Directed by Paul Greengrass, starring Matt Damon, Brian Cox, Joan Allen, Julia Stiles and Franke Potente.

Few expected that 'The Bourne Identity' would be one of the film treats of 2002. Doug Liman, the director of 'Swingers' and 'Go', turning Matt Damon into an action hero? It seemed as tall an order as turning pal Ben Affleck into an action hero. Well, maybe not quite. But 'The Bourne Identity' did what it had to do well, doing justice to Robert Ludlum's bestseller and restoring spy fans' faith in men in black polo necks running up and down stairs.

The stakes are substantially higher for 'The Bourne Supremacy'. The success of the first film means that the attitude of viewers has swung from curious to expectant and the popularity of the TV series '24' and 'Alias' means there are even more of them to satisfy. The joy to be savoured here is that this is one of those rare cases when the sequel turns out to be better than the original.

Bourne (Damon) and girlfriend Marie (Potente) are now hiding out in Goa, where the former assassin is troubled by nightmares and constantly waiting for his past to catch up with him. And so it does. Framed for a double killing during a CIA operation in Berlin, the real hitman comes to track Bourne down - forcing him to go on the run again. Once Bourne reappears on the radar, CIA boss Pamela Landy (Allen) thinks he's out to complete unfinished business and sets out to track him down, not realising that Bourne is the solution, not the problem.

Director Greengrass' film is a leaner, meaner take on the spy game and shows just how limp Bond has become. Jumping cities, it never loses pace and provides some of the most memorable onscreen chases in years. Now Moscow can add itself to the honour role that includes New York ('The French Connection'), San Francisco ('Bullitt'), Paris ('Ronin') and Rome ('The
Italian Job').

While Liman's film had scenes where either the plot or action spluttered, Greengrass makes no such mistakes. Set pieces aside, 'The Bourne Supremacy' has an almost TV drama dynamic with a great supporting cast (Allen and Cox as her knows-too-much colleague) who are happy to stay in the background.

Damon has done himself even more wonders in this film by keeping quiet. Now fully grown into the role, his lack of dialogue means we identify with the anti-hero (as we find out, Bourne did some very bad things) even more. He hurts, he bleeds, he makes mistakes and he pays for them. Maybe every action and thriller director should see this film.

There are two other books in the 'Bourne' series, right now they can't reach the screen quick enough.

Harry Guerin