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Official HTF HD Review: The Bourne Identity


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#1 of 12 Sam Posten

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Posted August 07 2007 - 04:39 AM

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HD DVD Title: The Bourne Identity
Rated: PG-13
Screen format: 1080P 2.35:1 VC-1 Encoded
Studio: Universal
First theatrical release: 14 June 2002
Previously released on DVD/BluRay: Multiple widescreen and fullscreen DVDs
Director: Doug Liman
Starring: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Chris Cooper, Clive Owen, Brian Cox, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
Sound Formats: English & French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
Length: 1 Hour 59 Minutes
Subtitles: English, French



Plot: 3/5
Robert Ludlum’s most famous character Jason Bourne (Damon) is updated for a post 9/11 world in this first part of the Bourne trilogy. Found adrift and near dead, Bourne initially has no recollection of who he is or what he was doing at sea. The only thing he has to go on is a small holographic message embedded beneath his skin which leads him to a safe deposit box containing a number of passports bearing his face and different names; weapons; and a supply of cash. Piecing the clues together Bourne discovers the truth, he is a highly trained CIA agent, part of an illegal experimental program called Treadstone, the side-effects of which have given him headaches, blackouts and now amnesia. He further discovers that he wants out of this business, but Bourne finds that giving up this life isn’t so easy, as he is a huge threat to the Treadstone leaders, and they will stop at nothing to see that his secrets are buried with him.

Director Liman and screenwriters Tony Gilroy and William Blake Herron collaborated to take the spy genre in some interesting new twists. Instead of a charming superagent like Bond, Bourne is more of an everyman, with flaws, confusion and a moral direction in addition to all of his super skills. Damon is the perfect choice for this, as audiences expect him in more genteel roles, and he worked hard to gear up for this challenge, and for the most part succeeds. Where the Bourne Identity doesn’t work is largely in the extreme amount of time it takes to establish Bourne’s situation. There is very little interesting action for the first forty five minutes of the story, and while this was a conscious decision on the director’s part to not to make a brainless popcorn muncher of a summer action flick, it drags as Bourne bumbles along learning his backstory. Once the first car chase kicks off however the story takes a better turn and is a lot more complex and interesting.

Sound Quality: 4.5/5
This film has both a great score and an intricately layered sound track. Composer John Powell has crafted music that spans from mournful and haunting while Bourne is initially adrift to tense and intense techno tracks that accompany the car chases, shootouts, and final Treadstone confrontation. End credits music is supplied by Moby in the form of the song ‘Extreme ways’ and this track is paired nicely with the themes of the film.

On the surround front, music, dialogue and foley effects are, as noted above, intricately put together in a deeply layered sound field. I wasn’t blown away by the amount of surround content as especially the first half of the movie is a bit pedestrian, but the second half makes up for it and brings the action to all corners. The rears are active a significant amount of time with music, environmental effects data as well as gunfire and other action keys. Bass is likewise significant factor, holding down the bottom end of the musical score nicely and coming into its own during the few explosions and during bursts of gunfire.

Visual Quality: 4/5
Color fidelity was strong, and for the most part The Bourne Identity has a very crisp and clean look that befits this big budget production. Especially in the wide angle expository shots that establish each location change, detail is off the charts and helps the viewers feel like they are part of these European urban environments. Close ups tended to be slightly muddier, I noted several occasions where facial detail was not nearly as strong than it was in the long shots, but this is likely to be an original film stock quality and not any error of the transfer. I did not some mosquito noise in the details of walls and other solid backgrounds from time to time, which was surprising due to its absence in every other Universal release on HD that I’ve seen.

Otherwise this is a very clean print, with no indication of film damage or other pops and scratches, and while grain was present in many cases during darker scenes it was never distracting except on the few walls noted above.

Extra Features: 5+/5
Like the Hot Fuzz/Shaun of the Dead releases that Universal put out on the same day as this one, this disk is off the charts in terms of bundled extras and again this disk is not labeled as any kind of special edition.

First up I have to mention the continued use of U-Control to integrate interactivity into the bonus features. Once again I gave a good half hour over to trying these controls and found myself frustrated and put off, as usual. The U-Controls here DO feature some interesting content (tho to be fair a LOT of it is in the featurettes as well), especially in the interactive Treadstone Dossiers, but getting access to them is an absolute nightmare. You cannot just hit one button and have all of the added content play along with the movie, you have to be a button jockey hoping to select content whenever it might be available and if you miss it, it’s too late. Either rewind or forget about it. If I haven’t been so blunt before, let me be absolutely clear: to me, this interface sucks.

Fortunately the ‘regular’ bonus content more than makes up for it. There is a feature length commentary track with Director Liman. There are FOUR separate biographical featurettes about Robert Ludlum and the Bourne Series, and there is a fair amount of content that is repeated between them, There is a featurette where an actual CIA operative gives perspective on Bourne’s capabilities, and another with a psychologist who discusses the reality of amnesia cases. There is an extended look at the fight sequence within the US embassy, and a look at the car chase. One of the neatest features is a semi-interactive sequence where you can play all of the sound track layers from the car chase. Because of the impacts 9/11 had on the movie industry, Universal scrambled to revise this film to be more in tune with the emotion of the day, and a special new opening and closing were filmed. These would have been horrible additions to the film and were thankfully excised, but they are included here in full. Fnally there is an absolute avalanche of extended and deleted scenes that are interesting and show once again how careful cutting can make a movie.

