'The Bourne Identity' did a fantastic job opening the door for sequels. Not too much was revealed about the past of the amnesiac rogue agent, creating the possibility to flesh out his tale, both his past and his future on the run. Cue 'The Bourne Supremacy.' Released just two years after the original, the second go round for Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) relies heavily on the original to tell the tale, rather than creating its own cohesive story capable of standing on its own two legs.
Treadstone took the fight to Bourne's doorstep, so now, the favor is going to be returned. After an assassin ends the life of the one person close to Jason Bourne, bygones will no longer be bygones. The fact that Bourne has also been framed for the murder of two American agents in Berlin has those who hunted him in the past back on his trail. With no one to turn to and nowhere to hide, the entire globe has to be on alert, as Jason Bourne is back on the scent, seeking out the truth, hoping to clear his name, and go back to seclusion in parts unknown.
'The Bourne Supremacy' works on many levels, just not on the same level as the original. The story line is a direct role reversal, as the hunted is now the hunter, even though he's still somewhat hunted. This isn't Bourne running. This is Bourne pissed off, wanting answers. He may not know what is going on, but he knows how to play these angles.
The villains in this sequel are a hair less effective than before, with Brian Cox receiving an increased amount of screen time, replacing Chris Cooper, in a sense. Joan Allen (portraying Pamela Landy, no relation to Tom) leads the U.S. task force seeking to bring Bourne in (or down), though she lacks any ominous presence. She is, in a sense, the conscience of the film, and not even a villain at all, save for the fact that Bourne initially believes her to be one. There's only one assassin this go round, with Karl Urban playing a hired Russian hand, and he is effective, but hardly a riveting villain. In fact, he's utterly forgotten for the entire second act of the film.
'The Bourne Supremacy' leaps around the globe as though it were a hopscotch game, telling a tale that spans many countries, but as the languages of the land changes, so does the theme of the film. In India, Bourne is hiding in plain sight, though constantly in fear of being spotted. In Germany, Bourne is an investigative reporter of sorts. Russia? All out kick ass machine. USA? Stalker, creepy, creepy stalker. It is almost like our lead hero has a case of multiple personalities rather than amnesia, changing personas more often than he changes his underwear.
Doug Limon, the director of the first film, is gone, and has been replaced by Paul Greengrass, who went on to direct 'The Bourne Ultimatum' as well. The change in style between the helmers is drastic, as Greengrass's frenetic, often shaky visual styling that became a trademark of sorts varies drastically from the methodical and somewhat moody lingering of Limon. Both styles work quite nicely with the material, but the overlap in the middle of the series creates a two toned blend.
'The Bourne Supremacy' has plenty of action, and another quite memorable car chase, though with a drastically different tone (ie, with gunfire a blazin') than the one found in the first. The search for answers is as strong as ever, though with varying random flashbacks that somewhat detract from the film. What's missing, though, is the human element, as Marie (Franka Potente) was a great anchor to the story, grounding Bourne in reality rather than letting him go off as some kill crazy agent. Fans will find more of what they enjoyed from the first, with a very capable second part in the series. Sadly, it's a second installment that gets little to nothing accomplished.
The Disc: Vital Stats
Much like the concurrently released 'The Bourne Identity,' 'The Bourne Supremacy' is a "flipper disc," which mimics the long dead HD DVD combo format, with a DVD copy of the film being found on the opposite side of the disc. The rings indicating which side is which are located on the playable DVD side of the disc. There was no playback issues of any sort in playing this combo disc, a major concern for critics, considering the combo disc's history.
The Blu-ray side of 'The Bourne Supremacy' is housed on a dual layer BD50 disc. Since the individual discs in the 'Bourne Trilogy' are region free, it is highly likely that this disc shares that worldwide playback ability. Lastly, like the other two films in the series, 'The Bourne Supremacy' sports a foiled slipcover over the standard BD case with identical artwork to the liner below.
Much like 'The Bourne Identity,' 'The Bourne Supremacy' has a series of minor flaws that add up kinda fast. The VC-1 1080p encode is free from debris and dirt, free from aliasing, artifacting, banding, and DNR, but suffers from crushing blacks, digital noise, and the tiniest, thinnest bit of ringing from time to time. Grain levels spike a few times in the film. The whites in eyes run blue, while skin tones (and the picture itself) can often run with a yellow or green tint. Colors are overblown, to the point that some detail in them gets blown out. Still, 'The Bourne Supremacy' plays each like it were intentional (and some of the above may be from intent), as contrast runs strong, with fantastic clarity and depth. This transfer won't win any awards, but it mirrors the previous releases of the film, so fans know exactly what to expect.
'The Bourne Supremacy' reigns supreme in the audio department, with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that rocks the block.
Dialogue is clear and steady, with nary a line reading getting lost in the active mix. Atmosphere is everywhere, in action sequences or light ambiance in the lulls between. The camera swoops through the film on more than a few occasions, and the audio reflects this nicely, repositioning sounds on the fly to match the on screen action superbly. Bullets have a fantastic high pitched scream, with great movement and localization. The tense soundtrack pulls every bit of the mix together, as a constant, oozing with bits of bass. Chase sequences are solid, with the one in the third act (the finale to the film, really) going balls to the wall crazy, with shit hitting every fan in existence, and some amazing gunfire sounds. Dynamic range is sharp, directionality accurate, and every moving noise roams freely (and seamlessly) through the room at will. An excellent track.
The supplement listings for this release have mostly been retooled from the 'The Bourne Supremacy' review found in the 'Bourne Trilogy,' written by Peter Bracke.
Greengrass' first of two takes on Jason Bourne is, sad to say, the weakest in the series. While the director showed the grass is greener on the other side with 'The Bourne Ultimatum,' his first Matt Damon shaky cam extravaganza loses the heart of the first film, within the first ten minutes. A film without a conscience or moral guide, 'Supremacy' meanders in a world full of conspiracy, aimlessly. This Blu-ray re-release (with a DVD bonus) is as solid as it was before, from a technical aspect, and a hair more solidified in the extras aspect due to the newfound versatility of the disc. As was the case with 'The Bourne Identity,' this one comes highly recommended.