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THE BOURNE TRILOGY
Blu-ray Edition

Film review by Gordon Justesen
Technical specs by Michael Jacobson

Stars: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Chris Cooper, Clive Owen, Brian Cox, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Julia Stiles, Joan Allen, Scott Glenn, David Strathairn
Directors: Doug Liman, Paul Greengrass
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1 (The Bourne Ultimatum 2.40:1)
Studio: Universal
Features: See Review
Length: 344 Minutes
Release Date: January 27, 2009

“Everything I learned about myself I want to forget.”

The Bourne Identity ***

With The Bourne Identity being one of the surprise hits of its year, it’s fair to say that a new action hero was definitely Bourne. Or maybe on the other hand, the fact that it was a hit wasn’t much of a surprise, since the film was adapted from Robert Ludlum’s hugely popular spy novel series. The fact is when a movie is released in a time of harsh competition, you never know how it’s going to fare, and before its release, I myself didn’t expect the film to become a hit. Boy, I had never been more wrong in my life.

First off, even though I’m clearly a fan of Matt Damon, I could never really see him in an action role, and this case taught me very clearly not to judge something until you see it. After seeing him execute some unique combat skills in this movie, Damon illustrated one of the most unexpected surprises of the year. In addition to mastering the action of the movie, he created a memorable character in the process, that of Jason Bourne. Another skeptic element was the fact that the director, Doug Liman, had been known as director of independent fare such as Swingers and Go, and it’s not everyday that a filmmaker who specializes in low budget films suddenly switches gears for an action thriller with a much bigger budget. Once again, I was surprised by how well Liman crafted the movie.

What makes The Bourne Identity so distinctive in terms of spy movies is that this movie is more of an involving character piece that happens to be surrounded by outlandish action sequences in lavish locations. The strength of the story concerns its lead character, because when we first meet Jason Bourne, he has a case of amnesia, having no idea who he is or why he is capable of such high level physical and mental skills. As the movie opens, he is rescued from the sea by a fishing boat. The captain of the boat removes two bullets from his body, and soon Bourne, or whoever he is, regains consciousness. Having no idea of who he is, he intends to find out. It leads him to Switzerland, where he has a bank account. Bourne discovers this through a capsule that was embedded under his skin while on the boat.

Soon, Bourne has people on his tail and he needs a way out of the city. He runs into the equally desperate Marie (Franka Potente), who he’ll pay a quick $10,000 just for a ride to Paris. Meanwhile, back at CIA headquarters, where it’s clear that Bourne was employed, superiors learn of the man’s sudden survival, and a stern high level boss (Chris Cooper) intends to have the subject wiped out, even if it means alerting all agents available in Europe. It turns out that Bourne’s last mission, which involved the assassination of an African leader, failed when he was caught in enemy hands. Now that he has turned out to be alive, the CIA can’t afford him to be alive.

The action scenes in the movie are among the most outstanding of the year. Even in the fight sequences, inventive techniques are used such as when Damon fights an opponent with a pen, and later when he uses a dead corpse for safe landing while plummeting several stories and taking another enemy out with a gun simultaneously. A standout moment is indeed a high speed pursuit through the streets of Paris that is indeed one of the best chase scenes since De Niro and company wreaked havoc in Ronin. I especially loved the sequence where Bourne dukes it out with an enemy sniper at a farmhouse.

Sharply crafted and skillfully paced, The Bourne Identity succeeds in both delivering high energy action scenes and creating a memorable character in the lead. That’s a rare kind of hybrid mix you would find in any movie, let alone a spy thriller. It seems that as a result of this movie, Matt Damon will be placed in the same ranks of Tom Cruise, Pierce Brosnan, and Vin Diesel, as one of the top secret spies of the movies.

The Bourne Supremacy ***1/2

With The Bourne Identity becoming the big surprise hit that it was, and with more adventures left in the series of novels by Robert Ludlam, a follow up was certainly more than welcome. As good as the first movie was, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that The Bourne Supremacy exceeds it in the most unexpected ways.

