The Bourne Trilogy (2002) [Blu-ray]

Genre(s): Action / Adventure / Thriller
Universal || PG13 - 341 minutes - $94.98 || January 27, 2009
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2009-01-24


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.
Video

.:: A U D I O ::.
Audio

B L U - R A Y
.:: EXCLUSIVES ::.

Blu-ray Exclusives

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Doug Liman, Paul Greengrass
Writer(s): Robert Ludlum (novels); Tony Gilroy and William Blake Herron (screenplay) (Bourne Identity); Tony Gilroy (screenplay) (Bourne Supremacy); Tony Gilroy (screen story), Tony Gilroy and Scott Z. Burns and George Nolfi (screenplay)
Cast: Matt Damon, Joan Allen, Chris Cooper, Brian Cox, Albert Finney, Scott Glenn, Franka Potente, Julia Stiles, David Strathairn


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • MyScenes
  • U-Control
  • 3 Feature Commentaries
  • 27 Featurettes
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Be Bourne Spy Training (Interactive Game)
  • Music Video


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Widescreen (2.35)
  • English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), French (DTS 5.1), Spanish (DTS 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

[Note: These have been transcribed from my original DVD or HD DVD reviews, but my feelings about each remain the same. These have been edited for space.]

The Bourne Identity **** / *****
The problem with many films today is the lack of originality. There have been countless James Bond rip-offs over the years but it's refreshing to get something that throws a twist into the grind in the spy thriller genre that Sean Connery made so popular back in 1960.

Matt Damon proves that he is a better actor than Affleck in ALL genres of film. He obviously has talent in drama after a powerful performance in Good Will Hunting, showed his demented side in The Talented Mr. Ripley, and has done a couple of Kevin Smith films to cover comedy, now he has conquered the action / spy thriller. Ben Affleck's Sum of All Fears came out and while Affleck wasn't bad, he wasn't that good either. Here, Damon leaves no doubt in my mind; he can do action flicks and even hold his own in a franchise.

Along with a good outing for Damon, this also reminds us of some actors we tend to forget. Chris Cooper, Julia Stiles and Franka Potente all contribute to the film. I first saw Potente in the German cult hit Run Lola Run. She gained some notice in Hollywood with that picture and she doesn't disappoint here. Her Marie Kreatz and Damon's Jason Bourne both have a mysterious quality about them, thereby translating to good chemistry that is vital and often fails in many films.

Doug Liman was the surprise choice to helm the spy thriller. The indie director had previously done Swingers about a group of friends learning the scene of a hip lounge and then 1999's Go that follows different storylines that intersect each other. This time around Liman gets a budget almost 10 times the amount of his three other films combined (his debut was Getting In). He makes the transition into the Hollywood scene without much trouble (on the screen, at least). He did learn about who’s in charge in a multi-million dollar film and it wasn't him. But the troubles aside, he delivers a taut thriller that hopefully will branch out two more outings.

My only complaint about the film is the casting of Julia Stiles. Don't get me wrong, her performance was fine but she seems out of place in this world of espionage. The role would've been in better hand with an older actress like Famke Janssen. [01/19/2009 EDIT: In retrospect, Julia Stiles does hold her own and is a plus in the Bourne franchise.]

Overall, the film is a smart, tight and well-paced spy thriller. The Bourne Identity has its share of clichés, like a car crashing through a plate of new glass, but they work within the plot. It has plenty of action, a car chase that rivals Ronin and The French Connection and a leading actor in Damon that shows the ability to be able to carry a film of this magnitude. And one refreshing aspect of the movie is there are no signs of terrorists. It's not because I am sensitive of the terror plot in movie after 9/11, but because there has been so much since then (and in the last two weeks) that I wanted a break.

The Bourne Supremacy ****½ / *****
2002 brought us a new vision of the spy-thriller made oh so popular with James Bond. Back then, people – including myself – questioned the casting of Matt Damon as amnesia-stricken Jason Bourne. But, thankfully, not only was Damon believable as a government created super-assassin, but the movie, The Bourne Identity; itself was a good piece of work to see on a hot summer night. Now, two years later, with Matt Damon returning and a new director, Paul Greengrass, at the helm, The Bourne Supremacy does not skip a beat, in fact its better on more levels than the original.

