- Jul 6, 2003
The Bourne Identity: Extended Edition
Film Length: 119 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1)
Subtitles: French and Spanish
Audio: English, French, and Spanish - Dolby Digital 5.1
July 13th, 2004
Based (loosely) on Robert Ludlum’s novel, The Bourne Identity doesn’t boast the most substantial storyline (it mostly facilitates the flow from action set piece to action set piece), but it sure is a fine throwback to espionage thrillers of the past! And although I would hesitate to call it a “great” movie, it is an enjoyable way to pass two hours, and a nice alternative to those who may be a little weary of the James Bond and Jack Ryan franchises.
As the film opens, we see the bullet-riddled body of assassin Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) being pulled from the ocean by a company of fishermen. The fishermen subsequently nurse the gravely injured Bourne back to health, at which point he finds that he can remember nothing, including the reason he has the number to a Swiss bank account implanted under the skin on his back. After parting ways with his kindly rescuers, Bourne makes his way to Switzerland, and finds quite a stash in his safety deposit box, namely a heap of cash, several passports, a handgun, and a clue to his “true” identity.
However, even though Jason now knows his name, he does not know exactly who or what he really is. What he does realize is that someone is trying to kill him, and in this case that someone is his boss, Ted Conklin (Chris Cooper), who is worried that the amnesiac Bourne is a danger to his covert operation. After a run-in with the authorities at the U.S. Embassy, Jason meets Marie Kreutz (Franka Potente of Run Lola Run), a nomadic lovely who is also in dire straits, although for much different reasons. Out of desperation, and probably out of attraction to Jason, Marie accepts Jason’s more-than-generous offer of $20,000 in exchange for a ride to Paris.
Once the pair arrives at Jason’s flat in the City of Lights, however, they encounter an assassin intent on taking Jason out. After this attempt fails, Jason becomes convinced that if he is to avoid being killed, he must recover his memory, track down leads, and find out who wants him killed, preferably before they succeed. From there, the story turns into the cat-and-mouse game typical of the genre, with Bourne trying to keep both himself and Marie out of harm’s way long enough to find out who he really is.
Turning our attention to the performances, although Matt Damon is not what I would call a textbook example of a secret agent, he is physically capable enough to be considered credible in the role of action star. This is a good thing, as far as the film is concerned, since the blossoming relationship between Jason and Marie is really almost an afterthought to the action-oriented elements of the plot.
With regard to these action sequences, director Doug Liman (Swingers) deserves some credit for proving to be capable of crafting suspenseful and interesting set pieces, in addition to maintaining viewer interest in the story. Granted, there are few real surprises in store for viewers, but the action sequences are clever and exciting, all without relying on ridiculously over-the-top martial arts moves or special effects. These action sequences are highlighted by a number of slickly executed fight scenes and an exhilarating car chase through the crowded (and narrow) streets of Paris.
Another positive is that Franka Potente interacts well with Matt Damon, so in addition to creating a believable character in Marie, her ability to create a real sense of chemistry between them adds an element of romance to the virtually non-stop action and cat-and-mouse games in the film. I say an “element of romance” because this portion of the story is developed on a fairly peripheral level - a fleeting kiss, or a brief embrace lets the audience know the characters are growing closer, but that is about all the time the filmmakers seem willing to invest in developing this aspect of the plot. In any event, Potente is likable in the role and her presence is definitely a welcome one.
The “bad guys” (i.e. almost everyone else in the film) are actually made up of a fairly noteworthy ensemble of character actors, highlighted by Chris Cooper (Seabiscuit), who turns in a commendable performance despite limited screen time and a character that lacks depth. Brian Cox, who plays Ward Abbott, is also good in his minor role as a bureaucrat who declares open season on Conklin when it becomes apparent that the lid might be blown off of his black-bag operation
Besides the good performances and tension-filled action sequences, I thought The Bourne Identity was also notable for how it downplayed technological gimmicks, and did not rely on indestructible villains with metal teeth, or overly elaborate traps for the hero to escape from, for suspense. Again, this makes the film play like somewhat of a throwback to action thrillers from decades past, which relied more on straightforward good-versus-evil fistfights, gunplay, and vehicle pursuits than superhuman villains with aspirations of world domination or CG effects for that “wow” effect.
To sum things up, let me reiterate that I would not go so far as to call The Bourne Identity a great film, but if the filmmakers set out to craft and entertaining, old-fashioned action thriller, than they have succeeded. If you enjoy such films, and have somehow missed out on this one, I suggest giving it a spin, especially if you are planning on taking in The Bourne Supremacy, which opens later this month!
SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
For this re-release of The Bourne Identity it appears that Universal decided to stick with the fantastic anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) transfer they gave us last time around, which suits me fine. As before, there are a couple of very minor “problems” with the image, such as evidence of a touch of edge enhancement, and slightly obscured detail in a few scenes shot in very dark environments. On the whole though, this is a very fine effort by the folks at Universal Home Video.
To be more specific, for the vast majority of the film, sharpness and detail were excellent, and colors were nicely saturated as well. Flesh tones also exhibited a very natural appearance throughout the film. Just as importantly, blacks were very deep, allowing for plenty of detail to be evident in the shadows throughout the feature.
Finally, the print is very clean and the image has a deep, nearly three-dimensional appearance, which is most evident in the sequences shot outdoors during daylight hours. For all these reasons, this is a simply fabulous transfer! Sure, it is not completely devoid of flaws, but the two issues I mentioned at the outset are so minor that many people will probably not even notice them. Good show!!!
WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
NOTE: The DTS track found on the previous release has been omitted!!! Although the Dolby Digital mix is no slouch (see below) as a card carrying DTS devotee, I am upset that Universal has chopped the DTS soundtrack off of this release, because it was a more engaging (if only slightly so) track!
Basically, the DTS soundtrack for the film (from the Collector’s Edition DVD) sounded slightly better to my ears, as it exhibited a more powerful and realistic bass response, and tighter imaging. However, as a reviewer, it is my job to be objective, and I have to be honest - the Dolby Digital offering was no slouch either, sounding almost as robust and dynamic, not to mention giving every one of the 5.1 channels quite a workout!
Since this sounds like the same Dolby Digital mix used last time, the car chase sequence remains demo material in the DD format, and the soundtrack’s spacious soundstage still facilitates the viewer’s involvement in the action transpiring on-screen. Frequency response was very good throughout as well, from high to low. In quieter scenes, character’s speech is easily discernable, and rendered without any distortion, sibilance, or harshness. Finally, the lively score, and the sourced music by Paul Oakenfold and Moby, was reproduced in a very effective and natural manner.
Thus, at the end of the day, the Dolby Digital mix presents the source material in fine fashion, so those who liked the film’s audio track will still find just as much to like! Still, I cannot help being upset that the DTS track is dropped. To be sure, I know that life (and DVDs) is full of trade-offs, but losing the DTS track, especially for an action-oriented film, for the few short new bonus features is not what I would consider advantageous or acceptable! This being the Home Theater Forum, I expect that a number of you will agree!
A New Identity
--- Introduction by Frank Marshall, Tony Gilroy, and Brian Cox
The trio of Marshall, Gilroy, and Cox discuss how the two excised “bookend scenes” were filmed in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, and then why they were trimmed from the film.
--- Alternate Opening
A two-minute sequence which would have made the movie one long flashback.
--- Alternate Ending
This alternate ending is essentially the same one seen on the previous DVD, with a bit of added footage of Ward Abbott visiting Jason Bourne beforehand!
NOTE: These scenes are shown in a somewhat gritty-looking non-anamorphic widescreen!
From Identity to Supremacy: Jason & Marie
This 3 ½ minute featurette contains on-screen interviews with Matt Damon and Franka Potente, who talk a little bit about their characters from The Bourne Identity, and then about the transition from that film to the upcoming Bourne Supremacy. As you might expect, it is mostly promotional in nature.
Declassified Information – Deleted Scenes
If you have the previous Collector’s Edition DVD, you will have seen the four deleted scenes, still presented in non-anamorphic widescreen, already. They are titled:
--- Wombosi on the Private Jet
--- Bourne and Marie by the Side of the Road
--- Psychologist Discusses Bourne
--- Bourne and Marie Practice on the Subway
The Bourne Mastermind
This bonus featurette, which runs for six minutes, offers a look at Robert Ludlum, the author who penned 25 New York Times bestsellers, including the best-selling trilogy of “Bourne” adventures. Essentially, it consists of interviews with Martin Greenberg, Editor of “The Robert Ludlum Companion” and Ludlum’s friend James Karen, who talk briefly about Ludlum’s start in acting and how he went on to become a successful author. There are also brief moments of archival interview footage with Robert Ludlum, who contrasts his work with that of other fiction authors.
