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HD DVD Reviews

HTF HD DVD Review: The Bourne Ultimatum (Combo)



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#1 of 34 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted December 25 2007 - 05:28 PM

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HD DVD Title: The Bourne Ultimatum (Combo Format)
Rated: PG-13
Screen format: 1080P, 2.40:1, VC-1 Encoded High Definition
Studio: Universal
First theatrical release: August 3, 2007
Other DVD or HD Releases: Day and Date with Anamorphic Widescreen DVD
Director: Paul Greengrass
Starring: Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, David Strathairne, Scott Glenn, Paddy Considine, Edgar Ramirez, Albert Finney, Joan Allen
Sound Formats: Dolby True HF 5.1, English & French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
Length: 1 HJour 56 Minutes
Subtitles: English & French



Plot: 2.5/5
The Bourne Trilogy reaches its obvious and unsurprising conclusion with all major outstanding questions remaining about Jason Bourne’s (Damon) past revealed and with plenty of room to extend the franchise miles past where original scribe Robert Ludlum could have envisioned, ala the Bond series. In Ultimatum, ex-Treadstone operative Bourne tracks down the master program in which he was conceived, this one termed “BlackBriar”. Blackbriar is a rogue branch of the government beyond any political control, set up by masterminds within the CIA to conduct operations under the deepest of covers. Set in multiple, exotic and familiar locations including New York, Paris and Tangiers, Ultimatum features a much more focused Bourne and significantly streamlined plot than either of its two preceding chapters.

While in Identity Bourne struggles to figure out who he really is and in Supremacy the plot takes a major left turn for a prominent character from Identity, there just wasn’t any major shocks to differentiate Ultimatum from any of the other major entries in the Spy movie genre. In balance more action over more plot isn’t always a bad tradeoff, I wasn’t particularly surprised by any part of this movie and found the action relentless to the detriment of the overall pacing.

Where Bourne does excel is in the character actors who make up some key but smaller roles and in David Strathairne, who’s monomaniacal Deputy Director Vosen character could be the poster-boy for out of control government. While I found a few of the action sequences to be a bit too long there were also a few that were extraordinary in concept, especially several of the car chases which resulted in actual vehicular carnage that looked truly painful. In the end, this is the weakest of the series and wraps things up a bit too neatly, but if all you are looking for is pure action without a whole lot of intrigue to back it up, this film fills that role to a T.

Sound Quality: 4.5/5

In The Bourne Identity, one of the included extra features was a segment on how foley effects were layered with a crafty precision for a single scene within the film, noting how important the filmmakers felt that these sound cues were. Ultimatum ups the groundwork laid by the first two chapters and features a meaty sound mix that packs a ton of environmental, gunplay, character, vehicle, and other sound producers into all corners, often achieving superb cross room pans as the action whizzes from off screen, into view, and out of eyesight once again. Bass is likewise chunky and tight, will explosions, vehicles and guys all getting top notch sonic presence. Musically there’s not as much to note, as John Powell’s Synthesizer stylings are understated and minimal. Moby’s Extreme Ways gets re-revisited and that is without a doubt the musical highlight, and is used in both end credits and in the menus (with some terrific 3D animation backing it up). Universal has seen fit to use a Dolby True HD track and that’s what I listened to, tho in the past I have not heard significant differences to DD Plus, tho there are English and French DD+ tracks as well if you’d like to compare.

Visual Quality: 4/5
While Ultimatum’s transfer is sharp and detailed with zero evidence of print damage, over-sharpening, or edge enhancement, stylistically it’s a very dark film with significant grain intentionally present in many scenes. The grain was never distracting to me and I never noted any digital noise that wouldn’t have been attributable to original film stock. Where Ultimatum really shines tho is in the outdoor long shots of the locales Bourne travels too. Some of the landscape style cinematography is top rate, with fantastic levels of detail and a sharp eye for composition. This transfer brings every bit of that detail through and I wouldn’t hesitate to use some of them to test the capabilities of a display. While frequent these are a bit short and the rest of the film doesn’t quite match those impressive peaks.

