After he is framed for a botched CIA operation, Jason Bourne is forced back into the life he wanted to leave in order to survive.

A better film than the first in the trilogy.

It isn't that often we get to see a sequel or second film in a series surpass the original in quality. Usually it is the opposite: the movies get worse as they multiply. Happily this isn't the case with The Bourne Supremacy, a better film than the first in the trilogy – The Bourne Identity (2002), which, while it was no masterpiece, also turned out to be a pretty good Hollywood spy-action movie as recent Hollywood spy-action movies go.

Aside from its excellent car chases, tense atmosphere and sly critique of America's intelligence policies, part of the fun of watching The Bourne Supremacy is seeing Matt Damon act without the benefit of dialogue, something we are not that accustomed to if you take All The Pretty Horses out of his filmography. Eager to escape from his babyface image, Damon didn't hesitate in signing on to do this second Jason Bourne film once he was confidant that the character would become even more intensely isolated and that the script was up to snuff. Both came about which makes The Bourne Supremacy a very satisfying movie experience.

Aside from recent cameos in Eurotrip and Jersey Girl, the last time we saw Matt Damon at any length on screen was attached to Greg Kinnear in the Farrelly Brothers' conjoined twin comedy Stuck On You (2003). Jason Bourne proves to be a turn up for the books. If you thought Damon's character was morose and dark in Identity he plunges even further into the abyss in The Bourne Supremacy, and, convincingly. As we see in the film, eventually the only thing left to keep Jason Bourne warm at night is his memory, returning piece by piece, like a jigsaw. He discovers that he is a man with a terrible past and a man who has done terrible things for superiors and a system – that is terribly corrupt. So this former assassin sets about squaring the ledger with those he has wronged and those who have wronged him. Bourne is all but rendered mute by the time he works out just what the hell is going on, and so Damon becomes a silent actor in a sense.The upshot is a taut thriller with more than a few surprises up its sleeve.

British director Paul Greengrass had more than a little to do with this. Best-known as a political filmmaker of documentaries and docudrama, he delivered Bloody Sunday to appreciative audiences around the word in 2002, a recreation of the events surrounding the massacre of 13 protesters at an Irish civil rights march by British troops in 1972. He puts this realist background to good use in The Bourne Supremacy, making this spy thriller more grounded and plausible than it well could have been. And, according to the producers the film, made history shooting the very first car chase sequence entirely on handheld cameras. The film solidly builds its drama until it hits its claustrophobic showdown and the action serves the story, not the other way around. Which makes The Bourne Supremacy a standout Hollywood spy film, instead of a disappointment.

It is superbly edited, holds its consciously subdued style throughout and possesses a symmetry that the first film lacked. It may not have the political resonance of Three Days of the Condor nor the emotional devastation of The Falcon and The Snowman, but it is a well-scripted, engaging and solid entry into the Hollywood spy game nonetheless.