The Bourne Supremacy surprised me in many ways- from different plot twists to the good works behind the camera with editing and Greengrass’ direction which has a certain gorilla style to it -- which no doubt will annoy some of you other there -- though I myself, appreciated. Also surprising is that this is Paul Greengrass’ first big budget film after helming a scattershot of TV movies and low-budget feature films. As I said, based on the chatter on message boards and such, many people have absolutely hated it.

Matt Damon, as I said in the opening, is believable in this role and once again, I must give props to Universal and Identity director Doug Liman (who may have had a falling out with the studio) for making a certainly unusual casting choice that others would have placed with someone more built for the actioner -- like, perhaps, Ben Affleck? Anyways, I think Damon is great as Bourne and gives this assassin-turned-good guy a real soul.

One of the reasons (other than a good, solid plot) The Bourne Identity was such a hit was because it [edited 1/19/2009] featured one of the best car chases ever filmed [end edit]. This time around, the filmmakers (most of whom, with the exception of Greengrass, were around for Identity), upped the ante. This car chase is absolutely amazing and although it goes on for quite a bit of time, was stunning to watch. In Roger Ebert’s review, he questions the amount of possible collateral damage left in its wake. I will cede his point, but like he also said, this is a thriller and that “thrillers don't exist in a plausible universe”.

Overall, The Bourne Supremacy is an excellent spy-thriller that surpasses the original and has more to offer than merely another summer blockbuster film. Give this sequel a chance, you will be Supreme-ly surprised at what you will get.

The Bourne Ultimatum ****½ / *****
Ultimatum also pulls everything out for the trilogy’s end with the casting of two top notch actors in what could’ve been unfulfilling and cardboard characters. David Strathairn (Good Night and Good Luck) is a fantastic and, for the public, underrated actor. Noah Vosen is just as big of an a-hole as Ward Abbott or Alexander Conklin (played in the previous two movies by Brian Cox and Chris Cooper respectively) but is someone who could’ve been your typical CIA agency head and instead Strathairn gives the character some needed weight, one which can stand toe-to-toe with the talented Joan Allen. Albert Finney makes a cameo appearance as the man behind the curtain. It’s a small and thankless part, but Finney’s presence makes it worthwhile even if the revelation isn’t anything groundbreaking.

It takes some time for the film to find its groove as the movie takes us from Moscow to Berlin to CIA headquarters to London to Italy (I think I’m missing another one in there) and not necessarily in that order. Although someone who hasn’t seen Identity and/or Supremacy in a while could survive, I think it’s best if you watch those two beforehand because it’ll only make the experience easier to follow as well as give some satisfaction tying all three films together.

Admittedly, Ultimatum does have a couple flaws, albeit minor. Greengrass once again brings back his trademarked “shaky-cam” which was one of the bones of contentions for fans of Supremacy. I felt it was innovative and was a good change from Liman’s ho-hum style but I admit there were times that I felt nauseous. Not to the point of detracting from the experience, but it could’ve been toned down just a bit.

In the end, though, The Bourne Ultimatum closes up what Identity started. Greengrass and company leave it opens for a sequel, but if one is so inclined, you can consider the story finished. Screenwriter Tony Gilroy, with the contribution of Scott Burns and George Nolfi (Ocean’s Twelve), gives the fans a connection with the previous two and not just for the sake of nostalgia.

Matt Damon also proves, once again, that he is no lightweight and provides a nice closure to his character. Time can only tell, but it seems Damon is possibly the new Sean Connery for the obvious reason, but also both men had solid work after their respective portrayals of “J.B.”. Just as I’m sure it was when Connery stepped down as Bond, it will be the same if Damon chooses to do the same for Bourne. I cannot imagine anyone else in a role that really Damon made come alive.

The Bourne Ultimatum is a thrilling ride in a thrill-less and mundane summer. It is filled with great action and fight sequences while still giving a plot that isn’t “dumb- down” for American audiences.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

This set is nice and comes in a sturdy box with a cool magnet that keeps it secure. Inside are the three individual Bourne movies (in standard HD slim cases). I’ll start off with the features that are common across all three BDs:

U-Control – Universal’s signature feature allows the user to access various pieces of info about the movie. In this case, we get “The Treadstone Files” (on Bourne Identity), “The Bourne Dossier” (Bourne Supremacy), “Blackbriar Files” (Bourne Ultimatum), “Bourne Orientation” and “Picture in Picture” (these last two can be found on all three). I personally prefer the PiP content as they’re more interesting but the others will give a little more insight into the stories. Although some of these were available on the HD DVD releases, I’ll consider them to be ** Blu-ray Exclusives **

BD-Live – These were not available at the time of this review, but I assume they will go, well, live, on the release date. What is contained here are ultimately useless features: “My Chat” where you can talk with friends while watching the movie together, “My Movie Commentary” where anyone can record their own track via webcam or even text; and Bourne Card Strategy Challenge”, what that is exactly, I haven’t a clue. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **

MyScenes – With this you can bookmark scenes and I guess also share with your friends. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **

The Bourne Identity ****½ / ***** (with BD Exclusive Features)
Most of these extras are either presented in non-anamorphic widescreen or full frame.