Extra Features: 4/5
Universal overloaded Ultimatum with a wide variety of U-control In Movie Experience content, including Picture in Picture behind the scenes clips, “Blackbriar Files” that add textual context to on screen action, and extensive technical details of the Volkswagon Touareg. You’ll not find a more nauseating abuse of product placement than that folks, and for the 0.3% of you that are interested in those details, have at it. Once again the BTS clips are not menu selectable and I refuse to recommend that people watch a film a second time through clicking like a monkey whenever one is available or to waste 2+ hours re-watching the film to see them when they come up in sequence. There’s also a web enabled “Be Bourne” spy training segment, which I was ready and willing to subject myself to until they demanded that I register online for the privilege. No thanks.

There is thankfully a decent selection of traditional extra content, not the least of which is a collection of deleted scenes and a feature commentary track. If you want to spend 2 hours re-watching the film, I suggest the commentary over the button mashing. There are 4 short featurettes, one detailing the intricate camerawork of the ‘parkour’ chase sequence in Tangiers, one showing Damon’s aptitude at stunt driving, another Damon doing fight scenes, and a fourth regarding the car chase in New York. All are worthy additions.

Overall: 3.5/5 (not an average)

While Ultimatum is a decent action film it failed to live up to the interesting plot arcs that the others in the series brought to the table. It wraps up the story so far, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see more additions to this franchise, taking it in a new direction now that Bourne’s past is settled but his future is still uncertain. Audio-visually there’s a lot to like on this disk, tho I wouldn’t pull this out as top demo or reference material. For those who are junkies for web enabled content, there’s a lot here for you but I personally cannot stand the current implementation of these additions. Fortunately there’s a nice batch of standard extra content fare to make viewers like me happy.

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#2 of 34 OFFLINE   Aaron Silverman

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Posted December 26 2007 - 08:09 AM

Nice review, Sam. And I totally agree as far as extra features go -- all the online and "U-Control" stuff is cute, but for the love of Pete please include that material on the menu so I can just watch it!
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#3 of 34 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted December 26 2007 - 03:38 PM

It's not that much to ask is it? =)

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#4 of 34 OFFLINE   Vader

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Posted January 02 2008 - 03:31 PM

This was one of the best spy thrillers I have ever seen, IMO (and miles above post-Connery Bond). I have one question that is driving me nuts, however. Supremacy ends with Bourne telling Pam "to get some rest", then walking away in what I assume is Langly during the day. Then Ultimatum begins in Moscow, with Bourne injured and jumping from a train, at night. Fair enough, I guess some things had transpired between the two films we are not aware of. But in the supplimental stuff, Greengrass says that Ultimatum begins about 10 minutes after the end of Supremacy. What am I missing? I mean, even if Bourne was still in Moscow at the end of Supremacy (and not Langly; he was not watching Pam through a scope, so he may have just wanted to freak her out), it was still daylight. So to say that there was only a seperation of 10 minutes implies a pretty fast sunset. And then, how did he end up on the train with an injured leg being chased by the Russian police?
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#5 of 34 OFFLINE   Nelson Au

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Posted January 02 2008 - 03:51 PM

I just watched the Supremecy HD-DVD prior to viewing the Ultimatum HD-DVD, and it ends with Bourne in New York, from how I interprete it, not Langley.

Bourne injured his leg when he jumped from the bridge down onto a boat while evading the police in Germany.

As for how the film ends and then Ultimatum picks up 10 minutes later, not having seen what Greengrass said, I would have to say that he was speaking figuratively. Meaning Ultimatum picks up very soon after Supremacy. I'll pay attention when I see Ulitmatum this weekend, I forgot since I saw this in the summer why he's in Russia injured. I guess it picks up after he disposses of the Karl Urban character and before he sees the girl to apologizes for killing her parents.

I also seem to recall that Pam gives a different birth date to him in the call in this film verses the second one.

#6 of 34 OFFLINE   Jrf2

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Posted January 02 2008 - 07:00 PM

I'll be picking this up soon, but after two viewings it is my least favorite of the three, still a damn fine actioneer, though. Supremacy stands as my favorite.

#7 of 34 OFFLINE   Vader

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Posted January 03 2008 - 12:43 AM

Quote:
I also seem to recall that Pam gives a different birth date to him in the call in this film verses the second one.

