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The Bourne Supremecy

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Overall this is a disappointment.

There are interesting pieces to the film. Director Paul Greengrass manages to hold together the suspense longer than he should without a substantive plot. Even some of the chase scenes are brisk and visually well done.

This film is betrayed by the story, which falls on its face like a drunk in a hurdle race the moment the final act kicks in. The reason for this is the massive hole where an antagonist should be. Jason Bourne is not matched up against anyone except himself. This works in books but not on film (ever ask why film adaptations are hardly ever like the books they’re based on?)
Without a central, forceful bad guy the film becomes nothing more than a series of events. This is common now in Hollywood films. It’s content-free filmmaking. A McMovie.

The only clear antagonist is (the secondary antagonist) Kirill played by Karl Urban. The problem is Kirill has no solid motivation to place him against Bourne. Why does he want Bourne dead? Why was Bourne hired to kill the Russian politician all those years ago? Are they connected? Why?

Technically, the main antagonist is Ward Abbott (Brian Cox performing the same role he played in The Ring, X-Men 2, Troy and Super Troopers.) Ward is not revealed as the true bad guy until late in the second act. Holding off on this reveal leaves Bourne fighting straw men in the absence of Kirill who disappears until the third act. This is how one structures a content-free film.

The film spends too much time building the female characters – Nicky (played by Julia Stiles) and Pamela Landy (Joan Allen.) The fact that they’re women is not relevant – what is relevant is the character’s importance to the plot. Pamela is functional in getting Bourne from place to place while putting the needed pressure on Abbott. She can stay if she develops a personality. I’m still not certain why we bother with Nicky. This character could have been melded into Pamela’s character or one of the secondary characters without much effort.

The final showdown between Kirill and Bourne is the biggest let down. The final car chase is shot too tightly and edited too spastically. It is important to allow the action to flow. The cars are moving quite fast, their speed can carry a scene without the MTV editing. The final death of Kirill is actually boring to me because I didn’t care. I was happy to see Karl Urban stop acting.

Final thought, whose idea was it to let Matt Damon do this series? He looks like he should be buying a pony keg for the underage members of his frat, not fighting international spy agencies.

This is worth the rental, if you have a coupon.

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  • Eric Olsen

    HI Scott, sorry I am so late in getting to you. Nice review – I liked this a lot better than you did, but I wasn’t expecting all that much either. I thought it was exciting and atmospheric and think Matt Damon is just right for the role – he doesn’t seem too callow to me at all. That’s a good point about no looming antagonist, but I found Damon’s struggle against “the system” compelling and perhaps more chilling (and realistic) than a larger-than-life villain.

    Thanks and welcome!

  • You raise some valid points in your review but all-in-all I was very pleased with the Bourne Supremacy and I thought the final car chase was dynamic, kinetic and extremely well done. I liked the style, the pacing and bluntly the sheer brutality of the fight scenes. I also enjoy the way that Bourne is portrayed as thinking his way out of danger.

    * spoiler ahead *
    I also have to take issue with your point about Kirill. My read on that scene was that it wasn’t a ‘death” scene at all. Bourne walked up to the car and had the opportunity to kill the man who had killed the woman he loved, but he made a decision NOT to pull the trigger, and instead, walked away – just as he tries to walk away from his past and his own identity. Watching the scene again it is fairly clear that Kirill is left alive.

    The following scene where he apologizes to the daughter of the Russian politico for killing her parents and reveals the truth about what happened flows from that decision not to be the Bourne they made him. To quote the Iron Giant – you are who you choose to be.

  • Eric Olsen

    good point Deano, I thought he was alive too, but Dawn said what I thought wa broken glass scattered about his bleeding head was in fact brain matter. I’m back to agreeing with you.

  • Rather read the book. Ludlum is one of my favorite authors.

  • thanks to this and the first film, The Bourne ID, the book is on my “to read eventually-sometime” list

  • Eric Olsen

    I used to really like Ludlum too, Nancy, though I haven’t read him in years

  • Tristan

    I used to DEVOUR every single Ian Fleming Bond novels as kid~

    When I had read every single one, and out of frustration found the Ludlum novels—
    it was like dying and going to heaven:
    Ludlum makes Fleming look like nursery rhymes!

    And so I had Great Expectations when the day came that the Bourne movie came out……..

    I had the same effect I had experienced when finally the very 1st Anne Rice vampire movie was released:


    Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt as VAMPIRES ~~??????? We are talking major commercial SELLOUT!!!!!

    (as an aside—Brad Pitt in Troy was just as atrocious!)

    Damon as Bourne has to be the absolutely poorest casting I have EVER seen in my entire life!!!!

    In fairness to Pitt—-he was incredible in The Devil’s Own—-this is the BEST flic I have EVER seen on the Troubles in Ireland~ also, it was partially based on a true event that took place here in West Palm Beach, Florida about 15 years ago……..

  • Here’s my brief review from July 24, 2004.


    Loses a star for being basically the same idea as the first film – the CIA is trying to kill him and he is on the run. Like the last time, he’s willing to fight back.

    Kudos for the writers for not making this an overly sentimental film. The main bad guy in the film is a relentless Russian Secret Service agent, who reminds me of the Serbian sniper from the film Behind Enemy Lines.

    They say the adult thriller genre faded away after being peaking in the 70s. Hopefully, more quality thrillers will be made once this film is confirmed in a few days as a bona fide smash. Also, rent the astonishing sleeper film Spartan, if you enjoy the Bourne films.

    Worth seeing if you liked the first one.