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The Bourne Supremacy is a sequel that surpasses the original. Some said The Bourne Identity was an enjoyable throwback to classic spy movies, but it was hard to relate to the characters enough to see past the spy-movie cliches.

Supremacy is better, perhaps not because the characters are better drawn, but because the spy-movie cliches take center stage. This is a much better throwback to classic spy movies.

Everyman For Himself

Joan Allen makes a fine hard-nosed addition to the Bourne franchise
Joan Allen makes a fine hard-nosed addition to the Bourne franchise

Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is living in India with Marie (Franka Potente, reprising her role). He’s got one eye over his shoulder in case “they” come looking for him, but for two years he’s been left alone.

That all changes when his fingerprint is found on an explosive device in Berlin that killed a Russian informant. Suddenly the assassins who framed him and the agents who believe him to be guilty are all hot on his trail.

In the first film, Bourne’s amnesia (combined with Damon’s boy-next-door screen presence) was supposed to make him seem like an everyman caught in a frightening web of espionage. It wasn’t nearly as convincing as the setup in this movie. When we meet Bourne, he’s spent two years on a tropical beach with the girl of his dreams, and we really do feel sympathy when he gets dragged into this new intrigue. That sympathy makes it easier for us to root for him as he alternately hunts or flees from the other spies.

Directed Energy

Bourne is smart, which makes this movie fun to watch. The movie, while still packaged for mass audiences, does demand that the audience pay a bit of attention. Director Paul Greengrass (who takes over from Doug Liman) and editors Richard Pearson and Christopher Rouse (Rouse returns from Identity) help by setting things up clearly and concisely.

Joan Allen is introduced to the series as hard-nosed agent Pam Landy who goes after Bourne. She’s a strong contrast to Brian Cox, who returns with a mix of bluster and weakness as Ward Abbott. Julia Stiles returns for about two scenes, adding little more than her star power.

The real star of the show is director Greengrass, who is about three times better than his predecessor. The pacing is much more lively, yet still easy to follow. There are about three car chases, all as good as the memorable Parisian Mini chase in Identity. And there are other action set-pieces, including a fistfight, a couple of narrow escapes, and one or two hunts, all very entertaining and very well crafted.

Don’t Cry

The biggest problem with The Bourne Supremacy arises any time Matt Damon is called upon to emote. There are two scenes, one at the beginning and one at the end, where the loss of a loved one or a pang of remorse bring the movie to a sputtering halt. My audience used the time to get up for popcorn refills or a bathroom break, which probably made the already awkward scenes even more distracting.

Luckily, these scenes didn’t drag down the rest of the film, which may prove to be one of this summer’s most entertaining blockbusters.