That is correct. The date she gives him in Supremacy is consistent with his file, and the date of 4/15/71 is code for the training center where it all started...
Peace... Derek

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Louvre attendant: Sacre bleu! ze frame on ze Mona Lisa broke and ze only one left iz too small. Andre, bring me ze scissors!

#8 of 34 OFFLINE   Nelson Au

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Posted January 13 2008 - 10:06 AM

I had a glitch with this disc last night. It stopped playing at the point near the end when Bourne goes back to the facility in New York, the chapter is titled: Where it all Began. At first it said Error Code408bc504.

So I finally did the firmware update to v 1.3. It successfully updated this morning and then I retried the disc. It now says: "Failed to verify the content" at the same point it gave the error above.

I am guessing this is a disc problem and not a player problem. It's the first disc I encountered a problem with. What do others think? Thanks!

Nelson

#9 of 34 OFFLINE   Wayne_j

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Posted January 13 2008 - 04:05 PM

It is a disc problem. I had the same problem with mine and exchanged it with another copy from Best Buy. The new copy is working fine for me.

#10 of 34 OFFLINE   Nelson Au

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Posted January 13 2008 - 04:15 PM

Thank you Wayne for the confirmation that it's a disc problem!

#11 of 34 OFFLINE   Paul.S

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Posted January 14 2008 - 08:02 PM

Nelson, that sounds like Combo disc gremlins.

Derek, I think you might be approaching the timeline of that opening sequence too literally. My understanding--based in part on Greengrass' comments--is that the opening of the picture with Jason (should we call him David now?) injured in Moscow and being pursued and confronted by the police is not taking place after Supremacy. It is an audience friendly quick recap, mainly there so that people who didn't see Supremacy can better understand why Jason is doing what he's doing. After he says "My argument is not with you" to the cop he could have shot but didn't, he then proceeds with making his second apology for his past (by going to Paris to tell Marie's brother that she is dead and he is responsible).

Pushed for time (and for another reason I'll get into in a bit), I did the commentary at the same time as U-Control and therefore missed the parts of the commentary that were contemporaneous with PIP content. So I may have missed it, but I don't recall Greengrass referring to "10 minutes." If he did, I think what he might have meant/been referring to is not the opening sequence per se, but rather the first things we see that weren't in Supremacy (namely, Simon Ross meeting Neil Daniels in Turin).

FWIW, after experiencing some glitches with Identity's U-Control, I was really hoping for a major leap forward in the caliber of U-Control experience on Ultimatum. But, having the latest firmware (2.7) on what many regard as the best HD DVD player made to date (the XA2), I still found U-Control a little sluggish in responding to my pressing the "OK" button when the icons popped up to indicate either "Blackbriar Files" or PIP content. Sometimes it was completely unresponsive.

I was also surprised to find that they have removed the volume selection setting that appeared in the Identity menu that allowed you to change the level of either the PIP volume or the movie volume during PIP (I forget which it was). I may have overlooked it, but I don't think so. In what I consider to be a signifcant glitch on U's highest profile disc of its highest grosser of the year, I found it difficult to hear the PIP audio because the movie's volume did not dip sufficiently during PIP segments. As a workaround, I switched to the commentary track (since it's lower in volume) but every time a PIP segment would conclude, the main picture audio would default back to Dolby TrueHD, meaning I had to switch back to the commentary track to better hear the PIP aud the next time one was available.

Although they added a tag to the menu informing you that you may not be able to do PIP and Blackbriar at the same time, I think they need to revisit that. Either make it possible to experience both at the same time (for instance, re-format select text screens around the PIP window), or don't author the disc with overlapping content. But I suppose that might create another issue of text screens not appearing simultaneously with the onscreen appearance of the character to whom they refer.

but for the love of Pete please include that material on the menu so I can just watch it!


Aaron, if it's any consolation (I doubt it), Ultimatum's scene selection menus have icons showing which chapters have PIP and Blackbriar files so you can skip directly to them. Identity didn't have this.

Ironic that the final image of the PIP stream is of the "The Bourne Files" SD DVD box set . . . that U canceled. Oops!

#12 of 34 OFFLINE   Paul.S

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Posted January 14 2008 - 08:11 PM

Oh and one other thing that's vexing is the repetition of content between the standalone featurettes and the PIP content. If you do the PIP and then watch the featurettes, you're going to be looking at signifcant chunks of material that you've already seen. I don't know what the resolution is to this "problem," since the PIP content is being culled from the same interview segments as the featurettes are produced from.

