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Universal Studios Home Video presents
The Bourne Files (2002/2004)

"I liked him better when I thought he was dead."
- Conklin (Chris Cooper)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: July 30, 2007

Stars: Matt Damon
Other Stars: Franka Potente, Chris Cooper, Clive Owen, Brian Cox, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Julia Stiles, Gabriel Mann, Karl Urban, Joan Allen, Karel Roden, Nicky Naude, Denis Braccini, Tim Dutton
Director: Doug Liman, Paul Greengrass

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and some language, intense action
Run Time: 03h:48m:00s
Release Date: July 24, 2007
UPC: 025195006477
Genre: techno thriller

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- A-BA+ A-

DVD Review

With The Bourne Ultimatum scheduled to hit theaters in August 2007, there's no time like the present for Universal to repackage the first two action-thrillers in the series based on Robert Ludlum's novels, and tack on a third disc with teaser material about the new movie. For this budget-priced three-disc collection known collectively as The Bourne Files, the hook is really in the packaging, which is made to look like a classified Treadstone Project folder (makes sense if you've seen the movies). It's pretty hip to look at, though not terribly practical and a bit cumbersome, if the truth be known. But I guess it beats another boring slipcase box with three separate cases.

So for around $15, it's possible to pick up the first two parts of the franchise, all with the same block of extras found on past individual releases. And aside from being an exciting pair of taut shoot-em-up thrill rides starring Matt Damon as the rescued-from-the-Mediterranean-Sea-with-bullet-wounds-and-amnesia-but-now-hunted-by-assassins Jason Bourne, these versions completely wipe away the comparatively soft 1988 television movie with Richard Chamberlain. More importantly—especially if you're a fan of the books—these two Bourne projects do what other Ludlum adaptations haven't really been able to do, which is paint themselves with the same sort of breathless, rapid action that the best-selling novels do.

The Bourne Identity (2002)
Directed by Doug Liman

This is the one that set the bar high for the second—and theoretically the third—Bourne films, with director Doug Liman (Swingers, Mr. and Mrs. Smith) and screenwriter Tony Gilroy (Proof Of Life, The Devil's Advocate) taking a few casual liberties with the original source material, but completely ratcheting up the action. While it takes Damon's Bourne nearly the entire film to finally learn the truth about himself as his amnesia slowly gives way to what seems like an unnaturally high killer instinct, the film alternates with revealing tidbits about his past, courtesy of a clandestine governmental agency that want him dead. The on-the-run Bourne is referred to as a "black ops agent off the reservation" by one character, which means a gaggle of aggressive hitmen (including a nearly dialogue-free Clive Owen) try to do their thing to take him out.

Liman and Gilroy grind out a lot of suspenseful material over two hours, with what seems like a secondary plot about an exiled African leader (Lost's Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), and of course a dark room full of computers and screens, with people shouting things like "get me a closeup on grid two." But this is like one grand chase movie in a way, and Liman fills in the spaces with some terrific set pieces that actually fit within the context of the story, including a breakneck car chase through the crowded streets of Paris. All of the action is an integral part of what's going on, yet it is Bourne's relationship with Marie (Franka Potente) that gives all of the shooting and stabbing and arm-breaking a temporary respite. Potente takes the potentially stockiest of all stock character roles—the accidental love interest—and makes her a tough-but-fragile real-life human, someone it is impossible not to care for immediately.

This is gritty, slick and thrilling—a very Ludlum-esque experience from start to finish.

The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
Directed by Paul Greengrass

Paul Greengrass (United 93) got the director nod for this second installment (also from screenwriter Tony Gilroy), as well as the upcoming The Bourne Ultimatum. There's plenty of European locales, and Greengrass employs more of a handheld feel throughout, giving Supremacy a more pronounced shaky-manic-almost-like-a-doc texture at times, with a layered story that picks up two years after The Bourne Identity. It's slightly more of the same here, as poor on-the-run Bourne still doesn't quite know all the facts about himself, and among the returning faces are Potente as the sweet Marie, and an expanded role for Julie Stiles, whose near walk-on role as Paris field officer Nicky in the first film gets a little more screen time here, and serves as a neat tether; Brian Cox also gets more face time as the knows-everything-about-Treadstone Wade Abbott.

Joan Allen steps in as a no-nonsense agency field boss trying to track down Bourne, who early on has been framed for a double-murder by a dangerous Russian assassin. That means more "get me a closeup on grid two" kind of high-tech chatter as conspiracies get revealed and Bourne eventually learns even more about the ominous Treadstone Project. Greengrass loves a good fistfight and on-foot rundowns, but Supremacy's signature moment comes during a frenetic climactic car chase that builds to a crowded tunnel payoff that has to rank as one of the best car chases of all time, easily right up there with Bullitt, The French Connection, and Ronin. It's the kind of frantic, adrenaline-pumping sequence that most action filmmakers only wish they could produce, and filling the streets and sidewalks with people and cars it builds the tension exponentially.

