Picks and Pans Review: The Bourne Supremacy

UPDATED 08/02/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 08/02/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT

Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Brian Cox, Joan Allen, Julia Stiles

CRITIC'S CHOICE

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Here's what distinguishes ex-CIA operative Jason Bourne from his globetrotting peers in sillier spy dramas: When Bourne (Damon) commandeers the driver's seat of a taxi in Moscow to escape armed pursuers, he pulls out a map and hastily consults it while attempting to speed away. As infallible as James Bond this guy ain't. Capable of being both stirred and shaken, Bourne is much more emotionally complicated, and that—along with a dazzling visual style that puts viewers dead center in the action—is what makes The Bourne Supremacy such a sizzling sequel to 2002's estimable The Bourne Identity.

In the original, Bourne was an ace killer for the CIA who, repulsed by his deadly duties, develops amnesia and tries to walk away. The sequel, again loosely based on a novel by Robert Ludlum, picks up two years later with Bourne, still suffering from memory loss, hiding out in India with his girlfriend (Potente). Soon he must once more match wits (and karate chops) with old acquaintances and new when he's framed for the murder of two CIA agents in Berlin.

Damon (see page 67) again is the film's steady center, bringing both brains and brawn to his role. Allen, playing a CIA officer pursuing Bourne, displays a brisk intelligence. Director Paul Greengrass (Bloody Sunday) keeps the story moving swiftly. Additionally, his use of tight closeups and jumpy editing during fight and chase scenes effectively places a viewer as off-balance—where is that car that was behind me a minute ago?—as Bourne himself. The end result: Bourne Supremacy is that rare summer movie that would play just as well in any season. (PG-13)

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