Overall: 4/5 (not an average)
As the first part of what is now a trilogy, it is probably inevitable that too much story groundwork had to be covered in the first half of this film, making it drag a bit, but once it gets cooking Bourne is a smart and sharp addition to the Spy genre and really well modernized for modern audiences. It would have been an interesting and very different film if the original time frame had been adhered to, and if viewers are interested in that perhaps they will check out the made for TV mini series that was done back in the 90s. I haven’t yet seen the Bourne Supremacy or Ultimatum, but I suspect they will both be much more like the end of this movie than the beginning, and if that’s the case, the extras included on this disk really got me looking forward to them. This disk itself is jam packed with extras and the audio video content is just shy of greatness as well. It’s definitely a good package and a worthy addition to the HD DVD library.

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#2 of 12 Cees Alons

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Posted August 07 2007 - 09:59 AM

This film was a revelation of sorts when it came out. (I owned the first - TV - version too.) I'm very happy to get it on HD DVD!

Thanks for the review, Sam.


Cees

#3 of 12 Sam Posten

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Posted August 07 2007 - 10:34 AM

I've never seen the Miniseries, what did you think of that version Cees?

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#4 of 12 Douglas Monce

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Posted August 07 2007 - 11:21 AM

I agree completely about Ucontrol. Every time I use it I feel like some kind of monkey in a Pavlovian experiment.

I have the original Mini from 1988 on DVD also. It's interesting, somewhat closer to the book than the new films, very much a product of the 80s. Good score by Laurence Rosenthal. A surprisingly big budget feel for a TV movie. All and all not bad.

Doug
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#5 of 12 ppltd

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Posted August 08 2007 - 01:17 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cees Alons
This film was a revelation of sorts when it came out. (I owned the first - TV - version too.) I'm very happy to get it on HD DVD!

Thanks for the review, Sam.


Cees
OK, you have my curiosity tweaked. What is the name of the mini-series?
Thomas Eisenmann(Last updated 09/30/11)

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#6 of 12 Paul Arnette

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Posted August 08 2007 - 01:22 AM

Quote:
What is the name of the mini-series?

The Bourne Identity.

http://imdb.com/title/tt0094791/
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The Jackal
, Out of Africa, and Traffic.

#7 of 12 Tim Glover

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Posted August 08 2007 - 01:32 AM

Nice review Sam....looks like we pretty much agree on the tech aspects. Posted Image

Hopefully Universal will release a trilogy box set for we suckers who love to re-buy movies. Posted Image

#8 of 12 Paul Arnette

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Posted August 08 2007 - 01:39 AM

Quote:
Hopefully Universal will release a trilogy box set for we suckers who love to re-buy movies. Posted Image

The only way I would consider re-buying them in a box set was if they were 1) done with lossless sound, and 2) was the only way to get Ultimatum as a non-Combo Format release.

Damn it, Paul, why are you giving them ideas! Posted Image
Universal Blu-ray Discs I will not be buying while they're offered only as Blu-ray + DVD 'flipper' discs:

The Jackal
, Out of Africa, and Traffic.

#9 of 12 Cees Alons

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Posted August 08 2007 - 03:48 AM

Yes, it was called The Bourne Identity. Posted Image

Quote:
I've never seen the Miniseries, what did you think of that version Cees?
I liked that version, Sam. Although by then I was no longer such a big fan of the main actor. Posted Image

The new version is certainly better (it's basically the same story, based on a novel by Robert Ludlum), but when I watched the 1988 version again after seeing the 2002 film, I was surprised how good it actually was. Even Richard Chamberlain, I must say.

It's a long "film" and it shows its origin (TV 2-episode series) and time period, but it's certainly fun (and some beautiful European scenery)!


Cees

#10 of 12 ppltd

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Posted August 08 2007 - 06:06 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Arnette
The Bourne Identity.
Paul thanks for the info. I looked up Bourne Identity on TVTome.com but couldn't find it listed prior to asking the question. Never thought to look it up on IMDB.Posted Image
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#11 of 12 Douglas Monce

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Posted August 08 2007 - 03:25 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by ppltd
Paul thanks for the info. I looked up Bourne Identity on TVTome.com but couldn't find it listed prior to asking the question. Never thought to look it up on IMDB.Posted Image

It's out on DVD. I think netflix has it for rent.

Doug
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#12 of 12 ppltd

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Posted August 08 2007 - 03:47 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Douglas Monce
It's out on DVD. I think netflix has it for rent.

Doug
Thanks for the head-up but I was able to secure a copy at DVD Empire. Now all I have to do is wait for it to be delivered.
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