The Bourne Supremacy: Scene by Scene
In the opening sequence of The Bourne Supremacy, director Paul Greengrass uses a number of production elements – including camera techniques, acting, editing and sound – to establish the character of Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) and his relationship with Marie (Franka Potente). The narrative opens with a montage of shots filmed at a low frame rate: road signs, a rainy night, photographs of a family, men in suits, a motel room. Over the montage, the audience hears the voice of CIA agent Alexander Conklin (Chris Cooper). “This is not a drill, soldier,” he says. “This is a live project and you are go. Training is over.” Towards the end of the montage, there are anguished screams and an abrupt gunshot. Greengrass cuts to an extreme close up of Jason Bourne waking from a dream. When he wakes, his breath is ragged and he appears distraught. This combination of editing, sound and acting helps to establish that Bourne is haunted by his previous life as a spy. “The opening of the movie is all about seeing the shards of disconnected memory,” Greengrass says in his commentary for the film, “the violent pieces that made up Jason Bourne’s mind.”
As Bourne rifles through a medicine cabinet, clearly distressed, Greengrass cuts to a shot of Marie standing in the bathroom door with a concerned expression on her face. “It’s okay,” he says a moment later, reaching out affectionately touching the side of her face. Although the acting here conveys a deep connection between the characters, it also conveys a weariness from being on the run. “In a way, some of the exuberance of their relationship has gone,” says Greengrass. “Maybe there’s a little tiredness there, you know, weariness of being on the run, never being able to stay in one place too long, but still trying, trying for something better, trying for the light, because that’s what the Bourne story is all about.” They return to the bedroom and their conversation continues, Bourne hunched over the window sill looking out at the darkness.
Marie: Anything new?
Bourne: No. It’s just bits and pieces. I can hear Conklin’s voice and there’s that photograph, but…I just can’t stay with it.
Marie: But you’re sure it’s not just a bad dream?
Bourne explains that it wasn’t just a bad dream. “It happened,” he says. “It was a mission.” She encourages him to continue writing his dreams down so that he remembers something good. “I do remember something good,” he says, looking at her. “All the time.” The scene closes with a mid shot of the couple as Marie leans forward and embraces him tenderly. Throughout this sequence, a combination of acting and dialogue contributes to the loving relationship between Bourne and Marie.
The opening sequence of a narrative performs a number of functions including starting the narrative, establishing characters and setting, and engaging the audience. In this scene, the audience is reintroduced to the character of Jason Bourne and his relationship with Marie. This continues in the next scene when Greengrass cuts to a shot of Bourne sitting at a desk in their hut. He stares down at the diary, blinking, a plaintive expression on his face. With a sigh, he starts writing. Here, John Powell’s score for the film helps to establish the sense of sadness and regret that Bourne feels about his past. Titled ‘Goa’, this track establishes a sense of melancholy through its use of a solitary, mournful oboe. The camera dollies in on Bourne who flicks off the light. The camera lingers for a moment as he sits in the darkness. In his commentary for the film, Greengrass talks about how the main storyline is not only about Bourne’s search for revenge but his desire for absolution, a “yearning for the light”. Here, the use of lighting contributes to the sense that the character starts in the darkness and through the course of the narrative moves “towards the light”. The opening sequence also helps the audience to identify with Jason Bourne. This use of music and acting helps to generate sympathy for the character. “I wanted these early scenes to bring us closer to Bourne,” says Greengrass. “I think that was really what the second film is all about.”
Greengrass cuts abruptly to city skyline at night. The words ‘Berlin, Germany’ appear in the lower third of the screen to help establish the change in setting. In this scene, the CIA are attempting to buy files documenting the theft of twenty million dollars. A rogue Russian police officer, Kirill (Karl Urban), steals the files and kills several CIA agents, framing Jason Bourne for the crime. This is the event that sparks the chain of cause and effect in The Bourne Supremacy, leading to the assassination attempt on Bourne and Marie’s death. Everything that follows – including Bourne’s desire for revenge and Landy’s attempt to find those responsible for killing her agents – stems from this event. Greengrass engages the audience by plunging them directly into the action. The scene opens with an establishing shot of a building, a loud, non-diegetic impact contributing to the drama. There is a chatter of voices over the radio. This dialogue plunges the audience directly into the action and they’re forced to work out what’s going on. “I want one final go around,” says Pamela Landy (Joan Allen). “All teams listen up.”
Landy is established with a close up as she watches several screens intently, the camera dollying in slightly on her calm and resolute expression. In this scene, the camera is handheld, moving restlessly across the monitors and computers the agents are using for surveillance. This handheld camera movement gives the scene a sense of urgency and realism, contributing significantly to audience engagement. The camera restlessly tracks two men with briefcases heading for a building as well as following their progress on security monitors as Landy and her team look on. The operation is interrupted by a telephone call from Langley, acting further contributes to the characterisation of Landy. “Gentlemen, I have the seller on-site and in play,” she says in a calm and assertive voice. “Quite frankly, there’s nothing much more to discuss.” When she receives confirmation from Martin Marshall (Tomas Arana), she terminates the call quickly. The professional tone of her voice and the way she quickly ends the conversation conveys a sense of professionalism and assertiveness.