Move over Mr Cruise with your Missions and Mr Brosnan with your Bonds, the coolest super spy is back in town and he’s here to stay. Two years ago Matt Damon salvaged his flagging career by starring as writer Robert Ludlum’s creation Jason Bourne in The Bourne Identity (2002). The tale of an American agent found in the Med with a nasty dose of amnesia, The Bourne Identity took the spy thriller back to its roots, eschewing the high-wire acts and special effects of Ethan Hunt et al, and keeping its feet firmly grounded in the real world. Fast forward to 2004 and the phenomenal success of the original has spawned a sequel, The Bourne Supremacy, which takes its story from Ludlum’s literary follow-up and sees Damon reprising his role.
The film opens in Goa where we find Bourne living out a quiet existence with his girlfriend Marie (Franka Potente from the first film), ever aware that the villains of the first film may still be after him. 3000 miles away Bourne is framed for murder at the scene of a special ops mission and true to form, it’s not long before a rival agent turns up and begins shooting. Marie is tragically shot in the head as they flee and Bourne is thrown back into the cold world of espionage he fought so strongly to escape. As he relentlessly takes the fight to those who wish him dead Bourne, in true globe-trotting style, traverses Germany, Russia, Italy and America in his search for reasons, revenge and respite.
If The Bourne Identity was about escaping your demons, then The Bourne Supremacy is about returning to face them, and director Paul Greengrass wastes no time in hurling Matt Damon back into the fire. The new film racks up the action sequences and virtuoso survival techniques that Bourne exhibited in the original, and yet is careful not to supply a rehash of The Bourne Identity. Greengrass’ edgy, realistic style (honed in Bloody Sunday , his previous film about the 1972 massacre in Northern Ireland) brings a welcome dose of believability to the film, while his collaboration with DoP Oliver Wood brings an immediacy to Bourne’s world through the use of handheld camera and up-close action. Writer Tony Gilroy also makes a welcome return, this time with a markedly more confident script that draws upon the missing pieces of the first outing – and incorporates them into this film’s prevailing patina of fear and doubt.
As well as Damon himself (who, as the posters proclaim, is Jason Bourne) the stately Brian Cox is back as Ward Abbott, while newcomer Joan Allen provides his character with a formidable adversary, in the form of Pamela Landy. But it’s Matt Damon’s turn as the sad, introspective Bourne that holds the movie together. Damon brings just the right amount of energy and restraint to his performance as the world-weary spy torn between action and passivity.
Like the first film, The Bourne Supremacy draws on the current notion that everything is a threat, nobody is to be trusted and all intelligence agencies are corrupt, while sticking firmly to the basic principals that made Doug Liman’s outing such a winner. If the third film (The Bourne Ultimatum) ever comes to fruition (and it undoubtedly will), we could have the makings of a thoroughly enjoyable spy series, and a serious rival at last for 007.