Plus, there's more of a sense of closure here than there was in Liman's film, though if you've ever read a Ludlum novel you know there's always a way to reopen things with a new set of twists.

Both films—even with all of the action and surveillance—are carried handily by Damon, an actor I never particularly cared for, and certainly about number 300 on an imaginary list of people I thought should have played Bourne. At least I felt that way until I saw the first film, because Damon does a nice job with the role, and if nothing else he is physically far more menacing and dangerous that Richard Chamberlain ever could be.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Both films are presented in their original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, in anamorphic widescreen. Liman's The Bourne Identity looks the most impressive of the two, though it carries a remarkably muted color palette. Edges for Liman's film have a little more pop and definition, with shadows appearing well-defined even under poorly lit conditions. Greengrass's Supremacy seems to have a small issue with these same type of black levels during a few of the night sequences, and occasional bouts of shimmer are also evident.

Small beefs aside, both films do look solidly above average (though still below stunning), with the visual edge going to Liman.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Spanishyes
Dolby Digital
English, French, Spanishyes

Audio Transfer Review: No DTS here, but both titles do carry explosive Dolby Digital 5.1 audio tracks that more than carry their own. The action sequences sound especially large and encompassing, accented by deep bass and well-placed surround cues. But it's not just the shoot-em-up bits and car chases that get a chance to show off, because both films feature an assortment of modest rear channel cues that dramatically widen the soundstage during the quieter moments.

The Bourne Identity carries 5.1 in English or a French dub, along with a 2.0 Spanish option. The Bourne Supremacy sports 5.1 for English, as well as dubs in French and Spanish.

Audio Transfer Grade: A+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 48 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Friday Night Lights, Hot Fuzz, Eureka: Season One, Breach
9 Deleted Scenes
1 Alternate Endings
1 Documentaries
19 Featurette(s)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Doug Liman, Paul Greengrass
Packaging: other
Picture Disc
3 Discs
3-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The packaging is kind of interesting for this three-disc set, designed to look like a classified Treadstone Project file folder. There's a Velcroed flap on the front (my came unglued after a few openings) that opens to show three tabbed cards, one per disc. Each of the tabbed cards slide out vertically, with the disc housed in the center.

Bonus Disc
The only new material shows up on Disc 3, where things begin with The Bourne Ultimatum Sneak Peek (02m:17s). And in case you didn't know, that's marketing-speak for a trailer. The rest of the material is a three-part combo history of Ludlum the author and the development of all of the Bourne films, some of which is a rehash of material found on The Bourne Identity extras. The Ludlum Identity (12m:49s) is more of a quick bio of the late writer, and features comments from his literary agent Henry Morrison, author Eric Von Lustbader and, most curiously, actor James Karen. Clips of talk show appearances by Ludlum and personal photos augment the narrative. Next up is The Ludlum Supremacy (12m:42s), which is essentially a continuation of outlining Ludlum's late-in-life career as a writer. The disc concludes with The Ludlum Ultimatum (23m:57s), a rather concise chronicling of how the filmed versions of Ludlum's books came to be, with input from folks like producer Paul Sandberg and directors Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) and Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum). The comments are mixed with clips from the three Bourne films, and I suppose the real hook would be the minimal advance peek at the new one.

The Bourne Identity
With a couple of very minor exceptions, the extras are identical to the previously issued Extended Edition, with a commentary lifted the regular version. Gone are the cast and crew biographies, production notes and DVD-ROM features.

Doug Liman's commentary is ported over from the original release, and the director talks about "directing from a very emotional place." Lots of location chatter, the selecting of the cast, struggles of shooting a PG-13 movie (in relation to the f-bomb), as well as proper credits to screenwriter Tony Gilroy. Liman spreads a steady stream of information, and at its most interesting is info on how particular scenes were assembled from a technical standpoint. The most curious comments concern Liman's anti-smoking stance.

(the following is taken from David Krauss' July 2004 review of The Bourne Identity DVD)

A healthy spate of extras pad the disc, beginning with an alternate opening and alternate ending (10m:47s). As discussed above, the alternate beginning and ending add little, if anything, to the film, although a three-minute introduction featuring producer Frank Marshall and screenwriter Tony Gilroy includes some interesting perspective on post-9/11 movie making. As a result of that tragic day's events, the production team abandoned its original concept for the film's climax, but thankfully stuck to its original opening.

