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The Bourne Supremacy

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With the James Bond franchise now Bondless and Mission: Impossible 3 still directorless, where can spy thriller fans turn? Why, to Jason Bourne, of course.

Matt Damon reprises his role as the amnesic secret agent in the new sequel to Doug Liman’s excellent 2002 actioner. Liman stays on as producer this time, relinquishing the director’s chair to relative newcomer Paul Greengrass. Tony Gilroy fills the screenwriting duties again, gamely attempting to adapt Robert Ludlum’s mind-bending plot twists for the screen one more time. German actress Franka Potente returns as Bourne’s love interest, Marie. Brian Cox and Julia Stiles are also back, again as part of the CIA team trying to track down the ever elusive Bourne.

It’s easy to place the blame for the film’s many failures on Greengrass. Whereas The Bourne Identity used handheld cameras sparingly and purposefully, nearly all of the sequel seems to have been shot by a team of cameramen chasing Matt Damon through various locales across Asia and Europe. Not since The Blair Witch Project has camerawork been this nauseating.

More unforgivable is the film’s complete and utter lack of humor. While Identity had many deadly serious moments, these scenes were invariably punctuated by more lighthearted, off-the-cuff interludes, particularly between Damon and Potente. The chemistry that the two leads shared in the first film to such great effect has been almost entirely excised from Supremacy, and the film suffers significantly from it. Damon has the same ice-cold glare, but the heart of the character is gone.

The film picks up with Bourne and Marie still together, living incognito on the beach in India. Still plagued by flashbacks of his time as an assassin, Bourne has taken to writing down everything he can remember from his previous life in notebooks. But his writings amount to little more than a jumble of puzzle pieces that never seem to quite add up. But it is of little consequence; Bourne has taken every precaution and gone to great lengths to hide from his past.

Of course, his past catches up with him. Two CIA agents are killed, and Bourne is framed for the murders. Operations Director Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) and her team set out to track down Bourne and bring him in. But Bourne isn’t ready to come quietly.

Damon does an adequate job stepping back into his spy suit, but without Liman’s quirky direction, he’s little more than an automaton on-screen. The CIA spooks again have little to do other than provide diversions that bookend Bourne’s antics. The greatest flaw, however, comes in the lack of decent villains. Identity had the menacing Chris Cooper and the inimitable Clive Owen, but the sequel sees a brooding, disinterested Karl Urban tracking Bourne. Urban, as the Russian assassin Kirill, is essentially little more than a prop, conveniently popping up when Bourne needs somebody to run from.

Despite numerous action sequences, the film feels overlong and bloated. Though things begin to pick up in the final half-hour, the beginning seems interminable. Fans of the first film are likely to be disappointed, and newcomers shouldn’t even bother.

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