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Rhonda Handlon

Movie Review

When we last saw Jason Bourne (The Bourne Identity), he was walking away from his life as a government-sanctioned assassin for the ultra top-secret Treadstone Project. He thought they’d leave him alone to live a quiet life with his companion, Marie, on an Indian seaside. His peace, often disturbed by violent flashbacks that he records in a journal in an attempt to reconstruct his past, is totally shattered one day in a bustling marketplace. Bourne’s finely honed self-preservation instincts are so ruffled by a man who seems out of place that Jason grabs essential belongings and bolts with Marie.

Those instincts prove right on target. The man is an assassin mandated to kill Bourne, and the wild chase begun in Goa quickly goes global. But this is no mere cat-and-mouse game. In Berlin, two CIA agents are killed during a covert operation and the only evidence points to Bourne. So Agent Pamela Landry is given special security clearance to open deeply buried records and is soon hot on Jason’s trail.

Our hero’s in no mood to be assassinated or framed and quickly brings his own formidable skills to bear in the hunt for his hunters, hoping to permanently close the file on his past.

Positive Elements

The relationship between Jason and Marie, born in a few moments of stolen passion while on the run in The Bourne Identity, has grown into one of tender love and commitment. She shows real concern for him when he awakens from one of his frequent nightmares with a throbbing headache, encourages him to look for a golden ray in his dark memories, and doesn’t hesitate to pull up stakes and go on the lam with him when his life is once again threatened.

Perusing Jason’s journal, Marie finds mementos of several assassinations; perhaps it’s love-induced foolishness that keeps her from judging him. But that love has obviously softened some of his killer tendencies. Given both opportunity and motive to kill the man responsible for framing him, he spares his life because “she wouldn’t want me to.” He also shows a sense of moral consciousness by setting the record straight with a woman who grew up believing the false report of her parents’ murder-suicide and telling her he’s sorry. And he provides incriminating evidence on a CIA boss instead of grudgingly withholding it from the “good guys” who’ve falsely accused him. Pamela’s instincts and training also trigger restraint when she adamantly demands Bourne be brought in alive, although she later capitulates under the self-serving taunts of the CIA chief.

Sexual Content

This film avoids both explicit and implicit sex, but it’s obvious from the opening scene that Jason and Marie share a life and a bed. (She’s referred to as his “girlfriend” in this film, although Ludlum’s book has them married at this point.) Marie bares some cleavage in gauzy tops more suited to India’s hot climate than its conservative culture.

A scantily dressed pole dancer disgraces the background of a foot-chase scene through a red-lit bar. The camera inexplicably lingers on a foreign language billboard picturing a bare-midriffed torso (probably advertising a gym).

Violent Content

Sex and language are toned down from the first Bourne film, but the violence continues. Most of it is calculated and cold-blooded, devoid of emotion. [Spoiler Warning] The major exception to this is when Marie takes an assassin’s bullet meant for Bourne, causing her to lose control of the jeep she’s driving and plunge into a river. Bourne works desperately to free her from the vehicle, then tries to resuscitate her underwater. Realizing she’s dead, he gives her a final kiss and releases her body to the currents.

Fists, feet, bullets and vehicles fly as spies inflict varying degrees of damage on one another and whomever else gets in their way. Bourne washes the blood off his hands after engaging in a brutal fight with a handcuffed man that ends in strangulation. (Inexplicably, Bourne’s face and clothing are undamaged.) The gravity of his actions is exponentially compounded when Jason covers his crime by creating an explosion that propels several people into oblivion.

For a professional killer reluctantly coming out of a two-year hiatus, Bourne has a surprisingly large collection of weapons that he pulls out of nowhere, including a humungous Uzi-style automatic (which he only uses to threaten). He also knocks out an interrogating consulate field officer, steals several cars, is involved in high-speed chases in which he intentionally causes wrecks to block his pursuers, and walks away from a multicar accident that kills a would-be assassin. (The man’s face is seen covered in blood.) Bourne also threatens to kill a female agent once entrusted with monitoring his mental health while he was undercover.

In an operation meant to frame Bourne, an agent is shot and another apparently killed by an explosion. A double-crossed ops man is fatally stabbed. Other violent deaths are recalled by flashback. Thankfully, a CIA boss’s death by self-inflicted gunshot is depicted audibly rather than graphically.

Crude or Profane Language

Bourne doesn’t talk much, but he does manage to snarl the f-word at a former colleague. Ward uses the s-word twice, once telling Pam she has “stepped in a big pile of s—” and isn’t wearing the right shoes. And Christ’s name is abused once (God’s twice). Still, Supremacy has done a major cleanup job on foul language since its predecessor. There are only a few other milder expletives, including a couple of uses of “h—” (once it is subtitled) and “d–n,” and one “son of a b–ch.”

Drug and Alcohol Content

Bourne uses stolen vodka to momentarily blind a police officer and cleanse a bullet wound. Ward tosses back hard liquor.

Other Negative Elements

Even though Bourne struggles against his dark side and we want to root for him, the movie gives us little context in which to understand him. In Identity, audiences developed some empathy for the man who found himself washed up on a strange shoreline with no memory of who he was. But in the two years that have passed, he’s only recalled a few bits and pieces of the assassinations he’s apparently committed. No warm fuzzies there. And when Pam leaks Bourne’s real name to him and offers to provide details of his past, he chooses to walk away once again. Is it apathy on the character’s part, or simply a filmmaker’s ploy to keep the audience in suspense until the next sequel?


This second cinematic installment in the Jason Bourne espionage thriller series contains considerably less language than the first and no sex scenes, but its heavy-handed—tautly delivered—violence lands it solidly in the sealed files for most families, despite its PG-13 rating.

Supremacy may also leave Robert Ludlum purists frustrated over major plot point and setting changes. As one disappointed moviegoer noted, “Why make a film based on a book that has nothing to do with the book?” And the movie takes a lot of mental energy to understand—those unfamiliar with the genre, or haven’t seen the first movie, may get lost in the many twists and turns that leave a few threads dangling. (Those threads may be picked up in true spy thriller fashion in celluloid sequels based on The Bourne Ultimatum and The Bourne Legacy, written after Ludlum’s death by bestselling author Eric Van Lustbader.)

Compared to others of his ilk, Jason Bourne is harder and more coldly calculating. He has none of the boyish charm of a James Bond nor the patriotic passion of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan. What he does have is an active conscience that even the most sophisticated dark ops training in the world cannot extinguish. (Does it come from a strong moral center or just social conditioning?) Maybe next time around, more will be revealed.

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Rhonda Handlon