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Bourne Trilogy, The Print E-mail
Wednesday, 28 January 2009
ImageIn addition to Ian Fleming, Robert Ludlum is a name synonomous with spy novels.  Fleming’s James Bond films have teetered over time, giving raise to a new spy series, the Bourne series.  With three novels adapted into the Bourne Trilogy, there is still one Ludlum novel available for the next Bourne film.  Recently it has been reported that other writers have been contracted to finish writing the Bourne saga.

Matt Damon was impressively cast as Jason Bourne, an ex-CIA spy that begins to remember things about his past life and training.  However, instead of quip lines and futzing around, the film is really gets back to the roots of spying.  It also deals with deeper themes like salvation and redemption.

Both directors, Doug Liman for the “Bourne Identity,” and Paul Greengrass for the other two films are impressive.  However, it was probably a good thing that the producers turned the reigns over to Greengrass.  Liman’s directorial style was good and kept us on the edge of over seats, but it is evident that Greengrass did a better job at bringing the adapted screenplay to the big screen.

The first film, “The Bourne Identity” was released in 2002, just one year after the passing of Robert Ludlum.  The film introduces us to Jason Bourne, who is on the run and trying to stay alive.  Every escape by Bourne has us on the edge of our seat, and we just can’t wait to find out what Bourne learns about his past next.  “The Bourne Identity” keeps us in suspense the whole way through. (4/5 stars)

The second film, “The Bourne Supremacy” ranks as one of those few films that surpass the original.  While it may not be a classic like, “The Godfather” or “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Supremacy” is on their heels.  The sequel is much more well-paced.  The suspense is tighter and the story is more involving.  We rejoin Bourne and his girlfriend, Marie (Franke Potente) in a seaside village where they are living under assumed names.  Bourne made it clear that he is to be left alone by the CIA.  Instead, both he and Marie are caught up in a sinister plot instituted by a rogue CIA agent.  Bourne’s life is destroyed once again.  In this film he sets out to uncover the truth about operation Treadstone while continuing to regain memories of his past life.  “Supremacy” is a journey that you will not forget. (4.5/5 stars) The third film, “The Bourne Ultimatum,” as with the second film, outranked the original in box office sales.  The third film is probably the most action-packed film of the three.  Unfortunately, some of the action sequences are a bit long, like the chase across the rooftops in Tangiers.  We cheer for Bourne in this film more than the other two.  When Bourne finally comes face to face with his maker, so to speak, we are still left confused, but oh so intrigued.  There surely has to be a fourth Bourne film. (4.5/5 stars)

I’ve mentioned this before, but I must state it again – Julia Stiles is the underrated star of this trilogy.  She is beautiful and capturing.  She is hiding a history that also trumps finding out who Bourne actually is.  She possesses a magical quality that draws the audience in.  If there is a fourth Bourne film, its success will largely be measured on whether or not she returns and the role that they give her.

All three films are presented on their own BD-50 Blu-ray disc with a 1080p/VC-1 encode.  The video transfers appear identical to the previously released HD DVD versions of the films.

“The Bourne Identity” offers a clean image with appropriate amounts of film grain.  The video transfer does not offer a popping image, but that is much more of a film stylistic choice than a transfer issue.  The colors are a bit muted, again a stylistic choice.  There are some problems in the bright whites of the film, where they tend to be on the verge of being blown out.  The blacks sometimes appear crushed, resulting a loss of fine details in the deep shadows.  Overall this is a good video presentation, but not the best transfer I have seen from a 2002 film.  There are no problems with edge enhancement, compression/motion artifacts or banding. (3.5/5 stars)

“The Bourne Supremacy” yields a slightly better transfer than the first film.  The colors are a little richer, but still based upon the film’s original stylistic choices.  The seaside village sequences are lush and brightly lit.  The CIA office sequences are the completely opposite.  They are extremely dark, resulting in color compensation.  It is saturated to the point in which the fleshtones of the actors look painted.  The black levels and contrast again fluctuate.  Details are more prevalent in this film.  The details in the shadows also are more noticeable than the first film.  There is still minor grain and speckles present in the image.  Other than that the source looks like a fairly good master print. (4/5 stars)

“The Bourne Ultimatum” is the best source transfer of the three.  This is not unexpected due to it being the most recent of the three.  The film improves upon all the drawback qualities of the first two presentations.  However, the film grain has seemingly increased in the last installment.  Contrast runs on the hot side, which is to be expected for the locations in which the film was shot.  The black levels are stable.  There is occasionally crushing in the low extremities of the blacks.  The details remain very fine in the shadows.  The colors are a bit more saturated than the first two films, but not by a lot.  Skintones are accurate.  The image pops from the screen a bit more than the other two films.  Even with all the fast-motioned sequences the picture never breaks up.  There are no edge enhancement, banding or compression/motion artifacts in this film. (4.5/5 stars)

The three films receive a DTS-HD 5.1 audio track from Universal.  “Bourne Ultimatum” had a Dolby TrueHD track on the HD DVD release, but the first two films only had Dolby Digital-Plus tracks, so they get a nice upgrade.

“The Bourne Identity” holds up nicely during all the action sequences.  The music is well dispersed throughout the channels.  The sound effects are nicely distributed in the rear channels.  Panning of the discrete effects is terrific.  The LFE channel gets a nice boost from the previous HD DVD and SD DVD releases of the film.  The film still suffers in one area – dialogue.  During the quieter sequences, the dialogue gets a bit weak and there is no atmosphere to anchor the speech.  Still, this is an impressive and immersive audio track. (4.5/5 stars)

“The Bourne Supremacy” has nearly the same audio presence as the first film.  The discrete effects fill up the surround channels during the action sequences.  They are nicely panned and placed.  The LFE channel gives your subwoofer a nice workout.  The dynamic range is expansive, giving the high-end frequencies a nice attack.  It sometimes borders on the brittle side.  The atmosphere is still lacking in the quieter sequences.  Dialogue is always audible. (4.5/5 stars)

“The Bourne Ultimatum” is the star of the series in terms of audio.  The track is identical sounding to the previous Dolby TrueHD audio track.  It is most definitely a reference track.  Dynamic range is expansive, creating quite a contrast between introverted moments and explosive sequences.  The soundfield is enveloping and completely immersive.  The subwoofer will deliver some rattling in during the fight and car chase sequences.  All the while, dialogue remains strong.  This track is about as close to perfect as you can get.  It gets five stars for the simple fact that there is so much reference material available in the track. (5/5 stars)

The Bourne Trilogy comes housed in a silver keepsake box, with a raised image in the front of the box as well as raised lettering.  Each of the three films comes in their own case.  All the SD DVD and HD DVD features have been ported over to the Blu-ray, in addition to exclusive Blu-ray bonus materials.

“The Bourne Identity” begins with an audio commentary with director Doug Liman.  After being dropped from the SD DVD edition, the commentary makes its return here.  The commentary is very engaging and informative and probably the most impressive feature across all the discs.  “The Birth of Jason Bourne” is a brief featurette that contains interviews with writers and cast members.  “From Identity to Supremacy: Jason & Marie” contains thoughts from Damon and Potente on their characters.  “Access Granted: An Interview with Screenwriter Tony Gilroy” briefly covers the adaption of the novel to the screen.  “The Bourne Mastermind” introduces Robert Ludlum through a couple of his friends.  “The Speed of Sound” is an interview with sound designers of the film and is all too brief.  “Inside a Fight Sequence” is another brief featurette on the stunts of a particular sequence.  “Cloak and Dagger: Covert Ops” is a brief look at the history of the CIA.  “The Bourne Diagnosis” is a psychiatric look at the Bourne character.  Lastly there are sections for deleted scenes and alternate ending, a music video and theatrical trailer.  Exclusive to the Blu-ray edition is a Picture-in-Picture feature which contains most of the behind the scenes footage already on the disc.  “Treadstone Files” contains dossiers on the film’s characters. (4/5 stars)

“The Bourne Supremacy” contains a bunch more bonus materials.  First, there is an audio commentary with director Paul Greengrass.  This is a really informative track.  “Matching Identities: Casting” takes a look at the film’s cast ensemble.  “Keeping It Real” takes a look at the shaky camera work.  “Blowing Things Up” examines the CGI effects.  “Crash Cam: Racing Through the Streets of Moscow” is another car chasing featurette.  “On the Movie with Jason Bourne” is a location featurette in three minutes.  “Bourne to be Wild: Fight Training” is another fighting and stunt featurette.  “The Go-Mobile Revs Up the Action” is yet another choreography featurette.  “Anatomy of a Scene: The Explosive Bridge Chase Scene” examines the details of this particular scene.  Lastly there are some deleted scenes and a theatrical trailer.  Exclusive to the Blu-ray is again a Picture-In-Picture track. (3.5/5 stars

“The Bourne Ultimatum” surprisingly contains the least bonus materials.  First there is another director’s audio commentary with Paul Greengrass.  This track gets a bit boring after listening to his previous commentary track.  “Man on the Move: Jason Bourne” is an on-location travelogue of the different locations.  “New York Chase” examines yet another car chase.  “Planning the Punches” is yet another fight featurette.  “Rooftop Pursuit” is another featurette that examines an on-foot chase.  Lastly there are some deleted scenes.  Exclusive to the Blu-ray is another Picture-In-Picture track, Interactive Game: Be Bourne Game and the “Blackbriar Files” (3/5 stars)

All three discs contain a U-Control function called Bourne Orientation is a text and graphic based interactive track.  The BD-Live section contains MyScenes, My Chat and My Movie Commentary, which allows you to record and distribute your own commentary track.

The Bourne trilogy is without a doubt one the best spy trilogies available.  It has been one of the most requested trilogies on Blu-ray for some time and Universal finally delivers.  While the discs are basically the same as the previously released HD DVD versions, the Blu-ray does offer upgraded audio track and a nice one package deal.

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