Warning: Spoilers follow.
I just got back from seeing the Bourne Supremacy I have to say that I was a little disappointed. Bourne Identity, its predecessor was refreshing at the time because it marked a return to Europe, it was decently plotted, and the characters were at least somewhat believable.
Over the past half century, cinematographers had learned how to properly film a gunfight amid a East German winter. They had learned to highlight the crimson blood against fresh fallen snow, to contrast the crack of sniper rifle against the tranquility of nature. And when the bodies had fallen into the powder, the spy could retreat to the seemingly exotic cities of Berlin, or Paris.
After the wall fell, and the Soviet Empire began to crumble, such European films were eclipsed by the "Columbian Drug Lord" movie, or the "Islamic Terrorist" film. Perhaps these settings were less anachronistic, but somehow the sands of Arabia or the jungles of South America were less aesthetically pleasing.
The Bourne Identity, blessed with the exotic cities of "Zurich", "Marseilles", and "Paris" (which were all, I'm led to understand, redressed sections of Prague), piled on believable characters, a suitably complicated plot, and blessed lack of comedy. Sure, the ubermensch assassin archetype is itself a little absurd, but somehow Damon, with the help of his costar Potente ,pulled it off. The plot departs from Ludlum's original novels, but that's forgivable, as Carlos the Jackel is a non entity in these modern times. And lack of comedy made lines like "I want Bourne in a body bag by sundown" seem more serious and authentic.
And of course, Identity had one of the greatest car chases in the history of cinema.
The Bourne Supremacy, which was not directed by Doug Liman, Identity's director, is still largely set in Europe-- after a brief stop in Goa India, the action moved briefly to Naples, then to Berlin (a profoundly ugly city--at least in Greenglass's lens), and then onto "Moscow".
I hope I'm not giving much away by revealing that Potente, after a listless performance, exits the stage in Goa. Damon spends the rest of the film without her company, and chasing after his adversaries, whom he believes to be agents of the CIA's Treadstone project.
Meanwhile, we learn that "Pamela Landy", played by Joan Allen, is investigating the ruins of her failed operation, which she believed was bloodily disrupted by Jason Bourne. Early in this investigation, Allen announces that she believes that Bourne/Treadstone is running some two bit scam to defraud the CIA financially. We, the audience are initially amused by this notion, because we know that Treadstone is about black-ops work and not about money.
Or is it? In the end, we learn that Allen's inititial suspicions are not so far off the mark-- and Bourne, the $30 million dollar piece of "US Government Property" will find his answers not in a plot to kill government leaders, or steal bombs, or launch coups d'etat, but in a humdrum "Russian Petroleum" fraud.*
It seems a waste-- and though Damon is given ample opportunity to show off his automobile racing skills-- Greenglass's frenetic photography is more blurry than truly engaging.
[*]Yes, I'm well aware that a certain famous CIA mole sold his country essentially for a lifetime supply of "Red Lobster" dinners. But that doesn't mean that his story makes for engaging cinema,