'The Bourne Supremacy': THR's 2004 Review

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Matt Damon in 2004's 'The Bourne Supremacy.'
Matt Damon is Bourne again, but this distancing sequel has trouble finding an identity.

On July 23, 2004, Universal released the next chapter in its Matt Damon-starring spy series, The Bourne Supremacy, which went on to gross $288 million globally. The Hollywood Reporter's original review is below: 

In the capable hands of Doug Liman, 2002's The Bourne Identity was able to cast off the creaky shackles of the conventional espionage thriller thanks to a kinetic energy that agreeably propelled the genre into the next millennium.

For The Bourne Supremacy, based on the second novel in the Robert Ludlum series, the director of Swingers and Go has gone (he still remains as one of the executive producers) but not before handing the reins to British filmmaker Paul Greengrass.

He's certainly an intriguing choice. For his previous film, the blistering Bloody Sunday, Greengrass brought a vital, documentary feel to his retelling of the 1972 civil rights march in Northern Ireland that ended tragically, with his handheld, darting cameras creating the desired effect of plunging the viewer right into the middle of the chaos.

The director incorporates essentially the same technique to track the further exploits of the amnesia-plagued Jason Bourne, but in this case the jittery fly-on-the-wall approach has the undesired opposite effect of driving a distracting wedge between the viewer and the chief protagonist.

While the picture still has its smartly choreographed moments, that audience disconnect will most likely prevent the Universal release from approaching the $120 million-plus heights of its predecessor.

When we catch up with Matt Damon's Bourne, he and his girlfriend Marie (Franka Potente) are finding it difficult to outrun his murky, haunting past, which has a way of resurfacing with every suspicious phone call and sidewise glance in every new city they attempt to call home.

But that paranoia proves justified after an attempt on his life by a paid assassin. Not to mention the fact that two recent deaths were made to look like Bourne's handiwork.

Determined to track down the responsible parties, Bourne initiates a complex game of cat and mouse with the equally determined Pamela Landy (Joan Allen), a CIA agent who likes to run things her way.

That dynamic begs for a gradually escalating tension that never materializes.

Instead Greengrass, working from a script by Tony Gilroy (who adapted the previous Bourne), relies on those highly caffeinated, handheld quick pans (by cinematographer Oliver Wood) and rapid cuts (courtesy of editors Christopher Rouse and Richard Pearson) to establish a feeling of urgency, but like its various post-Cold War European locations, the film remains chilly and distant.

Every time you feel like you're finally grabbing hold of something involving, the picture once again spins frustratingly out of reach.

His actors are certainly up to the task at hand, with Damon, Allen, Brian Cox (as Allen's antagonistic colleague) and Julia Stiles (as a field agent pressed into service as a go-between for Bourne and the CIA) turning in uniformly sturdy and intelligent performances. — Michael Rechtshaffen, originally published July 19, 2004.