In a thriller that vitalizes the genre, director Paul Greengrass pays author
Robert Ludlum well-deserve homage by preserving the novelist's relentless
pace and driving tensions into a dynamo of a film. Ludlum's ingenious
formulation is the central character, an agent unparalleled in hand-to-hand
combat who, during a mission, loses his memory and doesn't know who or what
he is. His own skills shock and worry him as he tries to remember what he's
done and for whom. This is the man we know as Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), a
name derived from his hidden collection of passports.
In this episode, continuing from "The Bourne Identity", the amnesiac wrestles with fragments
of memories, trying to make them coherent. Marie Kreutz (Franka Potente), the
Berlin beauty who helped him escape his own agency, is now a fully dedicated
companion as they hide from his enemies in a small sea-side village. She
cries in empathy over his torment. Until, that is, his pursuers track him
down and send an ace Russian hitman (Karl Urban) after them.
In the first of many supercharged chases (Never mind about the odds of
finding the hiding couple so adroitly in their sleepy little hideaway), Marie
drives as the killer pursues and shoots. It ends when she's hit (an
"impossible" shot) and plunges the car into a river. Bourne tries to revive
her, but loses her. Once more he's alone, escaping what appeared to be
certain death. At least his enemies think he's dead. But not for long.
But an agent with the elite training he's had, and being the best among them,
the grief over his loss of Marie doesn't hinder his abilities to foil his
pursuers. Not that they don't come close. In this series, there are no
bumblers. Time after time, Bourne barely escapes capture or death as he
attempts to control his tenuous existence by learning who's after him and for
At the top of the list is Pamela Landy (Joan Allen), a sharp lady agent whose
research has led to a file shrouded in mystery and concealment, "Treadstone",
a black op for which she doesn't have the necessary clearance. She convinces
her boss to allow her to pursue it and she opens the file that targets Bourne
as a rogue agent who must be "removed." Arguing against re-opening the case
or, even, revealing its existence is Ward Abbot (Brian Cox), an old
timer who was around when operations chief Ted Conklin (Chris Cooper) was
killed (in the prior episode) and who disagrees with just about everything
Landy wants to do.
Bourne's cat and mouse game with Landy for information on what they think he
did and his attempts to learn what is true, what is not, is the core and
substance of his trail through intense danger and determined assassins. The
levels of intrigue mount as the counter operation develops. The Bourne
one-up-manship is a marvel of cinematic invention and keeps you on his side
despite the fact that he's such an amazingly efficient killer, himself.
There will be many who will be put off by his one-track dedication, but he's
a man on the run from far worse and potentially more lethal than "The
Fugitive" and he is, to me, a sypathetic hero -- a man who not only has to
prove his innocence but has to realize who he really is before he can believe
in it, himself. It's a deadly run across Europe that raises questions about
inner character within the constant stimulations of the spy life.
Damon's crew-cut and boy-next-door looks don't in any way detract from his
possession of this role. Those qualities, in fact, enhance his appeal and
pay off so well in submerging martial arts brilliance the skills of a cold
killer behind a mask of calm as a sympathetic victim of powerful plotters.
His athletic prowess is proven in well choreographed one-on-one battles and a
well established endurance as a runner, a capability that pays off handsomely
in some of the chase sequences.
Franka Potente (" Run, Lola, Run" provide
the all-too brief emotional element which she carries off with as much
glamour as sympathy. Julia Styles is finally taken out of her antiseptic
room of electronics to play a more exposed role. She may not be a potential
relationship for Bourne in his future life, but her small role gives her the
opportunity to turn her intelligent crispness and cover-girl beauty into
abject fear. Plus, she adds visual spice to the scenario quite nicely.
But glamour isn't reserved for the love interests in Bourne's chase down.
Joan Allen has never looked better and utilizes all her skills of concise
intellect and dedication without once losing a sense of her humanity and
balance. She's not the deadliest of pursuers but she's the back bone of
whatever hope there is for justice in a powerful and too often a blindly
unjust system. Her ability to sift through the evidence and discern truth
from setup is a huge positive mark of good writing and performance. We love
her bullshit filter.
This is blistering action, cleverly designed to keep us convinced that the
good guy is going down any second. The pace is crisp and the cutting taut
and energizing. What I most enjoy is its enviable level of clarity and
plausibility while dynamically satisfying the conventions and requirements of
the spy thriller.
Links to our reviews of the forerunners in the trilogy:
~~ Jules Brenner
"The Bourne Identity"
"The Bourne Ultimatum"
And, did you know that there have been two books written by Eric Van
Lustbader continuing the Bourne adventures?
See reviews of them here:
"The Bourne Legacy"
"The Bourne Betrayal"