The Bourne Supremacy [Blu-ray]

Just like its predecessor, The Bourne Identity, 2004’s The Bourne Supremacy is being released on Blu-ray as a “Flipper” disc. That means you get the Blu-ray version on one side of the disc and the DVD on the other. Not unlike Identity, there doesn’t seem to be much wrong with this set up….yet. The Bourne Supremacy is a worthy follow-up to the excellent spy thriller, The Bourne Identity despite some changes both in front of and behind the camera. Identity director Doug Liman was replaced by Paul Greengrass and bad guy Chris Cooper was replaced by Joan Allen. Greengrass puts his own stamp on the series from the get-go and ramps up both the action and the shaky hand-held camera work, without losing the essence of Bourne’s appeal as a thinking man's action hero.

Supremacy has a plot that, frankly, doesn’t make a lot of sense. Screenwriter Tony Gilroy seemed to be required to get Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), who still doesn’t remember much about his past as a CIA assassin, moving around again. The previous movie settled him down with girlfriend Marie (Franka Potente). It seems like after what happened last time, everyone would realize that getting him involved in anything wouldn’t be a good idea. So, for no good reason, he is framed for a murder and someone tries to kill him in his hiding place in India. Thankfully for us, but not for the bad guys, Bourne is back in ass-kicking action.

The CIA, in the person of Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) and Abbott (Brian Cox), thinks Bourne is back to his old killing ways and begins to hunt him. That works out about as well as you might expect. Whenever agents get near him, Bourne beats them up with a magazine, or escapes by jumping off a bridge, or blows them up with a toaster. Seriously, a toaster. The guy is just bad ass. There are also some Russians involved, including a hit man named Kirill (Karl Urban), whose reasons for wanting Bourne dead are never totally clear. Something about a missing $20 million and a CIA mole who turns out to be the one person you figured it had to be from the very beginning.

Despite the somewhat overly confusing plot and the holes that are required to get Bourne beating on people again, the adrenalin jolt you get from the action is well worth the shortcomings. A fight with another CIA assassin using a rolled magazine is simply the top of the line in hand-to-hand film combat in the last 10 years. Despite (valid) complaints that Greengass was so in love with his shaking camera that he made the audience a little sick, he succeeds way more often than not. It’s a somewhat darker film than the first movie, but it does have an edge-of-your-seat quality that is sometimes missing from darker action movies.

The film also benefits from a powerhouse lineup of Damon, Allen, and Cox, along with Julie Stiles, Gabriel Mann, and Urban in key supporting roles. Damon is still very much fighting his own brain for memories, and one especially troubles him and fits neatly into the current plot. Nice how that works out. The focus inward doesn’t slow the film down, though, merely adds another nice layer to the genre.

Both this movie and its predecessor fall somewhat short of the final installment, but as a trio, the movies are certainly near the top of the action heap. Supremacy holds its own in the tough “linking” position between the first and third movies. The Bourne Supremacy Blu-ray release is a “Flipper” disc, which I’ve discussed in The Bourne Identity review. If you have questions about possible problems with this type of disc, check out that review, although neither disc I have, either Identity or Supremacy, has any technical issues at this point. That could change with wear and tear in the future, of course.

The disc matches Identity in that the HD version is sharp and clear and wonderful to watch, and the extras are plentiful. The “U-Control” feature is hyped on the back of the box, but of the three options -- “Picture in Picture,” “Bourne Dossier,” and “Bourne Orientation” -- only “Picture in Picture” is worth checking out. It operates like a second commentary with interviews, storyboards, and other behind-the-scenes video popping up during the movie. The other two options are, in a word, crap. The “Dossier” just throws up a bunch of random numbers meant to seem like secret file codes and some information about the location or mission being shown on screen. The “Orientation” is a simplistic retelling of the information you’ve just seen. A total waste.

Since the “Picture in Picture” is a good second commentary, the actual commentary by Paul Greengrass has some competition. Fortunately, he’s up to the challenge, although he does sometimes seem to forget he’s giving a commentary and minutes go by while a scene unfolds and he says nothing. When he does talk, though, he’s entertaining, if not particularly enthusiastic.

While the plot of the movie is somewhat confusing, there is some help available in the “Explosive Deleted Scenes” extra. The scenes, about 10 minutes in total, are anything but explosive, but one has a bunch of explanation of how things fit together that would have been helpful. There is also an alternate ending that shows Bourne and Landy meeting in a hospital room and her asking him to come back in and join the CIA. It’s interesting that both alternate endings for the first two movies show face-to-face meetings between the Bourne and his CIA pursuers. I have no idea what it means, but it’s interesting.

Two of the extras follow-up on extras from Identity. “The Bourne Mastermind” is a continuation of the interviews with and about Robert Ludlum, the Bourne author. As I noted in the other review, if you watch the three-part extra on Ludlum contained on Identity, you can avoid both parts of “The Bourne Mastermind,” as they are just shorter versions of the same material. “The Bourne Diagnosis” continues the misguided premise that Bourne’s amnesia and other psychological issues are worth discussing with a real psychiatrist.

There isn’t a “making-of” featurette, but there are individual featurettes, all in the four- to six-minute range, that give quite a bit of interesting info on the film. There are nine altogether, and they can be broken up into two main groups: action stuff and non-action stuff. The action stuff includes a breakdown of the chase on the bridge (when Bourne jumps onto the barge and then climbs back on the bridge), the Russian chase scene, the special car that was used to film the car chases, the fight training Damon was given, and something simply titled “Blowing Things Up.” The non-action stuff focused on Greengrass, the composer John Powell, the locations, and a casting featurette that primarily allowed the actors to kiss each other's asses.

When taken together, the Blu-ray is a great value. Plus, the DVD version is there if you need it. This is just a good action series, and while I wish they’d avoided the controversy by putting the DVD on a separate disc, you can’t go wrong picking this up.