Feature Commentary – Director Doug Liman’s commentary track is, like most of the one’s he’s done so far, is actually fairly informative. Having someone else in the booth would’ve been nice but Liman keeps the conversation going and never becomes boring.

The Ludlum Identity (12:49) and The Ludlum Supremacy (12:40) covers author Robert Ludlum’s career and his rise to fame. While certainly the “Bourne” novels are his most recognizable work, Ludlum has written several other pieces of works.

I kept The Ludlum Ultimatum (23:57) separate since it basically covers the adaptation of Ludlum’s novels into motion pictures, the changes filmmakers’ made, especially in the case of The Bourne Supremacy, and how they wanted to keep the fundamentals of Ludlum’s work intact even when departing from the novels’ stories (to update it to the 21st century).

Alternate Opening and Alternate Ending (10:46) – These include an intro by Producer Frank Marshall, Co-writer Tony Gilroy and Actor Brian Cox (on the set). The alt. opening and ending were filmed as a last minute thing due to the September 11th attacks but ultimately they were not needed.

Deleted Scenes (6:58) and the Extended Farmhouse Scene (0:58) are some basic deleted footage that were rightfully removed. In fact, I didn’t think the performances were very good either. The extended farmhouse scene is just Bourne with Marie eating dinner with the family.

The Birth of The Bourne Identity (14:32) is a typical EPK featurette made for what looks like HBO. It doesn’t give much away in terms of story and features sound bites with the cast and crew explaining the story.

Last are some short featurettes:
The Bourne Mastermind: Robert Ludlum (5:44)
Access Granted: An Interview with Co-Writer Tony Gilroy (4:03)
From Identity to Supremacy: Jason & Marie (3:38)
The Bourne Diagnosis (3:26)
Cloak and Dagger: Covert Ops (5:61)
Inside a Fight Sequence (4:43)

These are all basic behind-the-scenes featurettes that give some insight into the making of The Bourne Identity but aren’t really all that interesting, although when they do become interesting, it ends way too soon (For instance, I wanted to learn more about the “clandescent” section of the CIA). All of these features are in full frame and are available on the “Explosive Extended Edition” released in 2004.

Last is a music video (3:39) for Moby’s song, “Extreme Ways”.

The Bourne Supremacy ****¼ / ***** (with BD Exclusive Features)
Feature Commentary – Director Paul Greengrass sits down for a good and informative commentary track. Like Doug Liman’s track, I do think an additional commentator in the room would’ve helped.

Explosive Deleted Scenes (10:46) – 6 scenes are available for viewing including that elusive alternate ending that was only viewable when you looked at the disc files as it was inaccessible from the menu.

There are a variety of short featurettes that go through various parts of the making-of The Bourne Supremacy. If you want a complete rundown of each (including a full description of the alternate ending), you can check out my DVD review here.

Matching Identities: Casting (5:23)
Keeping It Reel (4:58)
Blowing Things Up (4:00)
On the Move with Jason Bourne (4:46)
Bourne to be Wild: Fight Training (4:21)
Crash Cam: Racing Through the Streets of Moscow (5:58)
The Go-Mobile Revs Up the Action (6:49)
Anatomy of a Scene: The Explosive Bridge Chase Scene (4:41)
Scoring with John Powell (4:46)

This first set of featurettes (I decided to divide them in two for this review) just are several behind-the-scenes footage with your usual interviews and sound bites with the cast and crew. I know these were released before, but I wish Universal had initially made this one big ‘making-of’ rather than several short pieces. Altogether it would’ve been a 30-minute plus documentary/featurette.

The Bourne Mastermind (Part 2) (4:42)
The Bourne Diagnosis (Part 2) (5:39)

Delves more into the novel and character of Jason Bourne rather than the film itself (it does feature clips from Bourne Supremacy however). These also seem to have some of the same footage as the other Ludlum-centric featurettes. Meanwhile “The Bourne Diagnosis” continues the broken mind of Jason Bourne and what changes they made for the sequel versus the original.

