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‘The Bourne Supremacy’ Changed Action Movies 15 Years Ago

What started as a means for Greengrass — picking up from Bourne Identity director Doug Liman — to apply his documentarian style in an effort to ground Matt Damon’s amnesiac super assassin’s fights and car chases with a sense of realism, it would extend far past that and become a visual vocabulary unto itself — one spoken by everyone from Bond (2008’s Quantum of Solace) to every John Wick movie. Since Supremacy’s release in 2004, the use of this visceral verisimilitude has proven hit and miss, with some lesser entries in the genre eventually approaching or achieving self-parody (including Greengrass’ own Jason Bourne in 2016). But what those movies get wrong that Supremacy doesn’t is how the sequel never loses sight of why we’re watching the movie at all: The characters. 

The character-first set pieces are fueled by emotionally-driven stakes. From the jump, Greengrass — working from script by Tony Gilroy and an uncredited Brian Helgeland — is less concerned with exotic tradecraft and more about Bourne’s struggle with finding who he is at the cost of getting violently closer to the truth about the killer he was. The audience only knows what Bourne does, when he knows it, for most of the film’s first act; here, everything unfolds at human height.

This intimate epic approach allows audiences to re-enter Bourne’s life after our initial and exciting exposure to it in Bourne Identity, but in a new, more personal, more painful way. This is best dramatized when Bourne, playing fugitive from his nefarious CIA handlers at Treadstone, witnesses the assassination of the only person he can trust, the closest thing he has to love, Marie (Franka Potente). We’re in the cab of their Land Rover when the bullet pierces the window and Marie’s skull; and it’s salt on the wound when their

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