The movie opens as former CIA assassin Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) has obtained an identity, but is now haunted by nightmares. The reoccurring nightmare he has may have to do with a key assignment he was ordered to execute while still employed by the agency.

Bourne is currently try to piece together his past while hiding out in India with Marie (Franka Potente), the girl who helped him discover who he was in the first movie. The two are now very much closer than before. However, an even bigger web of deceit is about to head in Bourne's direction.

Cut to Germany, where a cover operation is being supervised by top ranking agent named Pamela Landy (Joan Allen). The op goes awry when the two agents involved are wiped out on the spot by a shadow assassin. It is the work of a rouge Russian agent named Krill (Karl Urban), who manages to pin Bourne to the killings with a single finger print.

When the same agent attempts to kill Bourne in India, the former assassin is once again on the run, only this time he intends on running in the direction of those trying to capture him as opposed to running away from them like in the first movie. Still being haunted by nightmares of the operation known as Treadstone, Bourne's intentions are to confront his former bosses to find out just what happened.

If one thing can be said about The Bourne Supremacy, as well as its predecessor, it's that both movies know how to mix up hard hitting action with a superb level of intelligence, which is to be expected in a CIA-based thriller. The stories very much drive the action, rather than the other way around. And as for the action numbers, they are as fast and furious as they come.

I think that, going into this movie, people were curious to see if the movie would have a car chase equal to that of the energetic chase sequence in The Bourne Identity. Boy does this sequence ever exceed it? Not only does the climatic car chase scene in Moscow surpass the chase in the first movie, but I think it's one of the most incredible car chases ever caught on film. The mind blowing camera work helps in putting the audience right in the front seat with Jason Bourne, and you really do feel all of those hard hitting collisions.

Another superb element in The Bourne Supremacy is the approach by the director, Paul Greengrass (Bloody Sunday). By applying a hand-held camera technique that acquires most of the movie, the feel of the movie is more authentic than before. It almost gives a documentary-like feeling, as the events and certain dialogue scenes look and sound that look and sound anything but phony.

With its in your face action, superb intrigue, and unexpected twists, The Bourne Supremacy is a dynamite action thriller that can certainly hold its own. Where as Identity was a solid introduction, Supremacy is an unexpected improvement that moves at such a fast pace, that it's impossible to blink.

The Bourne Ultimatum ***1/2

Of all the sequels to come out recently, the one I was anticipating the most was unquestionably The Bourne Ultimatum. And of all the sequels to come out, it was unquestionably the best! Although this third chapter was rumored to be the final installment in the series, and it does bring closure to all that’s occurred in this as well as the first two movies, I for one am hoping that we will be seeing much more of Jason Bourne in the future.

Matt Damon is back once again in his career-defining role, and also back for the proceedings is Bourne Supremacy director Paul Greengrass. And just as the case was in the previous two movies, The Bourne Ultimatum effortlessly blends white-knuckle action scenes with tremendous suspense, intelligent plotting and first-rate production values. Of the three movies, this one definitely has the most globetrotting feel, as the action shifts between different countries.

This third installment in the Bourne trilogy, adapted from Robert Ludlam’s novel, picks up right where the last movie left off. While in Russia and bleeding from a gunshot wound, Jason Bourne (Damon) starts having sudden flashbacks as he is treating himself. The flashbacks, showing him in some kind of training facility, may hold the key to the one thing he wants to know; who was it that trained him into a lethal government weapon.

But Bourne still has enemies within the CIA who want him wiped out immediately, most notably agency boss Noah Vosen (David Strathairn). Like the villains in the previous movies, Vosen considers Bourne nothing more than a threat and wants him taken out. It’s clear that by not revealing his motives for wanting him dead that Vosen may in fact be linked to the very people Bourne is looking for.

Also back on Bourne’s trail is Pamela Landy (Joan Allen), only this time she is working under Vosen. And she soon starts to suspect that her superiors are keeping her in the dark as far as the reasons for killing Bourne are concerned. The very fact that this character, who was such a fierce adversary in the last movie, becomes sympathetic to the hero is one of the many pleasures of this movie.