The Bourne Ultimatum **** / ***** (with BD Exclusive Features)
Feature Commentary - Paul Greengrass, as he did for Supremacy, sits down for a commentary filled with on-set facts and talks at length about the story without sounding like some play-by-play analyst. I’d hoped for this last installment Matt Damon would’ve been a part of the commentary but Greengrass does a good job on his own.

Deleted Scenes (12:22) - 8 scenes are offered up and most were rightly excised from the final cut. Most didn’t move the story along but it’s nice to see them here in any case. Presented in letterboxed widescreen.

For a more detailed account on each of these featurettes, you can check out my HD DVD review, but here is the Cliff’s Notes version of Ultimatum’s features:

Man on the Move: Jason Bourne (23:58)
Rooftop Pursuit (5:39)
Planning the Punches (4:59)
Driving School (3:23)
New York Chase (10:46)

All of these featurettes are presented in widescreen. For the most part, they’re good behind-the-scenes look at how the film was made, but I feel something was still missing and wonder when the fourth Bourne movie comes out, more featurettes will come to light, otherwise these are a bit disappointing (at the same time, I guess they’ve covered what they could such as source material, characters, casting, etc).

There is also a game called Be Bourne Spy Training where you are shown clips from the movie and afterward answer questions regarding that scene.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

The Bourne Identity (Video) comes to Blu-ray in 1080p high-def and the results are pretty much on par with its HD DVD counterpart, meaning if you’re one of the many who received this flick with the purchase of an HD DVD player, you’re not missing much except a blue case.

The quality of work, though, is still very nice. It’s not going to wow you or anything but I found the picture to be sharp, but overly so, and I noticed little if any DNR. I did see a couple dust marks a couple of times, but other than that this is a good video transfer. ****¼ / *****

The Bourne Identity (Audio): The DTS-HD Master Audio is good but I guess on some level a little disappointing. Dialogue sounds about right and isn’t overpowering and the action scenes will encompass the room. I didn’t notice a whole lot coming from my rear speakers, but the front ones got a good amount of usage. **** / *****

The Bourne Supremacy (Video) is presented in 2.35 aspect ratio and looks on par with what I remember in theaters and even the HD DVD release. However, it is a new director and style and this time around the picture is purposely grainy (not to mention the shaky-cam work even during non-action sequences) so it is hard to judge on how good or bad this transfer really is. Just as with Identity I noticed no noticeable uses of DNR and little, if any, dust, scratches or other imperfections. ****½ / *****

The Bourne Supremacy (Audio) is pretty much on par with Identity’s audio track. It’s not an overpowering audio experience but it gets the job done. Although there’s a good amount of action sequences, there’s also a lot of dialogue and that does make use of the center channel. ****¼ / *****

The Bourne Ultimatum (Video) changes pace a little as Greengrass chose to film it with a 2.40 aspect ratio. However, the visual flair/style or whatever you want to call it remains the same. Having watched both Supremacy and Ultimatum close together, I thought the videos were pretty compatible with one another. Early on the picture is fairly grainy but when Bourne goes to New York, it comes less so. Now, those who hated his shaky-cam style won’t like this one and it is also the reason it’s a little hard to determine just how good the video really is. However, like Supremacy there wasn’t much, if any, in terms of imperfections. ****½ / *****

The Bourne Ultimatum (Audio) again uses a DTS-HD Master Audio track that is solid enough, even in not altogether impressive. The center and front channels get the most work out with the rear speakers getting some use for minor ambient noises. The bass does get used seemingly more than the previous two entries so overall it’s a solid audio mix, but it doesn’t compare to other Blu-rays already released, one of them being The Incredible Hulk, also from Universal... ****¼ / *****



.::OVERALL::.

It’s good to see Universal finally releasing The Bourne Trilogy on Blu-ray and while there aren’t too many new features compared to their HD DVD counterparts, if you can get this at a good price, it might be worth adding your Blu-ray collection. Thankfully, at the time of this writing, Universal did lower the SRP from $125 to a semi more reasonable $95. For those who already own these on HD DVD, is it worth the upgrade? Not right now, no. For others it might be worth the ~ $60, otherwise I’d just wait until they go on sale. If this had some with some substantial Blu-ray exclusives, no question I’d recommend this.