July 23, 2004

Bourne To Be Wild (And Shaky)

Went to see The Bourne Supremacy today. It was two hours well-spent, but I have to say...I left the theater feeling disappointed. I expected a little more. I'm not going to talk too much about the plot, except to say that it picks up two years after the end of the first film. Jason Bourne is living "off the grid" in India, trying for some sense of normalcy. Suffice to say, that doesn't last long. We wouldn't have a movie otherwise.

A couple of things the film has going for it:
  • Like the first film, the story is whip-smart, and extremely well paced. Tony Gilroy, who co-wrote the script for the first film, works his magic again. It's the minutiae in the film that make it seem so real. For example, in the first film, Bourne rips an emergency exit map off the wall to help escape an American Embassy. A small detail, to be sure, but haven't you ever wondered how some of the other cinematic secret agents do it? There are more of these gems in the new film, too.
  • Matt Damon (who I must admit is not one of my favorite actors) once again does a great job with the Jason Bourne role.  Damon's Bourne is near-emotionless, relentless, and brutally efficient. As one of the characters in the film says about him: "he doesn't make mistakes. He doesn't do 'random'." There are no "lucky breaks" here, no gadgets from Q branch. I look forward to him making a third Bourne film.
  • Although you don't have to have seen the first film, those of us who have will enjoy a number of references to people and events from that film. What Gilroy doesn't do, is feel the need to explain each and every one of these. I like being treated like an intelligent filmgoer.
  • Joan Allen: Irritating (her character, that is) and sexy. Can't beat that.
  • Brian Cox: Still my favorite Hannibal Lecter.
Now, the down side...

  • Director Paul Greengrass should never, ever be allowed to do an action film. Ever. I can't say that enough. He seems to have gone to the Simon West (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) school of filmmaking. Some of the best things about The Bourne Identity were the action scenes.  Especially the fights which were fast-paced, but elegant, like some crazy ballet. And they were quick--no knock-down, drag-outs there. Greengrass somehow got it into his head: a) using a hand-held camera would make it seem more realistic (It doesn't. It's irritating and makes you feel ill.) ; and b) lots of quick cuts during the action scenes will make it seem more frenetic and fast-paced. (Again, it doesn't. All it does is confuse you. "Who just did what to whom?" "Was that an eyeball?") I can't blame it all on Greengrass though; someone should have stopped him and said "What the hell are you thinking?" before the film hit the theaters. Yes, it's that bad.
  • Julia Stiles: I was dismayed at what was essentially a cameo in the first film, and when I saw her name in the credits for this one, I was happy because I thought for sure that they would expand her role in the new film. Unfortunately, Nicky is once again a throwaway role. Too bad.
  • The Ending (no spoilers): A movie ending should give the audience not necessarily a sense of closure, but the sense that this particular story is over. The Bourne Supremacy does this. However, it does it about ten minutes before the actual end of the film.  Although that last ten minutes does provide some interesting information, it feels tacked on. I don't know for sure, but I wouldn't be surprised if it actually was tacked on. Maybe after some advance screenings?
Final verdict? A very entertaining film. Could have been better than the first one. Could have been a great film.

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