The Bourne Supremacy

Movie: Directed by Paul Greengrass.

Inciting Event: Kirill the Russian assassin arrives in Goa, India. Bourne immediately spots him and realizes he’s there to kill him. He and Marie flee, with Bourne intending to circle back and kill Kirill. Just as Marie tells him has “a choice” whether or not to continue as a killer, she is murdered. The vehicle careens into the river, and Bourne is unable to save her.

Usually, an event as shocking and life-changing as this one would be saved for the First Plot Point (the door between the Normal World of the setup and the “adventure world” of the main conflict). Here, the timing of Marie’s totally unforeseen death is deliberately placed early to shock viewers as much as possible. It’s an effective technique (particularly within a sequel), but one that works better in a sequel than it would in an opening episode.

Note, too, how this Inciting Event not only kickstarts the violent, action-driven exterior conflict, but also Bourne’s largely understated inner journey of recognizing he does have a choice not to be a killer because “it’s what Marie would have wanted.”

First Plot Point: Bourne deliberately allows his passport to pop up in Naples. On-the-alert CIA operative Pamela Landy, who has been led to believe Bourne just assassinated two of her men (when really it was Kirill), immediately goes after him. Bourne taps the phones and learns for the first time that the CIA is after him.

Although his Normal World certainly ended with Marie’s death in the Inciting Event, this is where he fully enters into the main conflict.

First Pinch Point: Bourne tracks down the last remaining Treadstone operative, Jarda. Jarda alerts the CIA to Bourne’s presence. They fight and Bourne is forced to kill Jarda—the first man he has killed in two years, a development that clearly shakes him. Again, this is a neat emphasis of the antagonistic forces in both Bourne’s exterior and interior conflicts.

Midpoint: Bourne engineers a meeting with his former handler, Nicky, who tells him why the CIA is after him and gives him the missing pieces to the dreams/memories he’s been having about a mission in Berlin, where he killed Alexander Neski, the man at the heart of Landy’s investigation. It becomes clear that whoever set up Bourne is doing it to cover up what happened with Neski.

Second Pinch Point: Bourne returns to the hotel room where he killed Neski and his wife, and he finally remembers what really happened. After the hotel clerk recognizes him, the police break into the room, and he barely escapes.

This is a very neat pinch point that aces all its jobs: it introduces new information, turns the plot, and emphasizes the antagonistic force and what’s at stake.

Third Plot Point: Bourne confronts a guilty Ward Abbott—the CIA bigwig who was behind the murders of the Neskis and Marie. Bourne records their incriminating conversation but refuses to kill Abbott, because he knows Marie wouldn’t have wanted him to. Abbott then kills himself (emphasizing death here at the Third Plot Point), while Bourne goes on to Moscow.

Usually, the Third Plot Point is the lowest moment in the story for the protagonist. In this movie, it would be impossible to get any “lower” than Marie’s death in the Inciting Event. To even try would likely end in melodrama, and the filmmakers wisely refrain. Instead, they offer a nicely emotional moment of Bourne looking at Marie’s photo and obviously grieving her death.

Climax: In Moscow, where he is looking for the Neskis’ daughter, Bourne is shot by Kirill. They engage in a high-speed chase that ends with Kirill’s car crashing.

Climactic Moment: Bourne faces down a wounded and perhaps dying Kirill and chooses not to kill him. This brings the story full circle by providing the answer to the question raised in the Inciting Event, when Marie insisted he had a choice about whether or not he would continue as a killer.

Resolution: Bourne finds the Neskis’ daughter, explains what really happened to her parents, and apologizes. He then shows up in America, where he once again gets into contact with Landy, cliffhanging into the sequel.

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