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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF BluRay Review: The Bourne Trilogy



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#1 of 12 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted January 28 2009 - 04:33 PM

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Note: This box set contains all three Matt Damon / Jason Bourne films in one classy looking brushed metallic shaded case, with each film on its own individually packed keep-case, all in a sturdy cardboard box with a slick magnetic latch. The following reviews are based on my prior reviews of these films on DVD and HDDVD but have been modified to reflect the changes in this newest release.





BluRay Title: The Bourne Identity
Rated: PG-13
Screen format: 1080P 2.35:1 High Definition
Studio: Universal
Disk Release Date: 1/27/09
First theatrical release: 14 June 2002
Previously released on disk: Multiple including a January 2008 HDDVD and prior widescreen and fullscreen DVDs
Director: Doug Liman
Starring: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Chris Cooper, Clive Owen, Brian Cox, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
Sound Formats: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Spanish & French DTS 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 with 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. 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 super-agent 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 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 and 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 lots of gunfire.

Note also that unlike the prior HDDVD this release features a full uncompressed DTS sound encode and while I would be hard pressed to make any generalizations about how they stack up head to head, the film sounded just as I remembered it during the last review and the full bandwidth will make the fanboys happy.

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 in close-ups 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. while I loath to judge films by screenshots alone, pictures I have seen at other sites bore this out, while there is minor amounts of detail differences between the HD DVD and this BluRay, both look stunning but have slightly defocused ,./, it’s in the original print.. I did notice a bit of the mosquito noise in the details of walls and other solid backgrounds which I saw on the HD DVD but I wasn’t particularly distracted by it unless I was extremely close to the screen and watching for it.

Again, this is a very clean print, with minimal print damage, pops and scratches (although I did detect a few when I got close to look for the mosquito noise), 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
The features on this disk are a near mirror image of the HD DVD version and the sheer number of them is off the charts, again noting that 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. However, I found the implementation on this disk had a smoother menu operation than the HD DVD which I railed about. The U-Controls here DO feature some interesting content , and this time the inclusion of the “Bourne Orientation” is either new to this film or one which didn't strike me on the HD as worthy of note, but it’s pretty slick but I question it’s value as it simply let viewers catch up with each quarter of the film or so. The Treadstone Dossiers and PiP segments remain good and the ability to menu jump to them is ok if a little bland. There are also a few new tidbits in the BD-Live menu including a trivia game, but that isn’t really on my radar.

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. 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.

The one feature from the HD DVD that I don’t see was the semi-interactive sequence where you can play all of the sound track layers from the car chase. If it turns out it’s on the disk I will revise this review, but even without it there is still enough to consider this a 5+.

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. This disk itself is jam packed with extras and the audio video content is just shy of greatness as well, and meet or beat the quality of the previous disks. It’s definitely a good package and a worthy successor to the HD DVD release.





Blu Ray Title: The Bourne Supremacy
Disk Release Date: 1/27/09
Rated: PG-13
Screen format: 1080p 2.35:1 High Definition Widescreen
Studio: Universal
First theatrical release:
Previous releases on disk: Multiple, including a January 2008 HDDVD and anamorphic Widescreen release
Director:
Starring:
Sound Formats: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French and Spanish DTS 5.1
Length: 1 Hour 49 Minutes
Subtitles: English. Spanish and French



Plot: 4/5

Sound Quality: 4.5/5

Visual Quality: 4.5/5

Extra Features: 5+/5

Overall: 4.5/5 (not an average)

(Note:Full Review coming soon)





BluRay Title: The Bourne Ultimatum
Rated: PG-13
Screen format: 1080P 2.40:1
Studio: Universal
Disk Release Date: 1/27/09
First theatrical release: August 3, 2007
Other Releases: Multiple including a January 2008 HDDVD and prior widescreen and fullscreen DVDs
Director: Paul Greengrass
Starring: Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, David Strathairne, Scott Glenn, Paddy Considine, Edgar Ramirez, Albert Finney, Joan Allen
Sound Formats: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Spanish & French DTS 5.1
Length: 1 Hour 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 Ultimatum 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’s HDDVD release 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 swapped over to DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 for this release and while I have not put the two head to head I suspect only the most ardent of codec fans will note any major differences.

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. Visually this looked identical in motion to the HDDVD tho detailed analysis of screenshots do show minor differences in the encoding, mostly in the BD’s favor.

Extra Features: 4/5
Ultimatum has kept all of the U-control In Movie Experience content, including Picture in Picture behind the scenes clips, the “Blackbriar Files” that add textual context to on screen action, however these are now thankfully menu selectable although the interface remains clunky. The Bourne Orientation is also here but again I question just who it is aimed at, it’s like a Reader’s Digest version of the movie in a window... Remember the U-control feature that had extensive technical details of the Volkswagon Touareg on the HD DVD? That nauseating abuse of product placement seems to have made it to this version too. I’m not sure whether to cheer or not =)

There’s also a web enabled “Be Bourne” spy training segment, which I passed over on the HDDVD until they demanded that I register online for the privilege. On this BD players can jump right in with no registration, good deal!. As for new online stuff there’s also the silly trivia game for those who don’t mind jumping on BD-Live.

