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Damon Reprises Role as Undercover Assassin in <i>The Bourne Supremacy</i> - 2004-07-23

Matt Damon reprises the role of undercover assassin Jason Bourne in a taut espionage thriller adapted from a best seller by Robert Ludlum. Alan Silverman has a look at The Bourne Supremacy.

In the 2002 hit The Bourne Identity, amnesia victim Bourne discovered he was actually a covert agent with the deadliest of training by the "agency" the CIA. Now it is two years later and his past has caught up with him.

Matt Damon says he has usually shied away from doing sequels, but he feels this second Bourne film takes the character and audiences to a better understanding of this clandestine and dangerous world.

"There is something reassuring about coming back and playing the same character, because there is a comfort level," he explains. "In one sense I think it is easier the second time around because a lot of the groundwork has been done and you can kind of expand on it. There are new little skills I had to learn for this one and I had the time to do them because I worked so hard on the other things that I already had in my 'little bag of tricks' from the first one. But having said that, he obviously goes through a lot of different stuff on this one and it's a pretty intense ride this time around.

In the first one he is running for his life, running away from this. Then, in this one, certain circumstances lead him to spin it around and run as hard as he can right at them," continues Damon. "There is a chance to see him do what he's really good at in this one. That's one of the things that I really like about it: like the sequence where he just tracks down a woman who works at the CIA and literally gets the drop on her within half a day. He finds out the city she is in, the hotel she is staying in, the room she is in, what she looks like . . . and just the efficiency with which he does that is a sequence I really like in the movie."

The woman, a CIA deputy director of covert operations is played by Joan Allen.

"It's a challenge because material like this is really, really lean. There is no fat on this material. You can't ease your way around it or ad lib; it's like a razor," she says. "It's very technical, it's very driven and has to have a certain kind of pacing to it. I had never really done anything quite like so it really was a cool challenge to stay focused and get everything out with authority, try to be smart and all that stuff. So it was really fun."

The Bourne Supremacy is the American directing debut for English-born filmmaker Paul Greengrass who finds the Bourne character well suited to a combination of high energy Hollywood action with realistic documentary style.

"I think one of the things that makes the Bourne films special is that people recognize that, unlike a lot of these films where they are basically superheroes, I think Bourne is a real man . . . and embodies values that are good. I think it's interesting when you compare Bourne to [James] Bond," Greengrass says. "Bond is a superhero and he relies again and again on gadgetry and high technology. Bond is quite a cruel character. He's misogynistic and kind of an imperial adventurer; but Bourne is a much more contemporary and relevant figure because Bourne is a character that can rely only on himself."

There is also a factor which star Matt Damon believes is usually left out of screen action heroes: redemption.

"What we really wanted to do was make a movie that starts out like a standard 'revenge movie' and has all those elements to give you the entertainment value of that, watching this guy do what he is so good at," he says. "But in the middle it really turns into this journey of atonement . . . to make an attempt to atone, redeem himself and rejoin humanity."

German actress Franke Potenta returns as the woman who brings love to Bourne's solitary existence. Also back from the original: Julia Stiles plays the CIA analyst who knows him best. New Zealander Karl Urban is a rival assassin and Scottish-born Brian Cox is the spy agency veteran who knows where the secrets are hidden. The Bourne Supremacy is shot in locations ranging from Goa, India to Berlin to the streets of Moscow, the setting for one of the most thrilling car chases ever put on film.