A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 221 – The Bourne Supremacy

The Bourne Supremacy – October 7th, 2010

Going into this movie I knew a couple of things: Obviously there is no way in hell that a former government assassin is ever going to be able to quietly retire out of the way, and I wanted to see more badass shit, preferably with Karl Urban involved. And Julia Stiles. I wanted more Nicky in this movie. And the movie delivered. It delivered on many fronts. There are some impressive car chases, some really kick-ass fight scenes, craploads of intrigue and some excellent performances from actors I truly love. I can honestly say I really enjoyed the movie. But I would have enjoyed it a hell of a lot more if it hadn’t been for something so small and yet so crucial to the plot that I spent the entire movie waiting for someone to mention it and no one ever did.

The whole plot hinges on a planted fingerprint. Jason Bourne’s planted fingerprint. It’s used to place him at the scene of a double murder and an interrupted espionage deal. It’s used to frame him and that’s where it all starts. Well, not really. It starts in Goa with the end of Bourne’s quiet life with Marie, but the involvement of the CIA and Joan Allen’s character, Pam Landy? The plot that drives the vast majority of the movie? It starts with a planted fingerprint that should never have been assumed to be real. Let’s think about this. Bourne is a dude who’s stayed off the grid for two years. He wipes down his hotel rooms. He was trained to be invisible. Why the hell would he leave a clear finger print in a prominent place he would have known people would be checking? He wouldn’t. And as soon as they found it and as soon as Landy traces it to a professional assassin who leaves no trace of himself as a matter of course, someone should have sat up and said “Wait. He left a fingerprint? This is a set-up.”

Granted, there had to be a way to frame Bourne and flush him out. That’s the plot. I just wish the method had been a little more subtle. Later on, when someone does realize something’s fishy, that something fishy is this far more involved deal with Bourne being too smart to blow the power lines the way they were blown, setting it up to supposedly be something only one or two people would realize. So it’s too simple in its set-up and too complicated in its reveal. The closest the movie gives me to admitting that the CIA doesn’t know what they’re dealing with is when Nicky points out that Bourne doesn’t make mistakes. And yet even then, no one twigs the fingerprint as a mistake that shouldn’t have been made. Ever.

I wouldn’t harp on this so much, except that one of the things I loved about the first movie was how evenly matched Bourne and Treadstone/Conklin were in terms of skills. Bourne was at a disadvantage because he didn’t know what was going on, but he was still a bad-fucking-ass. So there was always this feeling that his opponents were either moving alongside him or a step ahead of him. They were a threat. I never really felt like Landy and the CIA were a threat to Bourne here. He so clearly has the upper hand while he tracks them and baits them and demands to know why the hell they came after him and what the fuck they’re up to. They leave the window shades open. They don’t use protected lines. While I admit, I chuckled when Bourne made it clear he was watching Landy through the office window, I also then wondered, why aren’t those shades being closed NOW? It all ends up making Landy and her people look sloppy, when really, they’re only sloppy in relation to Jason Fucking Bourne. But still. And the way Kirill frames him is sloppy. And it makes Bourne look sloppy. And I’m not interested in a sloppy assassin.

Now, Kirill? Kirill’s a much better opponent for Bourne. If only he didn’t take an hour to show up again after his stunning debut in Goa. A good chunk of the movie is set in Germany, with Bourne stalking the CIA folks and trying to figure out what they’re up to and what they want with him. And if I ignore the sloppy issues, I admit I do like a lot of the Berlin scenes. They’re interesting from a character development point of view, showing Bourne recalling things about his past. Things he hadn’t remembered before and doesn’t like when he gets them back. The memories and the scenes with Nicky in the train station are really excellent character moments for Bourne and make him a flawed character again even while he’s still a bad-ass. He’s flawed in an interesting way instead of a sloppy way, and I appreciate that. And I do like Landy. I like Joan Allen’s performance of her as a strong woman who isn’t written as a woman-doing-a-man’s-job. While she is playing a tough as nails sort of woman I don’t really get the impression that she’s intended to be a ball buster. She is simply a person who is doing a difficult and high-stress job and doing the best possible given the lack of prior information and the target involved. And Allen does an excellent job with her. I like the intrigue of cover-ups and double dealing and corruption.

It’s just that I like Karl Urban’s Kirill better as an opponent for Bourne. Where Landy is trying desperately to get a handle on a situation she’s not trained for, Kirill is Bourne’s Russian counterpart. Their face-off in Moscow takes up the latter half of the movie and I don’t mind one bit. I rather wish there’d been a way to merge the plotty bits of the first half with the actiony bits of the second half, giving Bourne both intrigue to deal with from within the US government and a truly challenging opponent in Kirill. Because both parts were good, but the way the story is set up, they’re very clearly separated. Plot in Berlin, action in Moscow. US government mess in Berlin, trained assassin in Moscow. Sloppiness in Berlin, danger in Moscow.

