon deals with them all very nicely. He gets a lot of flak for his decisions in choosing roles, but this role seems tailor fit for Mr. Damon. I’m almost sad that there is only one more movie to go in this series, because I’d just love to see Damon as Bourne for many more years to come. But with the author of this series, Robert Ludlum’s death in 2001, this series continuing past the third book, The Bourne Ultimatum, seems unlikely. Still, Damon’s work in this series alone has cemented him as an A-list bankable star.
There are a few new faces here in the sequel, along with Damon and Brian Cox and Julia Stiles reprising their roles. The most prominent newcomer to this series is the immensely talented Joan Allen, who plays the right-down-to-business CIA top dog Pamela Landy. Watch her in Pleasantville, or even The Contender and then watch this movie and you’ll see just how talented this actress is. She can play a wide variety of roles, and this role, like her turn in this year’s The Notebook, she plays a female of the chilly persuasion but with potential to thaw. I loved her addition to this cast and I hope she stays on for the inevitable third movie. The other newbie to the series is the just-as-cold Karl Urban, last seen in The Chronicles of Riddick. He doesn’t have a huge part here, as the hired assassin that goes after Bourne, but he does some good work here. I was hoping that Julia Stiles would have a bigger part here, but she’s still solid and Brian Cox is wonderful as always. Some fine acting from a great, all-around cast.
Scribe Tony Gilroy’s work is much more apparent here, than in the action-filled sequel. There is some great dialogue and a wonderful story arc that keeps you guessing and sets us up very nicely for the third movie. My only beef with the script is that it’s a tad confusing, when we get into the subplots about Urban’s employer and Bourne’s past that appear to be connected. I don’t know, maybe I didn’t get enough sleep today, but it seemed a little confusing to me. The script is a great one, though with plenty of drama, subtle humor and a little bit of action here and there.
Director Paul Greengrass doesn’t quite have the action-director chops, but he succeeds in every other aspect. His fight scenes are all over the place, and the car chase scenes, which were heavily praised in the first movie, seemed more like a demolition derby re-enactment than a car chase, with the cars running into damn near everything in sight. Still, these are minor transgressions, and his overall direction turned out to be just right for this movie.
The Bourne Supremacy shares a similar theme to another of Damon’s flicks, Rounders, because they are both about the fact that, no matter how hard you try, you can’t change who you really are. This flick is in the vein of Spider-Man 2: a sequel with more story and less action, a sequel that's better than the original, and a movie you definitely won't want to miss.