Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The Bourne Supremacy

A sequel with the tagline "they should have left him alone" is asking for trouble, isn't it?

When it starts you think, aha, this is going to be one of those complex spy thrillers which require constant focus and attention to the plot, or failing that an index finger resting gently on the rewind button. It doesn't quite work out that way though, as you soon realise that the makers are prioritising frantic motion over plot development and ultimately find disappointingly easy ways out of every complexity that the plot tries to set up. (However the deleted scenes reveal that the script did originally attempt to tie up one or two of the looser ends - such as the body in the basement. )

There are far too many cuts and edits in this film for my taste. As the co-author of Spycatcher with Peter Wright, British director Paul Greengrass was on paper a fine choice for this sort of spookfest, but his efforts to give the many different European locations a gritty, realist feel are undermined by the relentlessly hectic nature of the action.

This is Europe as the West's demi-monde, where the Polizei hunt in packs. For the benefit of his American viewers Greengrass emphasises the otherness of every point of contact that Bourne has with this environment. The phones, the homes, the cars etc. Not a great deal survives intact - Bourne leaves a trail of collateral destruction behind him on Moscow's roads worthy of Team America. (It was actually quite hard not to keep thinking of that hilarious Matt Damon marionette while watching this!)

Julia Stiles is wasted in this movie, Franka Potente quite literally so. Joan Allen plays the archetypal Langley bitch who slowly de-freezes towards the end - in a work environment dominated by uptight salarymen with one eye on their meagre pensions, ice-maidens like this inevitably occupy key strategic positions on the org-chart. Karl Urban (Eomer from LOTR) is a convincing Russian hitman, though it is the fact that his character is not a very convincing grungey tourist in Goa that sets up the opening chase sequence. Must have been the silver Mercedes that gave him away!

The Westin Grand in Berlin features quite heavily - the hotel in which I stayed on my only visit to the city back in 1998. It's on the East side of the old divide and still has something of the musty opulence of tyrrany about it. You reach your room by ascending the ornate lift at the side of an astounding 30m high atrium around which the rooms are distributed in an irregular circle.

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