The Bourne Mastermind: Robert Ludlum (06m:37s) 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 (04m:04s) 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 (03m:38s), 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 (03m:26s) employs a UCLA psychologist to discuss Bourne's amnesiac affliction and the relationship between Jason and Marie, while Cloak and Dagger: Covert Ops (05m:32s) 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 (04m:05s) 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 (04m:43s) 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 (03m:39s)

The Bourne Supremacy
As with the first film, this one is largely a copy of the original release, though the only thing absent here are the cast and filmmakers bios. New this time are previews for Hot Fuzz, Eureka: Season One and Breach.

(the following is taken from Dan Heaton's December 2004 review of The Bourne Supremacy DVD)

This release includes nine featurettes ranging between four and seven minutes that cover a wide array of production elements. They are described individually in the entries below:

Matching Identities: Casting (05m:28s)
Director Paul Greengrass begins by discussing Matt Damon and his underrated talents. We also learn about the contributions of Brian Cox, Joan Allen, and Karl Urban to this entry. This feature provides a few brief interviews, but includes too many unnecessary film clips.

Keeping It Real (05m:00s)
This piece covers the film's style, as Greengrass and the crew attempted to craft a realistic, immediate atmosphere. He aimed for the "unconsidered" world, and often neglected to do rehearsals. This material is moderately interesting, but they needed more than five minutes to present a definitive look.

Blowing Things Up (04m:02s)
This worthy featurette provides a quick overview of preparations for the house explosion. It surprised me to learn that they utilized no digital effects to generate this moment. The scene took four days to shoot, and it was accomplished in one take.

On the Move with Jason Bourne (04m:52s)
Another unique aspect was the location shooting that took the place of the typical matte paintings and visual effects. This interesting piece covers the production in Berlin, Moscow, and Goa, India and gives a brief description of each setting.

Bourne to Be Wild: Fight Training (04m:23s)
Notwithstanding the silly title, this featurette does offer a few notable insights about the fight scene between Bourne and the last Treadstone agent. Damon conducted all of his own stunts in the film, which makes the end result more impressive. We also see a decent amount of behind-the-scenes footage presenting the fight construction.

Crash Cam: Racing Through the Streets of Moscow (06m:04s)
The best entries on this disc involve the innovations utilized to capture the crazy chase scene through the streets of Moscow. The crew placed cameras inside the car to enhance the "you-are-there" feeling. The number of cars required to coordinate this sequence is remarkable.

The Go-Mobile Revs Up the Action (06m:50s)
Connecting to the previous feature, this seven-minute showcases a strange rocket-like vehicle that also increased the chase's intensity. It pulls the actual taxi at quick speeds and helps to place audiences right with Bourne. Damon enjoyed using this technique, as it kept him from having to act against a green screen.

The Anatomy of a Scene: The Explosive Bridge Chase Scene (05m:47s)
This basic overview is not an episode of the acclaimed television series. Instead, it's simply a four-minute look at the scene where Damon jumps off the bridge onto a moving barge. The producers strived to raise the bar from the first picture, and this action represents another example.

Scoring with John Powell (04m:49s)
Composer John Powell utilized a large orchestra to generate the score for this film, and he discusses how they tried to make the music roll with the story. He tried to correlate his score with the original theme and to focus on the pivotal scenes early in the movie.

Featurettes Summary
These nine featurettes easily could have been combined into one or two documentaries, but they do work nicely for viewers with short attention spans. Some of them do cross the line into promotional jargon, as the actors consistently praise everything about the picture. However, some worthwhile information is offered during most of the pieces. The remaining supplements are described in the sections below:

Commentary with Paul Greengrass
Paul Greengrass is a talented director and did a great job creating this sequel, but he does not provide a very interesting commentary. Too much of his comments is silly plot summary that is obvious to anyone paying attention to the film. Greengrass obviously cares a lot about the movie and seems interested, but the information presented adds little to our understanding.

Five Deleted Scenes
Nothing within these seven minutes of excised footage should be labeled "explosive" as it is on the packaging, but there are a few interesting moments. Three of these scenes are very brief and provide unnecessary plot aspects, but two are lengthier and expand Brian Cox's character a bit. They're noteworthy but offer nothing too different from the finished product.

Extras Grade: A-


Final Comments

No real need to double-dip if you already own the earlier releases, unless you're dying for the nifty manilla-folder like packaging and the 45-minute teaser disc for The Bourne Ultimatum. If you've held off, however, this budget-priced set has the same extras found on previous versions, and if you do your shopping carefully, you can even end up with free movie money for the new Bourne thriller.

Lots and lots of action make this an easy recommendation.


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