Overall, it is a decent look at the life of a man who entertained millions, but don’t expect much depth.
“Access Granted” is an interview (4 minutes) with screenwriter Tony Gilroy, who discusses the adaptation of Robert Ludlum’s wonderful novel for the cinema. More specifically, he offers his thoughts on the importance of capturing the essence of The Bourne Identity, and a lot of insight into his approach to the Jason Bourne character.
The Bourne Diagnostic
In this roughly 3 ½-minute piece, Dr. Reef Karim (of UCLA) discusses Jason Bourne’s case of amnesia, and how a love interest (i.e. Marie) helped him grow emotionally and develop his new identity.
Cloak and Dagger
This featurette, which runs for about 5 ½ minutes, consists of an interview with CIA Officer Chase Brandon, who provides some insight into the life of a secret agent involved in clandestine operations. Basically, he highlights some of the scenes he found realistic, and discusses the areas that Jason Bourne would have been trained in. Short, but rather interesting!
Inside a Fight Sequence
This approximately 5 minute bonus featurette takes viewers into the action with star Matt Damon, who is rehearsing the “U.S. Embassy” action sequence with The Bourne Identity’s Stunt Choreographer, Nick Powell, and Director Doug Liman. There is plenty of behind-the-scenes footage of the portion of the sequence in question being planned out and shot.
The Speed of Sound
“Speed of Sound” is an interactive feature where viewers first hear from The Bourne Identity’s sound designers, who describe the different sound elements that work together to create tension in a portion of the car-chase sequence. Afterwards, viewers can use an interactive mixing board to isolate certain sounds from a piece of the sequence, or the dialogue.
The music video for Moby’s “Extreme Ways”, a holdover from the previous DVD, is included.
Also carried over from the previous DVD, this extra consists of nine short pages of text, which offer some basic insight into the production.
Cast and Filmmaker Bios
Another holdover from the previous DVD release, “Cast and Filmmaker” bios are offered for:
--- Matt Damon
--- Franka Potente
--- Chris Cooper
--- Clive Owen
--- Brian Cox
--- Adewale Akinnuoye Agbaje
--- Tony Gilroy
--- William Blake Herron
--- Robert Ludlum
--- Doug Liman
Technically, they are not “extras”, but the disc opens with trailers for the upcoming DVD releases of Dawn of the Dead, Ned Kelly, and Magnum P.I. – Season One.
FEATURES UNIQUE TO COLLECTOR’S EDITION / EXTENDED EDITION DVDs
1) DTS Soundtrack (5.1)
2) Audio Commentary by Doug Liman
3) Extended Farmhouse Scene
5)“The Making Of” The Bourne Identity
Insert with Production Notes and Chapter Stops
1) Spanish 5.1 Soundtrack - DD
2) A New Identity Featurette
3)From Identity to Supremacy Interviews
4)The Bourne Mastermind Featurette
6)The Bourne Diagnostic Featurette
7)Cloak and Dagger Featurette
8)The Speed of Sound Featurette
9)Inside a Fight Sequence Featurette
10) French Subtitles
(on a five-point scale)
Movie: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star:
Video: :star: :star: :star: :star: 1/2
Audio: :star: :star: :star: :star:
Extras: :star: :star: :star: 1/2
Overall: :star: :star: :star: :star: 1/2
THE LAST WORD
I must say that it displeases me that Universal is touting this re-release of The Bourne Identity as an “Extended Edition”, implying that it contains an alternate cut of the film. Although there is a new opening included as a bonus, and an extended version of the alternate ending on the previous DVD release, this is the very same theatrical cut of the film that fans know and love! While it is the job of marketing personnel to “sell” these DVD re-releases, I think that it can and should be done without utilizing terms that may be misleading to consumers!
Aside from the aforementioned beginning and ending, there are also a variety of new featurettes included. A few of these are mildly interesting, but they are too short to be of real value. Further, in exchange for their inclusion, the DTS soundtrack, feature length commentary, and “making of” featurette from the previous Collector’s Edition DVD have all been excised.
However, other than the loss of DTS, the image and sound quality is every bit as good as last time out! That being said, I still do not see this “Extended Edition” of The Bourne Identity as being worth a purchase, unless you do not own the previous edition and cannot secure a copy. This opinion holds even though the re-release comes with a free ticket for The Bourne Supremacy. Simply put, fans have already seen much of the added value material before, and even though a few of the new featurettes are interesting, I cannot imagine anyone watching them more than once!