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Get on the trail of the ace writer of thrillers, Robert Ludlum, and his amnesiac agent Bourne.

. "The Bourne Supremacy"

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 what.

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.

                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

Links to our reviews of the forerunners in the trilogy:
"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"

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by Jules Brenner)

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Julia Chiles and Matt Damon
Nicky shouln't have betrayed ace killer Jason Bourne"

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