Plot: What’s it about?
“The Bourne Identity” was a novel by Robert Ludlum, a failed actor, written some twenty five years ago. I vaguely remember the book sitting in the house, my parents had read it, I think. Imagine my surprise when they made a movie starring Matt Damon! I thought to myself – is that based on the novel? Well, loosely it is, though screenwriter Tony Gilroy wasn’t allowed to read the book, only draft the script based upon the outline given to him by Director Doug Liman. Ludlum was a notorious perfectionist, who would often research the locales he wrote about and just about everything about them; much like Tom Clancy is to technology. The real question was this: could a twenty five year old novel work as a movie long after the rest of us had forgotten about it? Evidently the answer was “Yes” as the movie racked up nearly $200 million worldwide and has produced a sequel “The Bourne Supremacy” (the second of the three Bourne books). When it comes to a choice between Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (the two can’t help but be compared), I’ll watch a Matt Damon movie any day of the week. Affleck has chosen the more commercial route and Damon’s movies have always been more to my liking (“Rounders” and “The Legend of Bagger Vance” in particular). So it was with much anticipation that I went into this movie somewhat blind.
Damon plays Jason Bourne, a CIA agent who awakes in the middle of the ocean without any real memory of who he is. He has what is referred to (in the featurettes) as “selective amnesia”, meaning that he doesn’t know who he is, but he retains the skills of his former self (language, combat, etc.). He is rescued by a fisherman with two bullet holes in his back, no less. He also has a capsule in his body that has a Swiss bank account number in it. Managing to find the bank, he sees that he has several identities and some money at his disposal. Paying a local gypsy (Franka Potente from “Run, Lola, Run” fame) to drive him to Paris, the chase is on. The CIA, led by Ted Conklin (Chris Cooper), is on his tail and as we see what skills Jason has, we like him more and more. Bourne is by no means a good guy, he’s a trained killer and it’s only because he’s the lesser of two evils that we tend to root for him. That and he’s played by Matt Damon. There’s the obligatory car chase scene, sex scene and many other more predictable scenes that we’ve become so accustomed to thanks to James Bond movies, we forget that there might actually be a plot somewhere.
“The Bourne Identity” has its greatest strength in the way it underplays itself. Movies pretend to be about something and then don’t deliver and then there’s some that don’t really profess to be about something and we walk away amply satisfied. Go figure. Damon’s expression rarely changes throughout the course of the film and though we’d like to see a character (a main one at that) smile, he’s dealing with memory loss. How many times did Leonard Shelby in “Memento” smile? Right. The movie combines the right elements of a spy movie, action movie and even a few elements of a love story to sustain viewers. I found “The Bourne Identity” a rather good action movie that doesn’t really follow the blueprint for the rest out there. Fans of the genre or fans of Mr. Damon, will most certainly want to check this out.
Video: How’s it look?
Since this is simply a repackaging of the earlier edition, this is the same transfer as before. That is not a bad thing, however, as the image is nearly flawless. I don’t have an official count of thetimes this film has been re-released and repackaged. There’s even a dual-sided version out there. This is a single sided disc. Detail is strong and consistent throughout, pores could be spotted on several faces, stray hairs, you name it, it’s all strong and clear. Black levels remained deep and strong throughout. The print has a nice, smooth look to it. No issues here. The image is VC encoded with a 2.35:1 ratio.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The DTS HD track is also worthwhile. Every shot, punch and kick, it’s all strong and clear with no restrictions. The channels were all given plenty of usage with rear channels getting plenty of play. There are all kinds of sounds throughout the film whether it’s glass shattering or tires screeching, but rest assured, this track always delivers full force. Vocals were never an issue either as they came across clear and audible consistently.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc comes loaded with features. As mentioned, this is simply a repackaged disc in Universal’s line of steelbooks. There are tons of Picture in picture features as well as Universal’s U-Control features. This release also includes a DVD copy as well as a digital copy code. If you already own the film in one of its many versions then there’s nothing new to be found here outside of the packaging. Let’s take a closer look.
- Audio Commentary – Director Doug Liman provides a running track for the feature film.
- Alternate Opening and Ending – It’s mentioned how the events of 9/11 had an impact on the changes seen here. There’s an optional introduction here too.
- Deleted/Alternate Scenes – 4 scenes here, one of which was shown in the trailer for the film.
- Extended Farmhouse Sequence – This is a small (58 second) scene that adds little to the film.
- The Ludlum Identity, Supremacy and Ultimatum – These are three separate features that discuss each individual novel. We hear a bit about late Author Robert Ludlum and how this project came about.
- The Birth of the Bourne Identity – Is a pretty decent behind the scenes look. It’s a bit promotional in nature, but still worth a look. We learn about some of the changes made from thenovel as well.
- The Bourne Mastermind: Robert Ludlum – Is a short piece about the late Author. We see some brief interview snippets with Ludlum as well as others as they recall his work among other things. We hear about his struggles as an actor before becoming a writer. Some information is repeated from another feature on the disc, but some new ground is covered as well.
- Access Granted: An interview with Screenwriter Tony Gilroy – Is another short piece examining the differences between the book and the film.
- From Identity to Supremacy: Jason & Marie – We get a brief look at the Jason Bourne character and the Marie character. It’s too short to offer anything with much depth. Matt Damon mentions how nobody really wanted to make a sequel at first, but feels the sequel improves on the original.
- The Bourne Diagnosis – We hear about Jason’s Bourne’s condition and the effects of amnesia. It’s fairly interesting despite it’s brief running time.
- Cloak and Dagger: Covert OPs – We get a look at the CIA and how things are handled in specific departments.
- Inside a fight sequence – This takes a look at a fight sequence seen in the film. There’s some set footage and training with the choreographer.
- Moby “Extreme Ways” Music Video – I didn’t care for this, but it’s here for those who do.
- U-Control – This offers some extended behind the scenes bits that can be played along with the film or accessed individually from the main menu. There are three sections: Treadstone files, Bourne Orientation and Picture in Picture features.
- DVD/UltraViolet Copy