Friday, July 23, 2004

The Bourne Supremacy

The new Jason Bourne film, again starring Matt Damon, hits theatres today. It's nominally based on the book by Robert Ludlum that shares the same title, but apparently little else.

The fact that screenwriter Tony Gilroy and director Paul Greengrass have completely rewritten the story doesn't bother me. The same was true of the previous Bourne film with Damon (based on the first book in the series, The Bourne Identity) and I enjoyed that one quite a bit.

What the filmmakers have decided is that it is the character of Jason Bourne, a less-sexed, pumped-up, Americanized James Bond, that is the real interest here, not so much the plots of the books. That's a savvy decision on their part.

Without a doubt, Bourne makes for a fascinating thriller hero: smart, tough, resourceful, lethal as Typhoid Mary, and possessing more lives than a cat. It's no wonder that he was recently brought back in book form as well.

Given that the first book was written 25 years ago, the story would require substantial revision in any case just to make it current. Extracting the character from Ludlum's original stories and placing him into new environs is a wise decision.

I haven't seen the new film yet, but Roger Ebert, my colleague at the Sun-Times, gives it 3 stars, saying that the filmmakers "elevate the movie above its genre" with "skillful" action and suspense. Stephen Holden at the New York Times likewise praises it, describing it as "high-speed action realism carried off with the dexterity of a magician pulling a hundred rabbits out of a hat in one graceful gesture."

Granted, I'll probably wait to watch it on DVD, but I'm already looking forward to it.