As Bourne makes his way through countless assassins in numerous countries, he comes into contact once again with Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) in Madrid. She was part of the initial operation to track down Bourne in the first movie, but now becomes his only ally in his plan to come face to face with the very people responsible for his creation, which then lead to his first assignment; Treadstone. The two then head to Morocco to track down an agent who may have leaked information concerning Bourne to a reporter.

At this point, the nonstop chase begins…and it’s a true rush.

The agency activates an assassin stationed in Morocco to take out Bourne. This leads to one of the most riveting action set pieces I’ve ever seen, as Bourne commandeers a motorcycle to escape the police who believe him to be responsible for a car bombing. The chase goes from street to rooftop, where a road runner-like Bourne leaps from building to building to save Nicky from the assassin trying to kill them. That leads to one of the intense fight scenes I have ever witnessed. It’s a purely effortless scene that is sure to go down as the best action scene of the year.

And it wouldn’t be a Bourne movie is our hero didn’t get to create havoc by way of driving. The action concludes in New York City, where Bourne leads his enemies on yet another fantastic and all too-real car chase. Every time I see a Bourne movie I walk away with the same feeling; wishing I had Jason Bourne’s driving skills. I would love it if I could drive at super-high speeds in dangerous traffic, get into the most outrageous car wrecks and survive without a scratch.

As you can tell, The Bourne Ultimatum is filled with plot, and so much of it that it’s difficult to pen a good review while at the same time not give away too much, which I don’t think I have. Also, it’s important to note that if you haven’t seen the first two movies, or have even forgotten about what went on prior to this movie, you absolutely need to go back and watch them because you will be somewhat lost in the proceedings.

So strap in for the most intense action movie of the year. The Bourne Ultimatum is one hell of a finish, if such is the case, to a rousing action movie trilogy.

Video ****

Quite outstanding, and everything you'd expect from a Universal Blu-ray release.  These movies, with their plentiful international locales, intricate outdoor and indoor settings, and ever-increasing action, really showcase what 1080p is capable of.  The level of clarity throughout, regardless of light level or intensity, is absolutely superb, with sharply rendered images and amazing detail.  DVD simply can't deliver this level of excellence...your home theatre has been waiting for these discs to show you its potential!

Audio ****

The DTS HD 5.1 mixes are dynamic and explosive, and as the movies progress and the level of action gets more and more voluminous, the full use of lossless audio will astound you, and have you reaching for your remote to bring it down to safer levels.  There is increasingly good use of the surrounds and subwoofers, thanks to the fights, chases and confrontations, and the dialogue is well-balanced against the beds of effects and terrific music scores. 

Features ****

Some good bonuses here, as the first disc includes a running commentary from director Doug Liman, several deleted scenes, including an alternate opening and ending, a featurette titled “The Birth of The Bourne Identity”, a music video for the Moby song "Extreme Ways", a trailer, looks at author Robert Ludlum and screenwriter Tony Gilroy, a peek inside the making of a fight sequence, and a featurette leading the way from this film to its sequel. 

The second disc contains a commentary with director Paul Greengrass, a deleted scenes gallery, a grand total of 8 featurettes on everything ranging from casting to fight training, to location shoots to the filming of the car chase in Moscow, and more.

The third disc boasts a commentary with director Paul Greengrass, Deleted Scenes, and a good number of terrifically made featurettes, including “Man on the Move: Jason Bourne”, “Rooftop Pursuit”, “Planning the Punches”, “Driving School” and “New York Chase”.

These discs also feature BD Live and Universal's exclusive 'U-Control' extra, which allows you one click access to information showing the links between the movies, picture-in-picture footage of extra interviews and behind-the-scenes glances, and a dossier feature for the characters, GPS locations and other files, all while you watch.

Summary:

Three action packed films, one incredible high definition collection...The Bourne Trilogy brings the best out of Robert Ludlum's identity-challenged character, and this set from Universal gives you everything you'd hope for out of a Blu-ray release.  Highly recommended!

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