The Bourne Supremacy: Scene by Scene

Kirill (Karl Urban) is introduced with loud percussive impacts. His car pulls up outside the building and he gets out, dressed entirely in black, contributing to a sense of menace. There is a sudden jump cut as he walks away from the car, disorienting the audience and contributing to his threatening persona. He looks out of frame calmly and proceeds to the door. Inside, there is a series of jump cuts as he sabotages the building’s electricity. This is just a small example of how filmmakers can manipulate time, speeding up otherwise mundane or unnecessary action. Greengrass cuts back and forth between Kirill’s sabotage and the CIA agents meeting the mole. There is an extreme close up of Kirill applying a thin strip of film to one of the detonators, pulling it away to reveal a fingerprint. This extreme close up is used to highlight that Kirill has planted fake print, something that becomes important later in the narrative when Greengrass reveals that Bourne has been framed for the crime. As Kirill leaves the room and approaches the operatives, the intercutting of these two scenes becomes more rapid to build suspense. There is a quick succession of shots as Greengrass cuts to a close up of the pistol in Kirill’s hand, the operatives thumbing through the secret documents, the exploding detonators and the power flicking off in different parts of the building. This is a very good example of how editing can contribute to narratives. In isolation, these four shots mean very little. When they’re cut together in a short period of time, they very clearly convey how Kirill intends to steal the documents. The door bursts open, there are several loud gunshots as Greengrass cuts back and forth between the building and surveillance office. There is a chatter of dialogue: “Get some men in there. Get some men in there right now. Pull it up, Kurt.” This dialogue and the frenetic cutting between the two scenes contributes significantly to the suspense of a CIA operation gone wrong. The chatter continues and the camera moves restless around the office, Greengrass cutting back to Kirill as he leaves the building. The scene ends with a close up of Landy, pressing a hand to her forehead in frustration. Ending the scene with this close up is significant because it helps convey to the audience that Landy feels responsible for the failure of the operation. This shot is also significant because it establishes her motivation for pursuing Bourne.


This scene demonstrates the style that director Paul Greengrass adopted for The Bourne Supremacy. Film theorist David Bordwell discusses this in his article [insert your favourite Bourne pun here]: “Supremacy and Ultimatum display the run-and-gun strategy that Greengrass employed in Bloody Sunday and United 93. This approach implies something like this: If several camera operators had been present for these historic events, this is something like the way it would have been recorded. We get a reality reconstructed as if it were recorded by movie cameras. I say cameras because we’re telling a story and need to change our angles constantly; a scene couldn’t approximate a record of the event as experienced by a single participant or eyewitness. In movies, the camera is almost always ubiquitous.”

In the following scene, sound is used to establish the character of Gretkov. As Kirill goes to meet him in a motel room by the airport, Greengrass cuts between Kirill’s arrival and a news segment playing on the television in Gretkov’s room. The audio and vision helps to establish that he has turned his company into “an oil empire” and has become “one of the wealthiest men in Russia.” Kirill drops a bag on the coffee table. “Files,” he says tersely. “You will have the remainder when you finish the job,” Gretkov says, Greengrass cutting to a close up as two bundles of cash land on the table.

In the next scene, Greengrass continues to develop the character of Jason Bourne using a combination of acting, mise en scene, editing and sound. The scene opens with a series of shots to establish the location: several colourful pinwheels spinning in the wind, two girls eating in a busy marketplace, people talking in a square, an Indian woman wiping her face. Greengrass cuts to a shot of Marie browsing the stalls. Here is another example of how filmmakers can structure time to engage the audience. Marie’s journey from the marketplace to their house is reduced to a few shots. First she’s in the marketplace buying some vegetables, then a shot of her walking across a crowded beach, then Greengrass cuts to a mid shot as she closes the door to their house. Greengrass cuts to a shot of the ocean, then a long shot of Bourne running along the beach. In his commentary for The Bourne Supremacy, Paul Greengrass talks about how this scene continues to develop the character of Jason Bourne who is “restless, always running.” Greengrass cuts to a close up of Bourne as he runs, a look of determination etched onto his face. He cuts back to a mid shot of Marie standing in the window of their house, sipping coffee. She turns and smile affectionately, Greengrass cutting to an over-the-shoulder shot of a photograph of them. Looking down at the desk, she starts to flip through Bourne’s journal. The pace of editing increases as Greengrass cuts back and forth between Bourne and the contents of his journal. “The memory book was an idea that was around for quite a long time as we developed the story, some physical way of showing Bourne’s struggle to reclaim his memory and it was also an interesting visual element,” he says in the commentary. “You could almost see on the page the confusion and pain. I wanted these early scenes to bring us closer to Bourne.” Intercut with the shots of Bourne running, there are a series of close ups of the diary: maps, scrawled memories, newspaper clippings. Finally, Marie turns the last page and written in the middle are the words: WHO WAS I?

In the next scene, Bourne and Marie flee when Kirill arrives in Goa. Throughout this chase scene, the audience is strongly encouraged to identify with Bourne. Greengrass achieves this through a combination of production elements, including camera techniques, acting and sound. The intensity of John Powell’s score increases as Bourne and Marie speed away in the Jeep. Greengrass cuts from a point of view shot of Marie, who is driving the car, to Kirill firing his rifle. He cuts back to a point of view shot from Bourne’s perspective as Marie’s head snaps forward suddenly. This shot is highly subjective and encourages the audience to identify with Bourne at the moment she is murdered. The tight close up makes the audience feel as if they are sitting next to Marie when she is shot. When the car plunges off the bridge, the camera is positioned inside the vehicle, making the audience identify with Bourne as they plunge beneath the surface. Matt Damon’s acting encourages the audience to identify and sympathise with this character’s point of view as he struggles to free Marie from the car. When Bourne pulls her from the car, Greengrass uses an orbital shot to show Bourne desperately trying to revive her. Using a close up to emphasise his distraught expression, Bourne gently cradles her head in one hand, brow furrowing in anguish as he gives her a final kiss. The music becomes pensive as Greengrass lingers on a shot of her body disappearing into the depths. Throughout this scene, Greengrass uses a combination of camera techniques, acting and sound to encourage the audience to identify with Bourne and the sudden loss of Marie.