Doug Liman, Paul Greengrass
The Bourne Identity is complicated film, well crafted almost to the core courtesy of Doug Liman. It’s an impressive feat for Liman, who began his career as a restrained indie director with the likable Swingers and Go.
The film opens with a man-with-no-name being netted onto a fishing vessel somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea. Suffering from severe amnesia, there is little the man remembers, but can still master your basic duties: tie a knot, make coffee, cave in the heads of two officers in a snowy park…
Matt Damon brings the flesh and bone to the multilingual Jason Bourne, a novelic creation of the late Robert Ludlum, proving to be just as fine an action star as he is an actor. The problem with casting the Oscar-winner is that he, no matter how mysterious the role, is too likeable. We find ourselves rooting for Bourne (despite his profession and the forgotten fact that he isn’t really a hero) when we’re really waving our Damon flags.
There are minute roles for the supporting cast of Chris Cooper, Brian Cox, and Clive Owen among others; it’s just too bad Identity only gives Cooper the opportunity to shine in a genre the entire cast is foreign to. German Franka Potente (Run, Lola, Run) plays Marie, eye candy when the action paces but about as annoying and useless as supporting characters come.
One of the best aspects to Identity is Bourne’s expertise in hand-to-hand (or pen-to-hand) combat rather than commonplace shootouts and futuristic gadgetry. And, of course, the stellar car chase is instant-classic. Though, it’s certainly fluky that of the few habits Bourne remains an ace in include maneuvering a Mini Cooper through narrow streets. But hey, it’s an action flick, so why argue the improbabilities?
The Bourne Identity is a welcomed addition to the assassination subgenre, brimmed with the kind of foreign intrigue, identity crises, and sheer chance that Hitchcock thrived on. But by the time Moby’s “Extreme Ways” hums through the surround-sound, we’re left with minimal clues as to what the film really accomplished.
The Bourne Supremacy (2004) – 2.5 stars
The Bourne Supremacy, the second in the Bourne Files, picks up where the last left off with the quickest-thinking amnesiac in the world, Jason Bourne (Damon), still searching for his identity. This go around, Bloody Sunday director Paul Greengrass is at the wheel.
The Bourne Supremacy is bookended by a pair of car chases, no doubt to keep the entertainment of the Mini chase from The Bourne Identity in full throttle. The first, in the opening 20 minutes, shifts us steadily through the marketstreets of Goa, India. The second, centered at the climax, makes the former look like a school zone drop-off.
Unfortunately, like its predecessor, Supremacy’s highlights are in the chases, leaving skidmarks on the remainder of the film. The script (by Identity scribe Tony Gilroy) is full of CIA mumbo-jumbo and operative slang, not to mention consistent bickering between CIA Deputy Landy (Allen) and Deputy Director Abbott (Cox), though they do play off each other well.
Greengrass isn’t so much focused on a compelling story, but rather filming a full-scale, whirlwind version of Where in the World is Jason Bourne? The global chase is a postcard potpourri: from dusty India to Naples, bitter Munich to New York, Bourne is our amnesiac tour guide. After nearly four hours of deciphering the Bourne Files, the mystery is solved: the films exist solely to bankrupt the travel agency business.
Greengrass’ approach is hectic, an unsatisfying contrast to Liman’s previous slick style. Many scenes (like a fistfight in Munich) are headaches, lumped into an over-edited, nauseating jumble. Rarely does the director roll anything new off the line, sans an insightful look into Bourne’s regret as he confesses to an orphan the fate of her parents. The political punch missing from Supremacy may be shielded between the pulsating score (with its hat off to 007 Nintendo 64 video games) and “Who am I?” teeter-tottering.
For all the paranoia encompassing its characters, The Bourne Supremacy is safe, too aware of its thin (yet forcibly complex) plot. How long can a movie series take one idea and run with it? So far, 227 long minutes…
Much of the features are comprised of short tidbits on various subjects, ranging from filler to fascinating.
The Bourne Mastermind (6:37), a tribute piece to the late Robert Ludlum, author of The Bourne Identity; Access Granted (4:03), an interview with screenwriter Tony Gilroy; From Identity to Supremacy: Jason and Marie (3:37) focuses on the relationship between Damon and Potente’s characters; The Bourne Diagnosis (3:26) has Dr. Reef Karim, psychiatrist at UCLA explaining the traits of amnesia and Jason Bourne; Cloak and Dagger: Covert Ops (5:31), a look inside CIA operative’s techniques; The Speed of Sound (4:04) zeros in on the sound effects with insight from sound editors and mixers; Declassified Information (6:58) hosts four deleted scenes, which you may want to watch after the Alternate Opening and Ending; Inside a Fight Sequence (4:43) focuses on the rehearsal of the fight inside the Embassy; a Music Video for Moby’s Extreme Ways.
Feature Commentary with Director Doug Liman: Liman leaves a number of gaps, but is overall proud of the film and his cast/crew. He shares stories of adapting the novel, his relationship with the foreign crew, and much more. A good listen for fans of the film.
THE BOURNE SUPREMACY
The special features for this disc are constructed in the same vein of The Bourne Identity’s: short pieces that could have been combined into a lengthy Making of…
Explosive Deleted Scenes (7:12) contains five short moments cut from the film; Matching Identities (5:28) focuses on the casting of actors Damon, Allen, Cox, Gabriel Mann, Julia Stiles; and Karl Urban; Keeping it Real (4:59) is a look at the visuals of the film and how Greengrass accomplished them; Blowing Things Up (4:02) is exactly what you’d think; On The Move (4:51) takes us back to the stunning locales used in the film; Bourne to be Wild (4:22) is a lamely-named featurette on the fight training coordinated by Jeff Imada; Crash Cam (6:03) and The Go-Mobile Revs Up…(6:50) are companion pieces dedicated to the car stuntwork used in the chases; Anatomy of a Scene (5:46) looks at an impressive stunt involving a leap from train tracks to a barge; Scoring (4:48) is a look at composer John Powell in the studio working on the tense music.
Feature Commentary with Director Paul Greengrass: Though it has spaces here and there, Greengrass does provide some decent commentary…when he isn’t dryly narrating the movie and saying “I love this part.”
Kicking off the Bonus Disc is a Sneak Peek of The Bourne Ultimatum.
The Ludlum Identity (12:48): In this profile of author Robert Ludlum, friends and archive interviews paint a picture of the working habits of the late writer. It’s a fascinating look into the habits (waking at 4:15 am) and secrets (CIA rumors) of the man, as well as trademarks of his books.
The Ludlum Supremacy (12:41): In this piece, commentators draw comparisons to Ludlum and his creation Jason Bourne, as well as a look at the loyalty of Ludlum followers. This piece sets up the next featurette:
The Ludlum Ultimatum (23:56) is the final addition on this Bonus Disc. This featurette delves into the film series, with interviews from key figures Doug Liman, Matt Damon, and Paul Greengrass. A suiting way to end the disc.