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Universal Studios Home Video presents
Jason Bourne: Where are you now?
DVD ReviewAmerica's poster boy for amnesia, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), has spent his past two cinematic adventures crisscrossing the globe searching for clues about his identity and the nefarious CIA program that molded him into a mindless, ruthless assassin. Well, finally, in The Bourne Ultimatum, he gets some answers. As usual, it's no easy task, requiring trips to six different countries, plenty of cat-and-mouse pursuits, some deft detective work, and a trail of bruised and battered bodies, but Bourne will not be denied, and neither will this compelling, intelligent, and finely acted spy thriller from director Paul Greengrass. Franchise films often lose steam by the third go around, but Greengrass keeps author Robert Ludlum's bullet-proof hero surprisingly fresh and energized while remaining true to the character's core. He also resists the temptation to make this (supposedly) final chapter in the saga bigger and more explosive than its predecessors. Oh sure, the death-defying Bourne escapes his share of dire scrapes with little more than a scratch, but for the most part he relies on his wits, and, as a result, forces the audience to use their noggin as well.
The film cleverly picks up even before the point where the previous installment, The Bourne Supremacy, left off, as the beleaguered operative hooks up with a British newspaper reporter (Paddy Considine) to gather more information about the covert operations of his cloak-and-dagger colleagues. It seems a rogue CIA faction led by the agency's macho director, Ezra Kramer (Scott Glenn), and his thin-lipped deputy, Noah Vosen (David Strathairn), employs "persuasive" interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists without adhering to any humane code. As Bourne tracks the scheme to its source—and realizes he's a vital cog in its mechanism—his arrogant superiors seek to eliminate him before he blows the lid off the enterprise. Upstanding agents Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) and Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) are back to provide independent aid, but Bourne's single-minded quest for the truth relentlessly drives him.
And the film. From the opening frames, Greengrass puts us in the saddle with Bourne and paces the film like a breathless horserace, piling one action sequence upon another. The pulse-pounding style, augmented by jittery camera work and a coarse, utilitarian look can be occasionally tiresome—a few more quiet scenes allowing us to further penetrate Bourne's skin would offer welcome relief—but Greengrass so tightly grips our attention, it's only after the movie ends that we realize our battle fatigue. Few directors can mount such effective and tense pursuit scenes, and the foreign locales augment their effectiveness. Just like 007's jetset world, the Bourne films heavily rely on globetrotting to stoke the senses and fuel the narrative, and though Ultimatum foregoes iconic landmarks in favor of workaday cityscapes, the pungent international flavor nevertheless sweetens the pot.
Of course, high caliber performances help, too, and The Bourne Ultimatum once again delivers a stellar cast of A-list actors at the top of their game. Even after two previous Bourne films, Damon remains an unlikely action hero, but he's nicely settled into the role. His everyman qualities are both refreshing and endearing, and allow those of us who aren't blessed with buffed and beefy physiques to continue to harbor our own action hero fantasies (and foolishly believe that we, too, have a shot at being named The Sexiest Man Alive). Strathairn is always mesmerizing, and Allen makes a tough woman both likeable and feminine. Stiles and the gruff Glenn also impress, and Albert Finney adds some late-inning fireworks in a pivotal role that helps tie up the dangling threads of this engrossing multi-film chronicle.
By respecting our intelligence and heightening our senses without frying them, The Bourne Ultimatum joins an elite group of action movies and does its predecessors in the series proud. The answers Bourne finally receives may not be revelatory, but his transcontinental odyssey stands as one of the best thrill rides of 2007.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+
Image Transfer Review: Filmed in a gritty style and set in winter, The Bourne Ultimatum doesn't possess the visual pop that distinguishes more glitzy action flicks, but Universal's transfer accurately reflects the source material. Some intentional grain and a washed-out color palette lend the movie a documentary flavor, although the lush blue hue of the Mediterranean Sea during the Tangier sequence provides Greengrass' cold vision with a welcome splash of warmth. Contrast and shadow detail are quite good, fleshtones are accurate, and no print blemishes steer our attention away from the tense chases and exotic locales.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: The DD 5.1 track is a bit of a disappointment. Though the audio is certainly robust and crisp, with clear dialogue and a marvelous rendering of John Powell's pitch-perfect music score, surround activity is surprisingly lacking. With so many pursuit scenes relying so heavily on subtle atmospherics—the backstreets of Tangier, the hustle and bustle of London's Waterloo Station—it's a shame we don't feel more sonically immersed in the action. The track certainly gets the job done, but doesn't possess the bells and whistles that make films of this type so thrilling to watch on a home theater system.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Kingdom, American Pie Presents Beta House, Bring It On: In It to Win It
9 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Paul Greengrass
Layers Switch: 01h:18m:53s
Extras Review: A respectable array of extras enhance the disc, beginning with a thoughtful, articulate, but occasionally dreary commentary by director Paul Greengrass, who sought to combine mainstream and independent filmmaking in this third chapter of the Bourne saga. Greengrass talks about the critical nature of tempo for an action movie, and how the picture's global nature made him feel as if he were operating a guerilla unit, picking up shots on the fly without standard preparation. He also notes how action must deliver character to fully succeed, and how the "cool, smart factor" at the heart of Bourne's story sustains the franchise and makes it more rewarding than films that rely solely on special effects and brawn. Greengrass' dry delivery at times makes listening a chore, but those who pay close attention will be rewarded with several interesting nuggets.
Next up, a 12-minute collection of nine deleted scenes provides a tad more character and plot background (and more face time with actor Scott Glenn, whose role in the finished film was greatly reduced), but nothing especially enlightening. The five-part Man on the Move: Jason Bourne documentary runs 24 minutes, and charts the location shooting in Berlin, Paris, London, Madrid, and Tangier, while the five-and-a-half-minute Rooftop Pursuit focuses on the thrilling Tangier chase and the ingenious "cable-cam" shot that allows audiences to hop on Bourne's back during a signature stunt. Planning the Punches (5m:00s) breaks down a critical fight sequence, Driving School (3m:30s) follows Damon behind the wheel as he learns how to be a road warrior, and New York Chase (10m:47s) chronicles the challenges of filming a rough-and-tumble car chase on the streets of Manhattan.
Extras Grade: B+
Final CommentsTense, taut, and terrifically entertaining, The Bourne Ultimatum completes the hat trick for this top-flight espionage trilogy. The breakneck pacing, smart plotting, and first-class performances immerse us in the action and keep us enthralled throughout. Above average transfers and extras seal the deal, and help make the climactic chapter of an amnesiac's journey home very memorable indeed. Highly recommended.
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