Polish, Arabic, Portuguese, English - Hearing Impaired, Croatian, Bulgarian, Slovenian, Serbian
4 Deleted scenes
2 Teaser trailer - "The Hulk", "Johnny English"
Audio commentary - Director Doug Liman
DTS trailer - "Piano"
The Bourne Identity (2002)
R4 . COLOR . 114 mins .
M15+ . PAL
For fans of the good old fashioned espionage thriller, there’s been little to excite the senses in recent years. Franchises like the James Bond or Jack Ryan series aside, the ever-reliable dose of undercover action has been taking a bit of a holiday and was long overdue for a revisiting by the time someone came up with the idea of revisiting Robert Ludlum’s classic bestselling novel The Bourne Identity. First filmed in the late ‘80s as a po-faced TV mini-series, the book’s been liberally chopped up, rearranged and rewritten in this generously-budgeted 21st century version, presumably with Ludlum’s blessing - the late author is credited as an executive producer here.
As the film opens, we witness the rescue of a man (Matt Damon) from the open ocean. He appears dead, and probably should be - he has two bullets in his back, as well as a mysterious laser-pointer capsule that happily projects a bank account number onto the nearest wall. When he’s revived, it soon becomes clear that he hasn’t escaped unscathed - he can’t remember who he is, how he got where he is, or what he’s supposed to do next. He does, however, appear to have a rather handy knack for high-octane chop-socky fighting, which he does instinctually when required. He’s mystified, but when he visits the bank named by the laser pointer and checks out the related safe deposit box, his world gradually starts to fall into place. He’s named Jason Bourne, and the box contains a passport to that effect - as well as a dozen other passports and a hefty amount of cash in multiple currencies (including Australian $100 bills, parochial readers!) Bourne appears to be American - at least that’s what his passport says - so off he heads to the US Embassy, where he’s promptly chased out of the building the hard way by armed men. Desperate, he escapes with German woman Marie (Franka Potente) and commences a frantic run across Europe as he tries to figure out who he is. It’s a dangerous game - the men on his tail quite obviously want Bourne dead. Marie, meanwhile, accidentally falls in love. She, naturally, wants Bourne to be alive...
This ultra-slick action thriller is probably going to annoy the hell out of fans of the book with its liberal reinterpretation of events, but that’s not the point; the idea here is simply to provide two hours of escapist espionage fun, and The Bourne Identity does that extremely well, despite some occasional lazy writing and a low-key ending. The two leads are terrific; Matt Damon is suitably bemused throughout much of the running time, but still manages to flesh out his character enough for us to care what happens to him; Franka Potente, best known for Run Lola Run, is brilliant at drawing a character through facial expression and subtlety, and it’s refreshing to see a female lead in an espionage movie taking such an active role in the chase rather than just reacting to what Our Hero does.
Director Doug Liman might seem like a strange choice for a movie like this - he’s best known for youth-culture movies Swingers and Go - but he’s obviously got a knack for this kind of thing, and it’ll be interesting to see where his career goes next.
There’s little that could be described as profound about The Bourne Identity, but unlike some other entries in this genre, it never makes the mistake of taking itself too seriously, and as a result it’s a success as the stylish, well-crafted popcorn entertainment that it undeniably is.
Our Bourne impersonator does a passable Minnie Driver.
Offered in a gorgeous 16:9 transfer of Oliver Wood’s theatrical 2.35:1 image (the film was shot on Super 35), Universal’s DVD of The Bourne Identity is a visual treat from start to finish. Crisp detail and perfectly balanced contrast and colour is the order of the day here, and there’s nothing to complain about in terms of the actual film transfer from start to finish; this one’s truly state of the art. However, this otherwise perfect-score-grabbing transfer is marred by the disc authoring team’s use of player subtitles to replace on-screen location titles throughout the movie, as well as the occasional foreign language translation. This is all too common for PAL discs, but it’s incredibly distracting to have a wonderfully lit and perfectly composed establishing shot ruined by blazing white block-capital subtitles instead of the carefully-balanced fonts used in theatrical prints. The thing is, subtitle streams can be authored with any font the producer desires, in any colour - and those subtitles can be faded in and out subtly. None of that’s been done here; it looks shoddy, takes the viewer out of the film, and instantly loses this transfer a point out of its rating.
