HD DVD Title: The Bourne Ultimatum (Combo Format)
Screen format: 1080P, 2.40:1, VC-1 Encoded High Definition
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
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.