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The Bourne Supremacy
Reviewed by Dennis Morton
Aired 7/28/04

I can find a dozen reasons why I shouldn't like "The Bourne Supremacy", and maybe, in time, I'll come to my senses. But for now, I'm not listening to myself. I'm just going to admit that I enjoyed it.

Bear with me while I invent a defense.

For starters, I could say that I always enjoy Brian Cox. Even when, as in this film, the script stuffs him with laughable clichés, he's fun to watch. He's a man of substance, and in this film, he must lend it copiously to the part he's playing. Brian Cox is Scotland's Gene Hackman, a craggier and more weathered version, to be sure. But like Hackman, he can almost single-handedly make a movie interesting.

And although we don't see much of her in this film, I also enjoyed Franka Potente. She starred in Tom Tykwer's "Run, Lola, Run" and "The Princess And The Warrior". She's not your conventional Hollywood beauty. She exudes intelligence and sensitivity.

Her role is small, but it hooked me when it needed to, right at the beginning of the movie. And then there's Julia Stiles. She's not a typical Hollywood star either. With her full moon face she'll never be a clone. And she can act. Her role is much smaller than the promotional photos might lead you to believe, but when she's on screen, she's very effective.

Aside from the leading man, that leaves Joan Allen. The folks who made this film had the courage to place a mature woman in a lead role, if not opposite the male star, at least in opposition to him. Allen is in her tough, no nonsense persona for this one. She plays a hard charging CIA chief, hot on the trail of a man she believes is a rogue agent.

And that man, of course, is Jason Bourne, played by Matt Damon.

If Damon's face looks blank for most of the movie, at least it matches his memory. Because Jason Bourne is suffering a bout of amnesia, induced in the previous installment of this series. The movies are based on Robert Ludlum's novels. And considering that this episode has already grossed over 50 million in its first weekend, it's probably fair to say that the series is not stillborn.

Amnesia is a fascinating and attractive subject for the movies. The audience almost always knows more than the protagonist about what's really going on. We probably know who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. If the director is skillful, we'll start to feel protective of our hero, sensing danger when he has no clue. It won't matter, as in the case of Bourne, that he could rip our throats out in a nanosecond. He's vulnerable and we're watching out for him.

Though the writing is crisp, there are few surprises in the script. The surprises are almost all in the sheer physicality of Damon's character. Regarding his personal history, Bourne's memory banks may be in overdraft, but his body has a photographic memory. It's in a perfect state of perpetual qui vive. Bourne is cunning, quick, lethal, yet morally discriminating. He's the meta-American, a killing machine with a conscience.

I'd better stop. I'm getting too close to those dozen reasons why I shouldn't like this film. But if you're wondering if your reservoir of adrenalin is in tact, this is the film that will provide an answer.

For KUSP's Film Gang, this is Dennis Morton.