This one’s a dual-layered disc and the encoding bitrate is immensely high - in fact, it’s at a similar rate to the overhyped “Superbit” discs doing the rounds. Needless to say, encoding artefacts are non-existent; the layer change is reasonably well placed and well handled.
Building, Bourne. Bourne, building. Now hug.
Put this one on when the neighbours are out, trust us. This utterly stunning 5.1 channel sound mix is a treat for those equipped with gear to hear it as such, and is pure demo material. Dialogue is clear and focussed in the centre channel as sounds whiz around the surround stage throughout, the rears put to good use particularly during gun battles. There’s a massive amount of dynamic range here, so be sure to play it back when and where you can freely crank the volume. You won’t be disappointed.
Both Dolby Digital and DTS tracks are provided; both are excellent, with the DTS track having a slight edge simply because it’s mastered substantially louder and offers the usual extra volume in the surround channels.
As with many current Buena Vista DTS-equipped titles, those selecting DTS are presented with a pointless “are you sure” screen, which takes the viewer straight to the movie (via a DTS trailer) on confirmation. Soundtracks cannot be switched on the fly with the player’s audio button.
Universal provides pretty much the same set of extra features for region 4 as they did on the US version of the disc (in fact, the authoring for this version was done by the same company, Deluxe in the US). Only the filmographies and production notes are missing - no great loss there. The animated menus are extremely nicely done, and all elements of them are skippable if you’re in a hurry. The only complaint as far as the menus go is that they’re all set to “time out” after a short period and, if left alone, will jump back to the main menu and then start playing the movie whether that’s what you want or not.
Bourne To Run.
Audio Commentary: This is the extra of choice. Director Doug Liman is a keen commentary participant, and as usual provides a wonderfully informative narrative throughout, relating production stories, trivia, background info and all manner of other fascinating information about the production of his film. Well worth the time.
Featurette: Gimme an E! Gimme a P! Gimme a K! Titled The Birth of The Bourne Identity, this 14-minute fluff piece is the usual promo piffle that’s watched once, forgotten in seconds and never played again.
Alternate Ending: Raw editing output of an alternate take on the movie’s final scene. What ended up in the final cut is far superior, but this has curiosity value. The non-anamorphic letterboxed video quality is, not surprisingly given the source, decidedly average.
Deleted Scenes: Four short deleted scenes once again salvaged from the editing computer, none of which really adds anything of note (though the extra sequences with Bourne and Marie do flesh out their relationship a little better). All are letterboxed, non-anamorphic and fuzzy.
Extended Farmhouse Scene: What you’d expect; this minute-long trim is only of vague interest.
Music Video: The video clip for Extreme Ways by Moby, which plays over the movie’s end credits. 4:3 letterboxed, with stereo sound.
Theatrical Trailer: The spoiler-rich trailer is offered in letterboxed 4:3 with surround-flagged stereo audio.
Teaser Trailers: Bonus teasers for Johnny English and The Hulk, both letterboxed in a 4:3 frame with stereo sound.
DVD-ROM Features: Daggily dubbed “Total Axess” by Universal, the DVD-ROM content on the disc is introduced for video player users via a short hype-laden trailer, and a screen which promises “exclusive” and “spectacular” bonus materials. However, since the use of this feature requires the installation of Interactual’s special player software as well as registration with Universal’s web site, we did not sample this content for ourselves. Those who don’t wish to jump through the hoops required here can still look at the on-disc web site and play the Flash-based games, though.
DTS Piano Trailer: Played if you select the DTS Audio option.
Bizzarro Video Company Logo Trailers: Keep playing through the copyright screens after the film for a couple of unexpected video label trailers as well as the unintentionally hilarious Macrovision trailer.
A solid but accessible espionage thriller with great production values, terrific European locations and accomplished performances and direction, The Bourne Identity is what this kind of film should always be but often isn’t - great fun. Universal’s DVD is technically stunning, and while most of the extras are fairly uninspired, the commentary more than makes up for the rest of them.