DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

The Bourne Trilogy, Blu-ray (2009)

A blockbuster Blu-ray blast for fans of Matt Damon as the unstoppable amnesiac CIA assassin.

Published on January 31, 2009

The Bourne Trilogy, Blu-ray (2009)
The Bourne Trilogy, Blu-ray (2009)

1 -The Bourne Identity
2 -The Bourne Supremacy
3 -The Bourne Ultimatum
Starring: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Chris Cooper, Joan Allen
Directors: Doug Liman (1); Paul Greengrass (2 & 3)
Studio: Universal 61106536 [Release date: Jan. 27, 09]
Video: 2.35:1 (1 & 2), 2.40:1 (3) anamorphic/enhanced for 16:9 color 1080p HD
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, DTS 5.1, 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Extras 1: Commentary track with director, Alternate opening and alternate ending, Deleted scenes, The Bourne Mastermind: Robert Ludlum, Interview with screenwriter Tony Gilroy, “From Identity to Supremacy: Jason & Marie,” Inside a Fight Sequence, U-Control interactive features on all three films = “Bourne Orientation,” “Picture-in-Picture,” “Bourne Dossier,” BD-Live, other features.
Extras 2: Commentary track with director, Explosive deleted scenes, Racing Thru the Streets of Moscow, The Go-Mobile Revs Up the Action, Anatomy of a Scene: The Explosive Bridge Chase, U-Control, BD-Live, more
Extras 3: Commentary track with director, Deleted scenes, Man on the Move: Jason Bourne, Rooftop Pursuit, Planning the Punches, Driving School, New York Chase, U-Control, BD-Live, more
Lengths:  Identity = 1 hr. 59 mins; Supremacy = 1 hr. 49 mins.; Ultimatum = 1 hr. 56 mins.
Rating: *****

This is a blockbuster Blu-ray blast for fans of Matt Damon as the unstoppable amnesiac CIA assassin, but one little tip before we start: The huge arsenal of interesting bonus features tell you everything you might want to know about Jason Bourne and weren’t able to piece together even from viewing all three films in succession, but there’s one thing they don’t tell you – how to open the damn box!  I struggled for some time (while realizing Bourne never struggles with anything – he just does it).  Finally I realized the cutout cover image of Matt Damon is a magnet and you have  to flip it on a hinge over to the left in order to open the box and get out the three separately-packaged Blu-ray plastic containers!

The original 1980 novel by Robert Ludlum was freely adapted for this series, which gets further and further away from the original as the series progresses. In 1988 it was a TV movie, but this trio of films is first-rate in featuring an unconventional action hero, many unexpected over-the-top encounters, a great travelogue of famous foreign cities, and a fine supporting cast.  I’m not a fan of car chases, but the ones in all three films certainly have moved light years beyond that one in Bullit.

The first film begins with Jason’s seemingly dead body being picked up by a ship at sea. He has no memory of his name, profession or anything and begins on his painful journey to try to puzzle out his true identity.  It quickly becomes clear to him that assassins have been dispatched by someone to kill him for some reason he doesn’t know, and that he has unrealized lethal training so he can fight back and extricate himself from deadly confrontations. Bourne had some sort of gadget imbedded under his skin which leads to a Swiss bank box full of money , guns and various passports.  He also finds himself conversant in several different languages. Soon he is racing from country to country, leaving bodies behind as he protects himself while he follows the leads he obtains in his effort to discover his real story and identity.

The second film picks up right at the conclusion of the first, and the third continues the story from the end of the second, so this is a trilogy that when viewed consecutively (I wouldn’t suggest all at once) seems like one very long but flowing film. In Supremacy Bourne is framed for a murder in Berlin when he was actually in India with his girlfriend – the same woman he paid in the first movie to drive him  to Paris.  Their good life in hiding in India is ended when their cover is somehow blown and during their escape she is killed.  Bourne’s close calls with the assassins are ramped up even over the first film, ending with a heart-stopping car chase on the streets of Moscow.  But there are also some points that don’t quite fit together.

In Ultimatum Bourne is searching for the CIA chief in charge of Europe and North Africa who leaked information about him to a reporter for The Guardian (both are killed by the CIA).  He travels to Tangiers with a lower-level CIA woman who knew her former associate was going there. They are both targeted, but gain some time when Damon kills the assassin and she employs the “asset’s” cell phone to report back that he had killed them both.  The grand finale finds Bourne back to New York City and seeking the headquarters of the Treadstone Project where he had been brainwashed into a lethal killer to do the bidding of the CIA without question.   The conclusion is satisfying and clears up most of the questions. The productions actually did travel to all the famous cities to shoot – except the second visit to Moscow would have been in January, so they used East Berlin as a stand in with paper snow.

If it doesn’t, you may want to consult the raft of extras on all three discs. The featurettes on how some of the action sequences were filmed are worth viewing.  Director Greengrass likes to use a documentary-style approach on much of the action, and his hand-held, quick-cutting might not sit well with all viewers. The use of wires, courtesy of the Hong Kong kung fu moviemakers originally, has revolutionized some of the special effects procedures. In one of them, Greengrass has a stuntman holding a camera follow Damon in a leap between two buildings and thru a small glass window – just to get a split-second shot as though the viewer was jumping with Damon. I found the interactive feature “Bourne Orientation” useful in exploring the connections between all three films and Bourne’s story. It comes up during the movie or in the Chapters screen with a small button you select with the remote. It displays two or more smaller screens and some of the dialog while showing text below, explaining some of the details.  (It didn’t always work, but that may be my first-gen Blu-ray player, though it has the latest firmware update.)

The Picture-In-Picture U-Control feature presents interviews with the cast and crew in a small screen while you watch the actual film, and the Bourne Dossier feature displays dossiers from some of the characters, analyses of some of the locations using GPS, and other secret files – all while watching the movie. (Which is distracting to me but perhaps not to everyone.)  Then there is the BD-Live extra, which requires an Internet-connected Blu-ray player to share your Bourne-watching experience with your buddies (I can’t wait…). The Blu-ray transfer is generally excellent, though there are a few short but very grainy shots for some reason – as though they were underlit and the contrast was brought way up. The lossless DTS surround track captures all the shots, explosions and car crashes faithfully; in fact some of the gunshots are so realistic it is quite unnerving.

 - John Sunier




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