An wounded amnesiac (Matt Damon) is fished from the Mediterranean. He travels acrossEurope searching for his identity, only to discover that he has several, one of which is “JasonBourne.” He is, in fact, a CIA super-assassin who has slipped his leash, and the Agency isdetermined to take him down. Dodging killers, he travels to Paris in the company of Marie(Franka Potente), still searching for the key to his memory and a way to escape the implacablepursuit.
Easily …he best action thriller of recent memory, The Bourne Identity remembers therules that have been forgotten by so many others of its ilk: play things straight, make us careabout the characters, and don’t use so much CGI the movie degenerates into a computer game(hello, Stephen Sommers). Stylish, witty, smart and cynical, while moving at a breakneck pace,this is the most promising franchise opener since The Hunt for Red October (and possiblysince Dr. No).
The sound is enveloping, very much plunging us into the heart of the action. The soundeffects are in full surround, and the placement is excellent. The opening thunderstorm, forinstance, has thunder raging from the rear left to the front right. The dialogue is always clear andundistorted, and is never drowned out by the powerful music or sound effects. So all of this isgreat. The audio does not, however, mark an improvement over the previous release. In fact, thisis the first time I’ve encountered a new release the downgrades the sound, even if onlyin a small way. The previous release offered both 5.1 and DTS tracks, but this version only has5.1
On the face of it, the picture is great: no grain or edge, profound blacks, great colours, razor-sharp image. A superb transfer in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen (the same transfer as on theprevious release). At least, this is the case as long as you stick to the theatrical edition. The“Explosive Extended Edition” option, about which more below, serves up an alternate openingand ending, which both are non-anamorphic and look raw and terrible, as if the film had switchedfrom 35mm to 16mm. But given that this footage was never used (with good reason), morepolish shouldn’t be expected.
I offer a high rating for the picture quality with a word of caution, however. The disc underreview suffered from terrible image breakdown, with digital chaos, massive pixelation and skipsstriking every few seconds, rendering the film almost completely unwatchable. If this is aproblem merely with one disc, then the rating stands. If not, I would downgrade to one star. Inany event, buyer beware.
The alternate opening and closing scenes were post-9/11 additions that were ultimatelydropped, for which we can be grateful. They are, in a word, lame, but the introduction to thescenes — by producer Frank Marshall, writer Tony Gilroy and actor Brian Cox — is an interestingexplanation for their existence. Watching the film with these bookends (which I do notrecommend) involves hitting “Enter” when an icon appears on the screen. In any event, this isNOT an extended version of the film. This is the theatrical release whose opening and closingyou can hack up a bit in order to see why the final decisions made were the correct ones.
The choices regarding the other extras are interesting. There is not much overlap betweenthis release and the previous one. Both have the cast and crew filmographies and biographies, theproduction notes, the Moby video, the DVD-ROM features, and the 4 deleted scenes. But gonenow is the director’s commentary. Instead, you have some seven featurettes, all running under sixminutes, and hardly amounting to more than promotional material (in fact, the “From Identity toSupremacy: Jason and Marie” doubles as promo for BOTH movies without really telling usanything useful). The more interesting of these featurettes are “The Bourne Mastermind: RobertLudlum” (a brief profile of the author) and “The Speed of Sound,” which deals with the sounddesign of the car chase, and then provides a fairly elaborate mixing board allowing viewers toplay with the various layers of sound in that sequence. The menu is identical to the earlierrelease. Its main menu, intro and transitions are animated and scored, while the second-levelscreens are scored.
Oh yeah, and the free movie ticket is valid only in the US.
The film is a superb thriller, and if you don’t already own it, by all means pick this up. If youdo have the earlier release, I wouldn’t bother with what is perhaps the most shameless exercise indouble-dipping I have yet encountered.
Special Features List
- Alternate Opening and Closing with Introduction
- Moby Video
- Cast and Crew Filmographies and Bios
- 4 Deleted Scenes
- DVD-ROM Features
- Production Notes
- “The Bourne Mastermind: Robert Ludlum”
- “The Bourne Diagnosis” Feautrette about Amnesia
- “Cloak and Dagger: Covert Ops” CIA Training Featurette
- “The Speed of Sound” Sound Design Feature
- “Inside a Fight Sequence” Featurette
- “Access Granted: An Interview with Tony Gilroy”
- “From Identity to Supremacy: Jason and Marie” Featurette