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In 2002, movie-going audiences were introduced to Jason Bourne, the globe-trotting spy from Robert Ludlam's trilogy of novels. In Doug Liman's The Bourne Identity, our hero was fished out from the sea with two bullet-holes in his back and a severe bout of amnesia. After piecing together the fragments of his memory, he swiftly learnt that he was a contract killer and his old employers considered him to be a viable target. Although Bourne had lost his memory he had lost none of the skills that had made him a deadly secret agent and, at the culmination of the movie, he had won the right to disappear into the sunset with his new love Marie.

Audiences loved The Bourne Identity due to its gritty tone and realistic action. Adaptations of Bourne's further adventures seemed inevitable and, sure enough, in 2004 we were treated to the follow up: The Bourne Supremacy.  

Bourne Supremacy, The
Film
Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) has found his way to India, where he and Marie (Franka Potente) live peacefully away from the world of spies, guns and car-chases.  However, Bourne is still haunted by half-forgotten memories of his previous life as a contract killer and, aware that his old friends at the CIA are still intent on eliminating him, he realises that he'll never be entirely free. This is proven correct with the arrival of the latest hit man who believes Bourne is responsible for a double murder in Germany. When Marie is tragically killed in the ensuing chase, Bourne turns the game of 'cat and mouse' on it's head and decides to settle the score with his former employees...

Identity's director Doug Liman may have stepped aside to handle production duties, but his replacement of Paul Greengrass recaptures the mood of the previous film with a gritty and realistic tone that is world's apart from the glossy style of the recent Bond features or Mission Impossible 2. This director has a particular affinity for hand-held cameras and the movie is shot in near documentary style. The action sequences which populate the film are reasonably small-scale affairs for a Hollywood feature, but there's an interesting amount of spectacle provided by the realism involved and Damon's obvious talent for fight choreography. Bourne does not rely on gadgets like 007, and instead uses household objects to assist his cause. Think of a less cheesy version of MacGyver and you're half-way there to understanding the way Bourne can use a rolled-up magazine as a weapon or a toaster as a bomb. Don't try this at home, kids!

Bourne Supremacy, The
Greengrass manages to squeeze a fair amount of tension from a twist-filled script (a very loose adaptation of Ludlam's source material) and, with a slender running time, the movie does not outstay its welcome. While proceedings are perhaps a little too humourless, Supremacy has enough originality to ensure that it will live long in the memory.

Damon is not the most charismatic of film-stars, but he has found his niche in playing gifted loner-types, and the gritty tone of Supremacy affords him the opportunity to show his range within the confines of a mainstream movie. As the audience, we follow this actor through ninety percent of the scenes and, to his credit Damon's dour hero does not become tiresome. He's also ably supported by a strong cast including Joan Allen and the ever reliable Brian Cox. As the opposing side in this battle of wits, it's up to them to give the audience an alternate view on the events and they offer an interesting dynamic to the movie's sub-plots.

If you enjoyed the original Bourne outing, there's no doubt that you'll be similarly thrilled with this sequel. In much the same way as the same year's Spider-Man 2, this is a movie which relishes in it's trappings as a 'follow-up' and takes us far deeper into the world of the characters, yet still presents the proceedings in the original's winning style.

Video
Director Paul Greengrass intended to highlight the realism of The Bourne Supremacy by using a muted colour palette more akin to less mainstream releases. The bright shades of day-glow Hollywood are kept to a bare minimum, and the world presented in this movie is eerily normal. As a result of this, the film is perhaps not the most striking disc to behold, but it certainly contains a strong image that has a good amount of clarity and sharpness. Skin tones are exceptionally well handled and there is good contrast between the numerous shades of darkened colours.

Bourne Supremacy, The
Audio
Presented in 5.1, this is an efficient, if underwhelming mix, which gives dual emphasis to John Powell's score and the sound effects of the events onscreen. Directional effects are kept to a minimum save for a few moments in the film's two car-cases, but dialogue through the front speaker is clear and concise. While this is not a disc to stretch your surround-sound setup due to the relatively small scale action sequences, it still packs the occasional punch.

Extras
A growing complaint of DVD extras is the decision to pile countless short featurettes onto a disc rather than taking the option of editing them together to form a more satisfying all-inclusive documentary. The long list of mini-docs is a little overwhelming, especially considering that each of them stretches to little longer than five minutes. Best of the bunch is arguably Scoring with John Powell, which examines the creation of the score. Powell is an eloquent interviewee and, while his work on this film will not set the world alight, he offers good insight on how to subtly heighten the mood of certain scenes. Also of note is Keeping It Real, a directing featurette where Paul Greengrass outlines his intentions for the movie. Although he invariably repeats some of the stuff that makes it to the worthy Audio Commentary, there are still a few facts to be gleaned.

Bourne Supremacy, The
The rest of the featurettes concentrate on the technical side of things with equal weight given to the car chases, the fight scenes and the explosions. Since Supremacy is more than just a by-the-numbers action movie, one wishes that consideration had been paid to highlight the work on the story and narrative. Fortunately, Greengrass briefly covers the development of the plot in the commentary, but the omission of a dedicated featurette is a little irritating. Special effects docs are ten-a-penny, but the creative process of the story is too often ignored.

The Analysis of a Scene is a step in the right direction. Interspersed with interviews from Damon and Greengrass, this is an interesting look at one of the key sequences of the feature.

There's not a lot of insight to be gained from the Deleted Scenes, a small bunch of sequences containing superfluous material. They are all very short but are at least scored to give a better indication of how they would appear in the final cut. Director Greengrass is not on hand to reveal the reason they were omitted, but one assumes it was purely a matter of keeping the pacing tight and the film short. Next up is the DVD-Rom material. 'Nice design, shame about the content' is an oft-used complaint for this ever-present feature and—what do you know—I'm going to use it here.

Finally, we have the trailers. This is obviously an exercise in marketing rather than a desire to archive the promotion of this film as the trailer for The Bourne Supremacy is not actually included. Instead we have sneak peeks at The Chronicles of Riddick, The Bourne Identity and Billy Elliot: The Musical.

Bourne Supremacy, The
Overall
A superior sequel on a solid disc; while The Bourne Supremacy does not break new ground either as a thriller or as an action movie, it achieves its aims with a large amount of style and leaves the audience wanting more. The extras included here may not be overly exciting, but the general presentation of the feature is spot-on. Roll on The Bourne Ultimatum...


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