It does arguably point to a very non-MySpace generation lingering critcism I have of the way we're seeing some "next gen" supps implemeted, especially PIP: when I wanna watch supps, I wanna watch supps; when I wanna watch the movie, I wanna watch the movie.

#13 of 34 OFFLINE   Vader

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Posted January 15 2008 - 12:58 AM

Thanks, Paul. That makes perfect sense! Posted Image
Peace... Derek

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Louvre attendant: Sacre bleu! ze frame on ze Mona Lisa broke and ze only one left iz too small. Andre, bring me ze scissors!

#14 of 34 OFFLINE   Paul.S

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Posted January 16 2008 - 07:57 AM

No prob, Derek--think of it as a serial-friendly "Last week, on The Adventures of Jason Bourne. . ." segment. Posted Image

Anyone here have an HDMI receiver? I'm wondering if the audio level issues I discuss above are a function of my using the 5.1 analog outs, and if the problem would be mitigated if not eliminated using HDMI audio.

#15 of 34 OFFLINE   JonZ

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Posted January 17 2008 - 07:50 AM

I havent watched mine yet.

Ill have to check it out when I go home and see if I get any errors.

#16 of 34 OFFLINE   Aaron Silverman

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Posted January 17 2008 - 08:43 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul.S
Aaron, if it's any consolation (I doubt it), Ultimatum's scene selection menus have icons showing which chapters have PIP and Blackbriar files so you can skip directly to them. Identity didn't have this.

A little, I guess. Posted Image
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#17 of 34 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted January 17 2008 - 11:21 AM

Yeah but when every chapter has BB and PIP it makes the menu selection pretty useless.

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#18 of 34 OFFLINE   Paul.S

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Posted January 17 2008 - 11:37 AM

I'd grant the point if that were the case, but it's not: there were chapters with just Blackbriar, chapters with just PIP, chapters with both and chapters with neither. Indeed, as opposed to 'direct access' of the supps, I think the point behind that menu addition is as much if not more to inform you which chapters have which kind of supp content, rather than to inform you of which have any of whatever flavor versus none at all.

More importantly, personally I wouldn't want less "in band" supp content: one of my chief complaints about the IME on Batman Begins is that there's too much dead time.

Per my earlier comments, if you want to experience the featurette content "out of band," at least on this disc--for better and for worse--it's there on an a la carte basis for "direct access" via the menus thanks to so much of the PIP content being sourced from those same stand alone interviews.

That of course arguably begs the question of why do the PIP at all. Of course there's some Ian Malcolm/'they're doing it because they can not because they should' going on here with some of this "next gen" supp "functionality." But I don't think it's entirely bad and I know we disagree in this regard. Seeing Greengrass, actors and crew shooting the second team's arrival at Sewell & Marbury in PIP simultaneous with that finished footage in the film was very cool.

Although there is some gimmickry here, as long as 1) AQ and PQ is not being compromised; and 2) the supps are available on an "out of band" basis, I don't see this as a Huge Problem.

To quote Kevin Collins in a summer 2007 HME moment that was as apropros as it was hilarious, "You don't have to hit the "A" button."

#19 of 34 OFFLINE   David Coleman

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Posted January 19 2008 - 10:26 PM

I watched the Greengrass commentary and he states that the film's timeline is between the time Bourne leaves the girl's apartment in Moscow till the time he arrives in New York and calls Landy.

#20 of 34 OFFLINE   PaulDA

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Posted January 20 2008 - 12:31 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Coleman
I watched the Greengrass commentary and he states that the film's timeline is between the time Bourne leaves the girl's apartment in Moscow till the time he arrives in New York and calls Landy.
My wife watched the second film the night before we sat down to watch the third together and I caught the last 20 mins with her. I'd last watched Supremacy a year and a half ago and when I saw Ultimatum in the cinema last summer, I didn't recall the exact ending. But after watching the end of the second film just one night earlier and catching the exchange between Bourne and Landy in the third film, it all "clicked"--in fact, it changed the movie for me (in a good way). A nice touch, really.
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