Sequels fail more often than succeed to capture the same sense of action, adventure, romance, or whatever it was that made the original film work. Rare examples include Empire Strikes Back, Godfather II and Superman II. In those cases, the sequel actually managed to outshine its predecessor.
With The Bourne Supremacy, the same spirit from its original is still present, but the story is actually quite different in its tone and concept.
The sequels that work best for me are ones that expand upon the original. Take the concepts and characters and bring them to a new place, giving them more depth and life. In The Bourne Identity, we met Jason Bourne, who suffered from amnesia after a botched assassination attempt. As he struggles to remember who he is, he must dodge bullets and escape the clutches of the ruthless CIA operatives out to kill him.
In The Bourne Supremacy, we meet our hero as he has settled into a quiet life with the woman he loves, struggling to piece together his shattered and incomplete memory. But when an assassin’s bullet kills his girlfriend, he comes out of hiding to find those responsible.
The story picks up two years after the last, and while some of the players have changed, we are given a story that has a few more good guys in it than the first. It also takes Bourne deeper into his journey to rediscover who he was, both before and after becoming a specially-trained assassin.
The action is intense, the suspense thrilling, and Matt Damon does a top notch job of bringing Jason Bourne to life, giving him a sense of humanity without losing his cold edge. However, I found this story relied too much on manufactured problems and was much more predictable than its original.
After hearing the initial comments by Laney — the CIA chief, played well by Joan Allen, who believes he assassinated two of her agents — seemed to me that Bourne should have been able to piece things together much easier than he did. Plus, when he had Laney in the crosshairs, why didn’t he just demand more information from her right then and there. Why not just explain that he was in India, that he had nothing to do with it? There wasn’t any reason not to offer that information right then and there.
These are basic writer gags, designed merely to extend the story and allow for other scenes, such as the whole sequence on the tram when Bourne gets his hands on Nicky (played by Julia Styles who, like Brian Cox, returns in the same role she played in the original). But that sequence was again probably the weakest moment of the film. The story so dumbs down the CIA operatives and leaders that they become cliché antagonists, who pail in comparison to our hero’s strategic brilliance.
If you’re going to have a meeting in a public square, you better know the location before you get there!
However, these weaknesses really didn’t stop me from enjoying the film. The visual style is basically the same as The Bourne Identity. It’s gritty and documentary-like, giving it a visceral strength that makes the action sequences that much more powerful. The fight sequences are excellent. Fluid and fast, and as a result more realistic than your general Hollywood fare.
And, I have to admit, I like Matt Damon. He’s one of the few younger actors around today that I think doesn’t bring himself to his roles. He becomes Jason Bourne, with an honesty and reality that makes you forget the actor. I know its popular to pound on the likes of Damon and his buddy, Ben Affleck, but I can’t join in that fun. I actually respect Damon, and hope he finishes out these films with The Bourne Ultimatum, the final story in Ludlum’s trilogy.
As for the DVD, it’s got your usual collection of packaged features. They provide cool insights into the film, but the DVD commentary stands out with me (as they often do). Director Paul Greengrass is both entertaining and interesting as he details behind the scenes info about the production. Although it probably would have been more fun if Damon had sat in on the commentary, as the best ones usually feature more than one person.