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 U-control Menu Hopping or 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. Also there is one new featurette on the BluRay which wasn’t on the HDDVD, “Man on the Move: Jason Bourne”.

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 me happy.

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#2 of 12 OFFLINE   Loregnum

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Posted January 29 2009 - 01:01 AM

Thanks for the review. I Disagree with your low scores for the films but that is personal opinion so it's all good. A great series and it is good that the blu-ray discs are not any worse than the hd-dvd discs and are apparently slightly better.

#3 of 12 OFFLINE   Joseph J.D

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Posted January 29 2009 - 01:35 AM

I too thought that the plot reviews of the first and last of the films were a little too low....particularly Ultimatum which I thought was just as outstanding as the other 2. Of course, that's just my personal opinion on these films. Other than that, they are great reviews as always Sam.

Anyway, I found an unopened copy of the set over at a used DVD shop that I always go to for my Blu-ray fix and got it for a flat $55 Cdn. Nice....love the slick magnetic case that holds them together. Posted Image
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#4 of 12 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted January 29 2009 - 02:19 AM

As far as plot goes I definitely think Supremacy strikes the right balance. Identity takes too long to get cooking and Ultimatum jumbles the story in with straight action. Supremacy really hits home with Bourne's tormented past and struggling to make things right. Scores are subjective and I wouldn't argue with people who personally rated the first and third higher but for me I think they pretty accurately reflect how I feel about them. Thanks for the input!

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#5 of 12 OFFLINE   Ron-P

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Posted January 29 2009 - 02:32 AM

Nice reviews Sam, thanks. I just added these to my Netfilx queue. I saw the first as a rental and didn't like it much, but it's been quite awhile so I thought I'd rent all 3. My biggest issue is with Matt D., he's just not a good action movie guy, or actor for that matter.
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#6 of 12 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted January 29 2009 - 02:43 AM

I dunno about that. I thought he was excellent as an actor in Rounders, Good Will Hunting and The Departed, maybe he's a bit more uneven in some other films but in those three he's great. As far as action hero I like the fact that both Bourne and the newest Bond are both flawed and have dark pasts, and as an "everyman" he fits well.

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#7 of 12 OFFLINE   Ron-P

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Posted February 06 2009 - 11:39 AM

I take back what I said about Matt D. I just finished up the trilogy over the past 3 days (watched all three). Much better then what I remember, in fact, I don't remember the first one much at all, actually wondering if I ever saw the entire film. I did find #2 the weakest, poorly shot (almost all at night) and the action sequences were shot way too close up, it was difficult to see what was going on. But #3 was as good as, if not a bit better then #1. All in all, a great trilogy. With my BB giftcards and RZ coupons I paid $11.19 for the trilogy out the door.

The Blu presentations are fantastic, but the box the set came in...crap.
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#8 of 12 OFFLINE   David Coleman

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Posted February 09 2009 - 09:51 PM

My favorite trilogy and what I love most is how the character's arc evolves over the 3 films. First film is a mystery, the second starts out as revenge but evolves into redemption and the third film is about resolution.

Great arc and Universal has a stellar release.

#9 of 12 OFFLINE   PaulDA

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Posted February 10 2009 - 01:58 AM

I have these three in HD DVD. Is there anything really outstanding about the BD release that makes it worth replacing them? (lossless audio and packaging are NOT sufficient for me, personally, so if that's all that's different, then I'll stay with what I have)
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#10 of 12 OFFLINE   Carlo Medina

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Posted February 10 2009 - 06:11 AM

The one "arc" I love with all three movies (which I didn't notice until I watched all three back to back) was:

Bourne reciting The Professor's line of "Look at what they make you give." at the end of Ultimatum.

Speaking of which, I didn't realize until rewatching Identity (first time since I'd seen it in the theaters) that Clive Owen was in that. Very cool!

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#11 of 12 OFFLINE   David Coleman

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Posted February 10 2009 - 07:11 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Carlo Medina
The one "arc" I love with all three movies (which I didn't notice until I watched all three back to back) was:

Bourne reciting The Professor's line of "Look at what they make you give." at the end of Ultimatum.
Speaking of which, I didn't realize until rewatching Identity (first time since I'd seen it in the theaters) that Clive Owen was in that. Very cool!

Agreed!!

That really is what bookends the series. That and Blackbriar.

#12 of 12 OFFLINE   Blair G

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Posted July 09 2009 - 05:12 PM

Is the Bourne Ultimatum available as a single disc Blu-Ray?


Have the first 2 on SD with no desire to upgrade them to BD at this time.