As I said, I did really enjoy the movie. It’s engaging and interesting and it sucked me in and made me pay attention. I liked the performances of Allen, Urban, Brian Cox as Abbott – the former head of Treadstone – and Stiles, and, of course, Matt Damon. I liked the action and the fights and the suspense and the mystery and I liked the character of Bourne. He’s a fantastic character with some complexity to him. He’s got fascinating morals and an interesting character arc. I liked the concept of the story, where he’s still being used as a tool in other people’s machinations. I just think it would have been stronger if everyone involved – not just Nicky – had remembered that Jason Bourne is a man who does not make mistakes.

October 7, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Bourne Supremacy

October 7, 2010

The Bourne Supremacy

I closed yesterday’s review talking about how organically these movies blend into each other. It’s part of what makes this trilogy stand out. Each movie tells a different story but each also builds on the story of the previous ones. It’s not just that they take place in the same world and have the same characters, the movies work as a single unit.

The action here picks up two years after the first movie. Jason and Marie are living in India, miles from everywhere, off the grid. He’s plagued by nightmares and half remembered bits of what he once was. Nightmares and headaches aside they would be happy, but events out in the world are about to impact them. In Germany there’s a deal going down. The CIA is buying information regarding a mole in their organization. Of course the deal goes bad, the guy selling the information and the CIA agent get killed, and incriminating evidence is left at the scene implicating Jason Bourne. The killer responsible makes one error though. He tries to kill Bourne and so tie off all the loose ends in his scheme, but only succeeds in accidentally killing Marie instead. This is absolutely the worst possible thing he could have done, because it unleashes all the badassery of the world’s greatest assassin with his moral core ripped away.

For about the first half of this movie there’s a very different feel her than the first film. It’s a lot of fun to watch because Bourne here is shown with all his cunning, all his gadgets, all his guile. He is a hunter who is in complete command while all the coordinated efforts of the CIA, which believes that he was responsible for the killings in Germany and is trying to hunt him down, are feeble and misguided. I really enjoyed seeing Bourn in complete command as everything goes exactly according to his plan for a little while. It’s a cool contrast and it does a great job building the mystique of his character.

Of course another part of the appeal of these movies is that as a hero Jason is human and mortal. The second half of this movie is pretty much an extended chase scene with Bourne pursued by swat teams, German police, Russian police, and the killer from the start of the movie who needs to get the job done that he messed up in the first place. It’s all great action because it shows him at his resourceful best. There’s one action beat where he is driving a stolen taxi cab through the streets of Moscow with three Russian police cars on his tail while he reads a map and at the same time performs triage on a gunshot wound to his shoulder. Now THAT is an action scene, and THAT is an amazing action movie hero. Yes, he has super powers, but they are plausible ones such as reading maps at a glance or doing amazing stunt driving or improvising escape plans in seconds.

Paul Greengrass takes over as director for this installment and for the third one with Doug Liman taking an executive producer credit, but the movie does a fantastic job of keeping the same feel as the first one. Part of it is the great job of the cast, many of whom return from the first film. Of course we have Matt Damon again as the unstoppable killer himself, but there’s also Franka Potente again as Marie (I wish she had more of a part in this movie,) Julia Styles as Nicky, and Brian Cox as William Stryker Ward Abbott. It helps to keep the movie universe consistent. New to this film we have the always glowering Karl Urban as the Russian killer Kirill (man, but Karl is fun to watch. He just has such a distinctive and awesome look.) And on the CIA side we have Joan Allen as Pamela Landy, the exceptionally cool commander in charge of the operation to unearth the mole in the organization.

Since this is the second movie it begins to establish just what we can expect from a Bourne movie. After watching this you begin to know what goes into these films. As I said yesterday, the are not un-formulaic, but the recipe used to put these movies together is so well crafted that it makes it easy to be swept away by the formula. There’s going to be a totally kickass car chase. Bourne is going to escape from huge numbers of pursuing police. Bourne will use his intense spy/assassin training to turn the tables on the people trying to hunt him down. And the whole thing will end on a high note with that cool credit style using the grid of lines and Moby’s Strange Ways playing. I will say that the beat that this movie ends on is particularly rousing. It makes me grin and it leaves me wanting more right away. As an added benefit, I know how the third movie seamlessly blends with the end of this one, which makes me want to put it in right now. Who knows, I just might do that, since it will be midnight in less than five minutes.

October 7, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment