The Bourne Supremacy
Running Time: 109 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1)
Subtitles: French, and Spanish
Audio: English, French, and Spanish – Dolby Digital 5.1
December 7th, 2004
Ever heard the cliché “If it ain’t broke, why fix it”? Well, I think the makers of The Bourne Supremacy kept that question clearly in mind while filming the follow-up to the successful action-thriller The Bourne Identity. Really, not much has been tinkered with, and the entire principal cast not killed off in the previous film returns, including stars Matt Damon and Franka Potente. The screenplay also bears many similarities to the initial film, as Tony Gilroy authored it.
Indeed, about the only notable difference from the Bourne Identity, other than its plot, is that a different man was at the helm, which leads to a different look for the film. Specifically, Paul Greengrass, who directed this Bourne installment, employs handheld cameras wherever possible, to put viewers right in the middle of the action, and to capture actors’ performances “in the moment”, instead of making them tailor their performance to a predetermined frame. Mr. Greengrass used this technique to good effect in his dramatization of the massacre of Irish civil rights protestors on January 30, 1972, entitled Bloody Sunday, and it paid similar dividends here, at least in my opinion. Some viewers may object to Bourne’s gritty new appearance, but I think it works well for both the story and realistic action sequences.
As The Bourne Supremacy begins, we find former CIA operative Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) trying to live a normal, inconspicuous life with Marie (Franka Potente) in a small Indian village near the ocean. Unfortunately, Bourne’s desire for normalcy is shattered when a former enemy locates him and sends a hitman named Kirill (Karl Urban) to dispatch him. Thus, once again, Jason and Marie are forced to flee and try to unravel the latest plot against him. As in the first film, he finds that the plan to liquidate him is more intricate and involved than it seems to be on the surface. Initially, Bourne supposes that Treadstone has gone back on its promise to leave him alone, and turns his attention to fulfilling his promise to “bring the fight to their doorstep”.
Once again, one of the agencies that wants Jason out of the way is the CIA, which engages in a relentless pursuit of him, headed up by Pamela Landy (Joan Allen), who has a good reason for going after Bourne. Specifically, she believes that Bourne is responsible for the murder of two CIA operatives in Berlin. After some digging, she uncovers the hidden Treadstone files, and subsequently becomes intent on taking down Bourne. Ms. Landy is not alone in her hunt though, receiving assistance from the former head of Treadstone, Ward Abbott (Brian Cox), and his assistant Nicky (Julia Stiles), but it is clear that she is the one being established as Bourne’s new foil from the very beginning.
Can Jason Bourne once again overcome overwhelming odds, and the persistence of Pamela Landy, to survive the dangerous games of cat-and-mouse long enough to figure out who is trying to kill him? Will he come a step closer to figuring out who he is? You probably already know the answers to those questions, but as was the case with its predecessor, the execution of The Bourne Supremacy’s pulse-pounding action sequences, its sound performances, and its suspenseful storyline make it well worth watching nonetheless.
Speaking of sound performances, I was concerned when I heard Matt Damon was cast as Jason Bourne for the Bourne Identity, but he proved to do a pretty good job as the lethal assassin/survivalist. Though I was impressed with his work in the first film, I believe Damon has raised his game eve more this time out, especially as it relates to fleshing out the darker aspects of his character. Given the nature of the storyline, his portrayal of Bourne as a much edgier and more driven person in this installment really works well.
The yummy Franka Patente also seems to have eased into the role of Marie even more, and the great Joan Allen is also very good at creating a formidable adversary for Jason Bourne, although I think her character could have been given a bit more screen time. Karl Urban is fine as well, although as in The Chronicles of Riddick, his character doesn’t really get to do too much more than look menacing as he and Bourne lock horns.
Outside of the performances, I also liked the way the filmmakers used the action sequences to enhance the narrative, and heighten the film’s tension, without overwhelming the viewer. More impressive still was that these sequences, whether they involve high-speed car chases, gun battles, or hand-to-hand combat, are gritty, exciting, and realistic. There is no over-the-top wirework, glitzy weaponry, or kung fu fighting here, nor is it needed, especially during the car chases, which benefit immensely from the use of the “Go Mobile” (see the extras section for more information on this awesome piece of equipment).
All in all, I think it is safe to say that not only does The Bourne Supremacy retain many of the best elements of its predecessor, but manages to improve upon them all. Highlighted by an even better story, improved acting, and awesome, tension-filled action sequences, the taut, suspenseful The Bourne Supremacy is a worthy follow-up to The Bourne Identity!
SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
Presented by Universal in its original aspect ration (2.35:1), the anamorphically enhanced transfer for The Bourne Supremacy is indeed a thing of beauty! The first thing worth noting is that colors are nicely drawn, without defects, which makes all of the sequences shot outdoors, and on location, in India, Russia, and Germany, really “pop”!
Image detail is also very impressive for the most part, and there are no instances of distracting print damage or digital artifacts to draw viewers’ attention away from the film. To be sure, The Bourne Supremacy has a mildly grainy, documentary-like appearance at times, but this was obviously the intention of director Paul Greengrass, and has nothing whatsoever to do with anything done by Universal to prep this film for home viewing.
