Wednesday, January 13, 2016
"THE BOURNE SUPREMACY" (2004) Review
"THE BOURNE SUPREMACY" (2004) Review
I have read only one of three novels written by Robert Ludlum about the amnesiac spy and assassin, Jason Bourne. And it was the 1980 novel - the first one. It was pretty good novel, but it bore scant resemblance to Doug Liman's 2002 movie, "THE BOURNE IDENTITY".
I never saw "THE BOURNE IDENTITY" in the movie theaters. But I did see it on DVD and became an instant fan. It did lead me to see the 2004 sequel, "THE BOURNE SUPREMACY" in the theaters. I never read the 1986 novel from which the movie derived its title. It was just as well. This movie bore no resemblance, whatsoever, to Ludlum's second novel.
Set two years after the 2002 movie, "THE BOURNE SUPREMACY" began in Berlin, Germany; where a C.I.A. operation to obtain information on an Agency mole that stole $20 million dollars of allocation money. The operation was led by a C.I.A. Deputy Director named Pamela Landy. However, a Russian F.S.B. agent named Krill killed Landy's source and a field agent, stole the evidence and framed former operative Jason Bourne for the crime by planting a false fingerprint. Krill's benefactor, an oil magnate named Yuri Grelkov, ordered him to kill Bourne, who was living in Goa, India with his girlfriend, Marie Kreutz. Krill ended up killing Marie after a high-speed chase in Goa. And Bourne returned to Europe to exact revenge upon the C.I.A., believing they were responsible for Marie's death. At the same time, Bourne has been besieged by dreams and memories of an early assignment that led to his murder of two people in a hotel - an assignment that ended up having strong links to the botched operation in Berlin.
"THE BOURNE SUPREMACY" turned out to have the shortest running time in the entire movie franchise. Although it featured two chase sequences - one in Goa and the other in Moscow, it seemed less action-oriented than the other two films. If I must be honest, this BOURNE movie is noteworthy for two things, the death of Marie Kreutz and the introduction of C.I.A. director Pamela Landy. It has never received the same level of attention that the other movies have. And yet . . . it is my favorite one in the entire trilogy that features Matt Damon.
I have at least two problems with "THE BOURNE SUPREMACY". My first problem featured the character of Jarda, portrayed by actor Marton Csokas. During his confrontation with Bourne inside his Munich home, Jarda claimed that they were the only two Treadstone operatives still living. Originally, I thought Jarda was the same guy who had killed Alexander Conklin in "THE BOURNE IDENTITY" (portrayed by actor Russell Levy). But I learned that Conklin's killer was named Manheim. And according to the 2002 movie, there were only three other Treadstone operatives, aside from Bourne. Jarda was NOT one of them. Had screenwriter Tony Gilroy forgotten about Manheim? "THE BOURNE SUPREMACY" marked Paul Greengrass' debut as the director of a BOURNE. Doug Liman, who had directed the first film, served as one of the film's producers. It also marked the first appearance of the shaky-cam style filming that I have grown to dislike. Such style of filming is fine in a war movie or a documentary-style flick. But it almost made the chase sequences in Goa and especially in Moscow visually confusing.
Despite what I believe were flaws in the movies, I cannot deny that I love "THE BOURNE SUPREMACY". It may have been the least action-oriented film in the franchise, but I firmly believe that thanks to Tony Gilroy's writing, Paul Greengrass' direction and Matt Damon's performance; it was the most emotional film of the three. And it featured great character development for the Jason Bourne, Pamela Landy, Nicky Parsons and Ward Abbott characters. This movie, I believe, featured Matt Damon's finest moment in the entire trilogy and some of his best acting, period.
Ludlum's 1986 novel included a plot line that featured the character of Marie St. Jacques Webb being kidnapped to coerce David Webb into assuming the role of Jason Bourne again in order to deal with a deadly assassin. Gilroy was inspired by this plot line to create a story in which Bourne's past as an assassin would force him to atone for his crimes - especially the one crime that started his career for Treadstone. Marie's death at the hands of Krill forced Bourne to seek out the C.I.A. again. It also led to what I believe to be the best scene in the entire trilogy - Bourne's meeting with the young Russian girl, whose parents had been his first victims.
But there were other scenes that either took my breath away or strongly impressed me. They include Marie's death in Goa, the verbal confrontations between Pamela Landy and Ward Abbott, Bourne's fight with Jarda, Nicky Parson's terror-filled conversation with Bourne about his first assignment, Bourne's realization that he had been tricked into committing two unsanctioned murders by Conklin and Abbott, Abbott's final conversations with both Bourne and Landy, and the Bourne/Krill car chase in Moscow. Looking at this list, I realize that many of these scenes were dramatic, instead of action-oriented. And this does not bother me, because the level of drama and the performances made it all worthwhile.
I cannot talk about "THE BOURNE SURPEMACY" without discussing the cast. I have already expressed my delight at Matt Damon's acting in this film. He gave his usual, top-level performance. And as I had stated earlier, his scene with actress Oksana Akinshina, who portrayed the daughter of the Russian couple he had killed years earlier, was probably the best I had seen in the franchise. I found it intense, yet subtle and emotional.
Joan Allen made her first appearance as C.I.A. Deputy Director Pamela Lundy. I have a deep suspicion that her role was inspired by Judi Dench's tenure as "M" in the last six James Bond movies. Allen proved to be equally strong and commanding as Lundy, yet at the same time, managed to quietly express her character's insecurities in her scenes with Brian Cox's Ward Abbott. I must admit that I was not hat impressed by Cox in the first BOURNE movie. He seemed to be overshadowed by Chris Cooper's more showy portrayal of Alex Conklin. But he was in top form as the quiet and desperately manipulative Ward Abbott, who along with Yuri Grelkov, was responsible for the theft of the missing C.I.A. funds.
Like Cox, Julia Stiles' second appearance in a BOURNE movie proved to be a lot more impressive. Her character, Nicky Parsons, transformed from the shadowy Treadstone operative to a woman frightened at the idea of facing a murderous Jason Bourne. Her emotional scene with Damon's Bourne in Berlin proved to be one of the best in the movie. Franka Potente briefly returned as Bourne's doomed girlfriend, Marie Kreutz to give a first-rate performance in a scene that featured the character's attempt to keep Bourne's raging paranoia in check. Her death at the hands of Krill proved to be one of the most surprising moments I have encountered in a movie in years. For someone who spoke very few lines, Oksana Akinshina did an excellent job in her portrayal of the Neskis' daughter. That confession scene with Damon would have never worked without her spot-on response. Although I had seen Karl Urban in two "LORD OF THE RINGS" movies by 2004, his performance as the cold-blooded F.S.B. agent Krill, finally led me to take notice of him as an actor. Urban radiated more presence in this role than he did in Peter Jackson's movies. And he managed to achieve this with less lines. More importantly, his Krill proved to be a VERY effective nemesis for Bourne, despite being a lesser trained operative. And finally, the movie also featured a brief appearance by Tomas Arana in a sharp performance as the sardonic C.I.A. Director Marshall.
Yes, "THE BOURNE SUPREMACY" has its flaws. I cannot deny this. Just about every movie I have seen has flaws. I have also noticed that it has attracted less attention than the other two BOURNE movies. Yet, thanks to Paul Greengrass' direction, Tony Gilroy's script and a superb cast led by Matt Damon; it is my favorite film in the franchise.