Posts Tagged ‘Franka Potente’

From the Hootoo archive. Originally published August 19th 2004:

Now, readers with long trousers and short shrift may recall that I was not particularly impressed with Doug Liman’s 2002 thriller The Bourne Identity. It had some things going for it but I felt that on the whole it was bit bland, and badly lacking in the lead performance department. As usual, everyone else in the world disagreed and the startling box office Bourne Identity racked up made a sequel virtually inevitable. And here it is: The Bourne Supremacy, directed by Paul Greengrass.

At the start of the movie, we find our favourite amnesiac hitman/youth hosteller Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) in Goa with his main squeeze Marie (the bodacious Franka Potente), doing his best to remember who he is, all the while avoiding his former CIA employers and anyone else who might have a gripe about his former lifestyle.

Sadly all this comes to an end when Bad Guys frame Bourne for the murder of two men in Berlin, and send another, equally grumpy hitman (Karl Urban from Lord of the Rings – if I had a fiver for every time I’ve typed those last five words this summer…) to settle his hash. I hope I’m not spoiling this film for anyone when I reveal that Bourne does not get topped fifteen minutes in, but instead sets out to discover who it is that’s got it in for him, and exact a suitable vengeance upon them…

Everyone is likening the burgeoning Bourne franchise to the Bond phenomenon, which I suppose is understandable given that the Bond films have come to epitomise mainstream action movie-making, and both series are about spies. But the two really have very little in common, and I suppose the success of Bourne is because it does do something different with the genre. The Bourne Supremacy is in no way a conventional studio thriller: it’s dour, and naturalistic, and the plot is ferociously convoluted – I can speak only for myself, but I had to pay attention in order to keep track of who was double-crossing who and why. Bourne (played impressively well by Damon) is a sombre, grim figure, who barely speaks for most of the movie, let alone quips his way through action set-pieces. You feel a certain amount of sympathy for him, but you certainly wouldn’t want to be him.

This realism colours the entire movie: having seen it I’m pretty sure I could now track someone across Europe, avoiding police all the while, find out which hotel they were staying in, and sneak into their room and liquidate them with a rolled-up magazine and a toaster. Director Greengrass coats the whole thing in a patina of authenticity that’s very beguiling. That element of the movie which isn’t concerned with Bourne’s latest jaunt is mostly to do with internal CIA politics, as Bourne is hunted by Joan Allen’s senior agent, variously helped and hindered by Brian Cox and Julia Stiles (Cox and Stiles were apparently in the first one, not that I remember them at all). The performances here are equally solid and the storytelling assured: this is where most of the plot takes place, so that’s just as well.

But it’s not all wordiness, tradecraft and depression: one element of the original movie that really did impress me was its action sequences, and Supremacy surpasses it here too. Damon is extremely convincing in his fight sequences and Greengrass puts together an astonishingly good car chase for a man who started his career on the TV news show World in Action. There aren’t many sequences like this, but there are just enough to keep the movie going and they’re all executed pretty much flawlessly.

There’s barely a single joke in The Bourne Supremacy, it’s not an especially sunny or cheerful film, and the ending leaves all sorts of questions hanging in the breeze. And, to be honest, I’m really not sure if this kind of tone and style can be sustained over more than a couple of movies without it all getting terribly repetitive. But this is great stuff, one of the best movies of the summer: intelligent, focussed, and engrossing. Recommended.

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