Another positive is that black levels remain rock solid throughout, which ensures that detail in shadowy environments is easy to make out. Really, this is a first rate transfer in almost every regard. Certainly, some viewers will object to “the look” of the film (the second time I watched it was with a few friends, a couple of whom said the handheld cameras made them nauseous), but again, you cannot fault the transfer for its clear, crisp depiction of the filmmakers’ stylistic choices. The bottom line is, if you are not bothered by Greengrass’ style, then this transfer does exactly what it should – deliver an engaging presentation of the film!
WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
As a card-carrying DTS-devotee, I will admit that I am quite disappointed that Universal did not include a DTS track for The Bourne Supremacy, which was standard issue with the “Collector’s Edition” of The Bourne Identity. Putting that disappointment aside, and donning my “objectivity hat” as a DVD reviewer, however, I must tell you that as Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes go, this is about as good as it gets.
The first issue of consideration is dialogue, and in this mix it is always clear and warm, not to mention free of any distractions. In almost every instance, the characters words are easily discernable as well. Timbres are also quite realistic, with every character’s voice, bullet ricochet, explosion, engine roar, or punch sounding exactly as it should.
This being a spy-thriller, you can also expect several dynamic audio sequences that grab and sustain your attention, thanks to a massive soundstage, excellent frequency response, and smooth panning. These action sequences are further enhanced by aggressive use of the rear channels, which emit location specific effects, support the score, and give listeners a real sense of the spaciousness of the particular location a scene is set in.
The only aspect of the soundtrack that let me down a little bit was the LFE channel, which is not quite as powerful as it is in most recent films of this nature. That being said, the sub gets to flex its muscle for a couple of the explosions, and during a sequence that transpires in a Russian nightclub, and the low end makes up a bit for its lack of outright power with its composure.
All things considered, this Dolby Digital soundtrack for The Bourne Supremacy offers a very respectable presentation of the source material. A little more “oomph” in the .1 channel, and it would have been perfect!
For The Bourne Supremacy director Paul Greengrass has graciously provided a thoughtful, easy-to-listen-to, and fairly informative commentary about the year of his life he spent working on the film. Although there are some instances where Mr. Greengrass’ comments are somewhat screen-specific, he keeps the paace brisk, and is generally speaking about something that fans of the Bourne franchise will be interested in.
Among the highlights (for me) were:
--- Comments about the characters in the film, particularly about how Jason Bourne deals with the fact he used to be a killer, and the journey that he goes on as his circumstances change.
--- Mr. Greengrass discusses the film’s style, including the immediacy of the editing and cinematography, which was designed to place viewers right in the middle of the action.
--- A brief discussion about how one of the minor characters “laid out” by Jason Bourne in the film was actually punched out! As it turns out, however, the actor was actually happy that this made it into the film, as it made the scene more realistic!
--- Comments about the orchestration of the fight scenes, which Greengrass wanted to be “real, and yet still feel like a structured dance”, and how textures (like venetian blinds) and improvised weapons were used to help achieve the desired effect.
--- Intelligent comparisons between the James Bond and Jason Bourne characters, which both evolved out of Cold War era books, and yet are very different on film.
Of course, there are many more things of interest, and all in all, this is an entertaining commentary by a man who obviously cared about turning in a good product. If you liked the film, I suggest giving it a listen!
Explosive Deleted Scenes
In my opinion, these scenes, which run for over 7 minutes in total, are far from “explosive” – in terms of both content and image quality. Seriously, how often have you seen “explosive” scenes left on the cutting room floor? Sure, it happens, but such occasions are very few and far between. In any event, there are five excised scenes in all, titled as follows:
--- “Shack” – In this scene, Jason retrieves some documents.
--- “Naples – Buys The Car” – Unfolds as it sounds, with Jason purchasing a ride.
--- “Abbott Gretkov in Berlin” – Here, Abbott conspires with another man to cover up a murder.
--- “Bourne In Car, Writing In Book” – In this short sequence, Jason draws a diagram to try some pieces of the puzzle together.
--- “Westin Grande Lobby” – Here, Abbott, Nicky, Pamela Landy, and a few of their colleagues talk about shady oil deals, murder, and a few other unpleasant things.
Crash Cam: Racing Through The Streets of Moscow
“Crash Cam” is a 6-minute bonus feature that covers the filmmakers’ attempt to equal or top the exciting car chase in The Bourne Identity. In particular, the stunt team talks about Pual Greengrass’ desire to get cameras right in the car with Jason Bourne, and how his vehicle is used as a weapon throughout the high-speed chase on the busy streets of Moscow. There is also footage of the ingenious devices that were used to allow stunt drivers to control the cars being “driven” by the actors without getting in the way of the cameras.
