Bourne for Steady-Cam
After seeing The Bourne Supremacy in the theater this weekend, and having given it much thought, I feel that it is a worthy sequel to the original. The film goes further into the troubled psyche of 'bourne'-again assassin Jason Bourne, who struggles to find out who he is while taming his violent nature. Far from shirking his past, his skills are seemingly innate and deadly, and the film succeeds in creating an enthralling picture of a man without a past whose only talent appears to be in creating mayhem. So, I give this film a big thumbs-up, but I would recommend that you wait until video to see it.

My sole reason for this is the direction of Paul Greengrass, whose style is best compared to The Blair Witch Project. Greengrass has such an affinity for hand-held cameras that it is distracting to the point of irritation, and in several of the action sequences I had to actually look away from the screen for fear of mild nausea.

It's difficult to see what is going on in or even manage to focus on any object for longer than a period of a moment. There are photos in last week's Entertainment Weekly which show a couple of stills from a hand-to-hand combat, and they were by far clearer than anything I saw on the screen. But worse, from the article, was this quote, explaining that it was no error:
    The car chase through the streets of Moscow, filmed with Greengrass' favored handheld cameras. "If Bourne ran, I wanted us to be running," Greengrass explains. When told that his technique worked so well that one audience member promptly puked during the scene, he exclaims, "Excellent!"
It turns out that the director is purposefully trying to disorient the audience instead of letting them just watch. While this tactic would surely appeal to art-film creators, it does nothing more than to call attention to his direction and pull away from the film. I believe that the mark of a great director, like a great umpire in a big game, is that you are virtually unaware of their hand in controlling the action.

Of course, I sat relatively close (say, 30 feet) from the screen, so I'm sure that added to the discombobulating effect, which is why I am recommending it on DVD. However, should you still brave the theater, I suggest you sit far enough away so that you don't get dizzy. In short, any other director the next time around will be fine with me.

UPDATE: Here's at least one critic who had the same experience, and says it more concisely:
    Shakey camera is not a style. It does not simulate any kind of real life stress. I’ve been quite jostled in my life, and I don’t know about you, but my vision stays steady. Shakey cam is a sloppy excuse for not being able to shoot something interestingly. By the way, there’s nothing wrong with a locked off shot. It’s nice to see the scenery.

No comments: