Case Number 11801

THE BOURNE IDENTITY (HD DVD)

Universal // 2002 // 119 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // August 3rd, 2007

The Charge

"Do you take care of this car?"

Opening Statement

Universal's first installment in its money-printing action franchise flies in guns blazing for its high-def rebirth. For the enthusiasts is it worth being re-Bourne?

Facts of the Case

Matt Damon (The Departed) takes the namesake of Robert Ludlum's franchise character (and that's about it). Jason Bourne wakes up with no memory of who he is. But it's not long before he realizes that a) someone wants him dead and b) he can snap a man's solar plexus with one punch.

In desperation he pairs up with nomadic European traveler Marie (Franka Potente) and the two are the only allies in a violent maelstrom. Around every corner Bourne is met by highly-trained killers and local authorities and he's forced to call upon his hidden skills to elude them. As he continues to flee, the secret of his former life slowly reveal itself, leading him to a devastating conclusion.

The Evidence

Because I don't want to be redundant and I'm lazy, here's what I wrote in my review of The Bourne Identity: Explosive Extended Version:

I dig this movie. I dig its sequel. Though it has zilch-a-roo to do with Robert Ludlum's source book, once you separate yourself from that fact, and settle in to watch it as a freestanding movie, I'm confident you'll enjoy yourself. It's a taut, rooted-in-reality spy movie of old-school ilk, and though Damon is not the Jason Bourne of the books, he could definitely be a Ludlum character.

That's still applicable today, on the eve of the third film in the successful franchise. The Bourne books stand as some of my favorite spy novels ever and while I was hugely disappointed when I realized The Bourne Identity film adaptation had nothing to do with the novels (and don't give me that "spirit of the character" nonsense), I eventually succumbed to Tony Gilroy's smart script and Doug Liman's kinetic, realistic direction. This is a great movie, no doubt about it, and if you detach yourself from the glaring differences with its source material, no worries.

I must confess, however, I still nurse an ember or two of resentment to the rejection of the books' major premises and despite the "novels-are-so-antiquated-in-this-post-Cold-War" defenses, I maintain that the plots could have been transported with little to-do. Who Bourne was in the novels -- a manufactured persona to draw in an arch-terrorist -- could easily have been reproduced. Did it have to be Carlos the Jackal? Of course not, but, geez, I wonder if audiences would still be able to relate to the threat of terrorists these days? Instead we get Bourne against the CIA in both Identity and Supremacy and, as it looks, Ultimatum. This is a bit annoying, but forgivable considering how damn well-made and entertaining the films have been this far. In one of the extras on this disc, we learn that Doug Liman's dad was a special prosecutor in the Iran-Contra scandal and Liman felt obligated to continue his father's work, but on-screen, "shining the light" on...what? A rogue, taxpayer-funded CIA assassination squad? If that's true, that's some corny crap, dude.

But...again I sigh and move on, enjoying the films, and this one in particular, for what they are: crackling, highly-influential, fast-moving action yarns with something interesting to say about how a man is more than the sum of his deeds and memories.

Onto the big question: how does Bourne's maiden voyage fare in high-def? Very well, actually. The redone video quality (2.35:1 anamorphic, 1080p, VC-1 encoded) is a sight to behold: details are amazingly sharp and maintain that clarity in the copious action scenes, highlighted by the legendary Mini-Cooper chase through Paris. The longer, establishing shots are particularly beautiful, especially the snow-covered landscape of the farm location. The Dolby Digital Plus audio mixes are active and well-balanced between the discrete surrounds and the LFE mix thumps.

The moneymaker for the bonuses is the U-Control, in-movie experience, which is cool indeed, but no quite up to the standard of the Breach presentation. Throughout the film, the "U" symbol in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen will offer one of two (or both in some instances) options: a picture-in-picture element that streamlines bonus material while the film continues and "The Treadstone Files," nine interactive features highlighting characters, locations and vehicles. Of the two, I liked the latter; seeing specs of the Mini-Cooper and the pursuing vehicles or a real-time injury readout during fight scenes may not add as much making-of depth to the experience as the picture-in-picture, but it's cool. Here are the rest of the extras -- a hefty helping -- all of which, save for three new, well-done pieces on Robert Ludlum featuring interviews with his colleagues, have appeared on previous releases:

Feature Commentary with Doug Liman
The Ludlum Identity
The Ludlum Supremacy
The Ludlum Ultimatum
Alternate Opening and Ending
Deleted and Extended Scenes
"The Birth of the Bourne Identity" Making-of Featurette
"The Bourne Mastermind: Robert Ludlum"
Cloak and Dagger: Covert Ops
Inside a Fight Sequence
"The Speed of Sound" Sound FX Feature
Moby Music Video
"The Bourne Diagnosis" Amnesia Featurette
Tony Gilroy Interview
Trailers

The Rebuttal Witnesses

A peek at The Bourne Ultimatum would have sweetened the deal.

Closing Statement

If you've got an HD-DVD player and want the definitive edition of The Bourne Identity, here you go. Awesome picture, awesome sound, pretty awesome extras.

The Verdict

I'm still partial to the book, but it's time to send that dead horse to the bologna plant. Not guilty.

Review content copyright © 2007 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 100
Audio: 95
Extras: 95
Acting: 90
Story: 90
Judgment: 92

Perp Profile
Studio: Universal
Video Formats:
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (English)

Subtitles:
* English
* French

Running Time: 119 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13

Distinguishing Marks
* U-Control In-Movie Experience
* Feature Commentary with Doug Liman
* The Ludlum Identity
* The Ludlum Supremacy
* The Ludlum Ultimatum
* Alternate Opening and Ending
* Deleted and Extended Scenes
* "The Birth of the Bourne Identity" Making-of Featurette
* "The Bourne Mastermind: Robert Ludlum"
* Cloak and Dagger: Covert Ops
* Inside a Fight Sequence
* "The Speed of Sound" Sound FX Feature
* Moby Music Video
* "The Bourne Diagnosis" Amnesia Featurette
* Tony Gilroy Interview
* Trailers

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0258463/combined

* Official Site
http://www.thebourneidentity.com/