Bourne To Be Wild: Fight Training
This interesting featurette, running for nearly 4 ½ minutes, breaks down the choreography (by Jeff Imada) of the encounter between the final two Treadstone assassins. Specifically, the desire to create a visceral feel for this battle between two extremely deadly individuals is discussed by the filmmakers, Mr. Imada, and the actors. There is also plenty of footage of the fight being rehearsed and filmed.
Blowing Things Up
The 4-minute “Blowing Things Up”, reveals how one of the film’s most awesome explosions was executed, without the use of computer-generated effects. Of particular interest to me was the “ratchet” device used to simulate human beings being hurled through the air by the blast, and how 6 cameras were set up to capture the sequence from a variety of different angles.
The Go-Mobile Revs Up The Action
This nearly 7-minute featurette chronicles the use of a very cool new piece of equipment, the “Go-Mobile”, which was used to create the cutting edge, adrenaline-rush car chases. Specifically, this new vehicle allows filmmakers the flexibility to get cameras in close on the actors during the car chases, which were done at speeds of up to 60 m.p.h., and to interchange the bodies on its rear, to represent different vehicles.
The various components/specifications of the “Go-Mobile” are also covered, as is the joint effort its creators are making with Panavision to develop equipment that will allow for more complex camera moves at highway speeds. Make sure to check this one out, as it is probably the best featurette on the disc!
Anatomy Of A Scene: The Explosive Bridge Chase Scene
Here, the filmmakers discuss Jason Bourne’s ability to use his wits, and whatever is available on hand, to elude pursuers, as opposed to high-tech gizmos used by spies like James Bond. The featurette then chronicles the intense preparation the filmmaking team (and Matt Damon) went through to shoot one of the movie’s exciting action sequences, where Bourne jumps off of a bridge.
Matching Identities: Casting
During this fluffy 5 ½ minute featurette, director Paul Greengrass and producer Frank Marshall describe the unique qualities of the particular some of the film’s stars, and a few of the actors, including Matt Damon, Joan Allen, and Karl Urban briefly talk about their characters and what it was like to take part in the production. In my opinion, this is one of the worst featurettes, as it is too short to get into anything substantial, and consists almost exclusively of the actors and filmmakers singing each other’s praises.
Keeping It Real
“Keeping It Real” is a 5-minute featurette that begins with producer Frank talking about the edgy style the filmmakers tried to bring to the Bourne Supremacy, and the decision to pursue Paul Greengrass to direct. Matt Damon then joins in, talking about Mr. Greengrass’ style, which emphasized the use of handheld to capture actors’ performances in the moment, as opposed to having actors act within the confines of the frame. I agree with Matt Damon, in that it makes viewers active participants in the film, and gives it a greater sense of immediacy.
On The Move With Jason Bourne
This featurette consists of interviews with key members of the cast and crew, who tell viewers about three of the film’s exotic locations: Berlin, Germany; Moscow, Russia; and Goa, India. Running for only 4 1/2 minutes, it is a little light on detail, but the participants do offer their thoughts on the importance of shooting in the real locations represented in the film. They also reveal some of the unique challenges the crew had to overcome while shooting in these locations.
Scoring With John Powell
During this featurette, which runs for almost 5-minutes, composer John Powell (and others) talk about the process of crafting music perfectly suited for the on-screen happenings in The Bourne Supremacy. Some of the things Mr. Powell discusses are the conscious decision to reprise certain themes from The Bourne Identity, as well as the creation of the new, percussive themes that would follow Bourne throughout this new adventure.
Cast and Filmmakers
Biographies and filmographies are available for:
--- Matt Damon
--- Franka Potente
--- Brian Cox
--- Julia Stiles
--- Karl Urban
--- Gabriel Mann
--- Joan Allen
--- Paul Greengrass (Director)
--- Tony Gilroy (Screenwriter)
--- Frank Marshal (Producer)
--- Patrick Crowley (Producer)
--- Paul L. Sandberg (Producer)
--- Robert Ludlum (Author)
Selecting this feature will provide you with a list of the folks responsible for producing the Bourne Supremacy DVD.
The disc kicks off with trailers for Shaun of the Dead, Collateral, and the upcoming season sets of Miami Vice, and Vegas – Season One.
(on a five-point scale)
THE LAST WORD
The Bourne Supremacy is a great spy-thriller, featuring some stellar action sequences, a solid screenplay, and even better acting than was found in its predecessor. Director Paul Greengrass’ edgy, up-close-and-personal style really adds a lot of excitement to this film, and the fact that the film was shot on location adds even more realism to the proceedings. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I am really looking forward to the adaptation of Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Ultimatum!
The DVD release of this gritty action film makes for a great home theater experience, with its top-notch transfer, a boisterous soundtrack, and a mostly worthwhile compliment of extras, highlighted by some interesting behind-the-scenes featurettes and an entertaining audio commentary by Paul Greengrass. Unfortunately, the deleted scenes are rather weak, not to mention failing to live up to their “explosive” billing. In almost every other respect though, this is a quality title, and it should be of particular interest to those who enjoy espionage thrillers but have grown a little weary of the 007 series, from which these Bourne outings are a nice change of pace. Highly recommended!!!