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Universal Studios Home Video presents
Jason: You're acting like I'm trying to burn you. I'm just trying to do the right thing.
DVD ReviewOne of the most prolific and popular authors of fast-paced spy novels, the late Robert Ludlum spun countless webs of intrigue and betrayal over his multi-decade career. His trademark three-word titles—The Scarlatti Inheritance, The Holcroft Covenant, The Osterman Weekend, The Parsifal Mosaic, among many others—mirror the formulaic plots within. Twists, turns, and action galore distinguish his page-turners, with story always superceding style. His casual commitment to craft (he reportedly wrote a chapter, revised it once, then shipped it to his publisher) makes most serious writers simultaneously sick and envious, but no one can question his runaway success.
The Bourne Identity, first published in 1980, remains a Ludlum favorite, and with a few tweaks and a high-tech tune-up it seamlessly made the transition to a 21st-century action film in 2002. With Matt Damon impressively embodying the amnesiac hero, Jason Bourne, and a classic man-on-the-run premise, the movie scored big at the box office and spawned an equally stellar DVD. So why are we revisiting it now? Well, in the grand tradition of Hollywood hype, Universal felt the need to pump up enthusiasm for its highly anticipated sequel, The Bourne Supremacy, by re-releasing The Bourne Identity with "an all-new beginning and ending." And in the even grander tradition of flimsy marketing ploys, this extended edition is another in a series of colossal reissue rip-offs.
Remember the bogus "tricked out edition" of The Fast and the Furious, released last year (also by Universal) in conjunction with 2 Fast 2 Furious? The Bourne Identity (Extended Edition) traverses the same shady territory. The much ballyhooed alternate ending was already included on the previous DVD, and the new lame beginning (shot after 9/11 and wisely abandoned) hardly merits emblazoning the adjective "explosive" across the DVD sleeve. While a smattering of new special features mildly inflates the disc's interest quotient, it still falls victim to Universal's misleading ad campaign.
Gripes aside, if you've never seen this engrossing, high octane thriller, by all means pick it up. It's downright impossible not to get sucked into the uncertain world of Jason Bourne, whose bullet-riddled body is discovered by French fishermen floating in the Mediterranean Sea on a clichéd dark and stormy night. The ship's doctor saves his life, but amnesia leaves Bourne with a blank slate and a boatload of questions. His only clues are an infrared capsule with a Swiss bank account number embedded in his body and an innate ability to effortlessly combat a barrage of murderous foes.
Of course, the audience learns Bourne's identity long before he does, and his status as a CIA assassin mired in a botched mission makes him a target for elimination by his ruthless boss, Ted Conklin (Chris Cooper). As Bourne literally dodges the bullet time and again, he's aided by the lovely Marie (Franka Potente), who gets far more than she bargains for when she gives a desperate Bourne a lift to Paris.
Damon makes an unlikely but effective action hero, substituting brains for a lack of brawn. Still, he handles himself well in several fight scenes, and his earnest portrayal helps put over the preposterous plot. Director Doug Liman peppers the film with a few heart-stopping jolts, and presents the obligatory car chase with style, humor, and thrills. Although Bourne's endless skin-of-his-teeth evasions become tiresome, and the film's denouement can't compete with the frenetic confusion of its first hour, The Bourne Identity easily maintains interest, and refreshingly relies on character and combat—not gadgets or gimmicks—to propel its story.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-
Image Transfer Review: Universal hasn't updated the transfer for this new edition, but the original still wears well. Only eagle eyes will be able to spot any print defects, and although the widescreen anamorphic treatment doesn't possess the visual pop and sparkle of most new releases, it doesn't disappoint either. A cold, gritty quality and muted colors predominate, both of which nicely compliment the storyline. Fleshtones are true, and no evidence of edge enhancement could be detected. The extended sequences (presented in nonanamorphic widescreen) don't look as good, and should have been cleaned up to better integrate into the whole.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: This disc doesn't include the DTS option the previous release offered, but the DD 5.1 track is so rich and lively I almost didn't miss it. (I said almost.) Subtleties make this track really shine, with ambient sounds easily gliding across the rear speakers and adding tremendous atmosphere to the film. Seagulls chirping or a faint rhythmic tapping on the music score are just a couple of the nuances that provide welcome audio depth. Of course, explosions and fight scenes are also well rendered, with plenty of rumbling bass and crisp sonic accents, and dialogue is always easy to understand.
Audio Transfer Grade: A
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Dawn of the Dead, Ned Kelly, Magnum, P.I.: The Complete First Season
4 Deleted Scenes
1 Alternate Endings
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Layers Switch: 01h:20m:09s
The Bourne Mastermind: Robert Ludlum pays tribute to the late author by chronicling his career and examining his style and success. Archival interviews with Ludlum (who terms himself a simple "storyteller"), as well as reminiscences by friends and associates (who praise his meticulous research and cinematic style), distinguish this breezy five-and-a-half minute featurette. Access Granted: An Interview with Screenwriter Tony Gilroy allows its subject to address the differences between novels and films in general and The Bourne Identity and its screen adaptation in particular. Gilroy also dissects a pivotal scene and recalls his initial doubts about the casting of Matt Damon in the title role.
Damon and co-star Franka Potente get the chance to hype The Bourne Identity sequel in From Identity to Supremacy: Jason & Marie, which tries its best to bridge the gap between the two films. Damon discusses the cerebral nature of the original film, while Potente talks about her ambivalence toward action movies and how The Bourne Identity gave the cast "a chance to kick all those (action) clichés in the ass." The two spend the bulk of the three-and-a-half minute featurette drumming up enthusiasm for The Bourne Supremacy, with Damon terming the follow-up "bigger and better." A brief montage of scenes from the sequel offers the requisite tease.
The Bourne Diagnosis employs a UCLA psychologist to discuss Bourne's amnesiac affliction and the relationship between Jason and Marie, while Cloak and Dagger: Covert Ops offers the perspective of a former CIA agent, who applauds the film's authenticity, and provides a primer on various aspects of the Central Intelligence Agency. The Speed of Sound breaks down the film's car chase sequence and reveals how the intricate audio effects were created and edited. Technical personnel also discuss the challenge of keeping the sequence "interesting and stimulating." An interactive sound board is supposed to let viewers listen to the various tracks of the scene, but I couldn't get this feature to perform properly.
Four deleted scenes (totaling seven minutes) fail to excite, but Inside a Fight Sequence uses rehearsal footage, interviews, and multiple angles to show how an intricate confrontation is choreographed and executed. A music video of Extreme Ways by Moby, cast and crew biographies, production notes (featuring a few noteworthy nuggets), DVD-ROM features, and a free ticket to The Bourne Supremacy round out the supplements package.
Extras Grade: B+
Final CommentsThose who already own the original Bourne Identity DVD should resist the temptation to double dip. Despite describing itself as "explosive," the extended edition doesn't possess nearly enough bang for the buck. But if you haven't yet experienced Doug Liman's slick thriller and intend to see its sequel, this new DVD isn't a bad deal. But hurry—the free movie ticket expires August 8.
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