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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: The Bourne Trilogy

January 18th, 2010

The Bourne Trilogy - Blu-ray / DVD Combo Discs - Buy from Amazon: The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, and The Bourne Ultimatum

This week The Bourne Trilogy is being released on Blu-ray / DVD combo discs, which is a new idea that Universal is testing. Or to be more specific, it's a new take on an old idea, as they were supporters of the HD-DVD / DVD flipper discs. Because all three of these movies have been released on the home market several times already (DVDs, HD-DVDs, Blu-rays) there's little reason to go into great detail about each more. Odds are you know the basic plots of the three movies and have formed an opinion of the trilogy's quality by now. Because of this, this review is as much about the technology as the movies, because the real question is whether or not Blu-ray / DVD combo discs are worth buying.

The Bourne Identity - Blu-ray / DVD - Buy from Amazon

Matt Damon stars as ... someone... who we first meet floating in the Mediterranean Sea. After some Italian fishermen rescue him, he has total amnesia over who he is, why he was in the water, and who shot him. While trying to discover who he is, he stumbles into a government conspiracy to assassinate an exiled African dictator. And it turns out, he's part of the conspiracy and someone wants him dead. (A lot of people want him dead, actually.) His only ally is a woman, Marie, who he meets during one of his escape attempts. With her help, he has to get in contact with his past and figure out the mystery before it is too late.

The Bourne Identity is a very smart spy thriller that works hard to make sure the story is as good as the action. Usually with these films, big explosions are more important than story, which is makes sense in some ways, but not in others. Writing a good story is a lot harder than making something go boom, but it is also a lot cheaper and makes for a better product in the end.

Extras on the DVD side of the disc start with an audio commentary track with Doug Liman, the director. There is also a featurette on the alternate opening / ending of the movie that includes an introduction on why the filmmakers thought it might have been needed. There is a featurette on Robert Ludlum, the author of the novels the movies are based on. There is an interview with the screenwriter. There's a shorter featurette on the two main characters and their relationship in the movie. The Bourne Diagnosis is a three-and-a-half minute long featurette on amnesia and how it is portrayed in the movie. (It's actually not bad, as far as movies go.) Cloak and Dagger talks about the C.I.A.. The Speed of Sound discusses the Mini Cooper car chase scene and how the sound was created. At the end of this featurette, there is a soundboard you can experiment with. Declassified Information is four deleted scenes. Finally, there is a featurette on one of the fight scenes and a music video.

All of these extras are ported over on the Blu-ray side, but there are additional special features as well. These include some additional featurettes, including a three-parter on the creation of the Jason Bourne character from the start of Robert Ludlum's writing career to the development of the films. There are extras that push the technology more with a picture-in-picture track and BD-Live extras. The BD-Live extras include the usual MyChat, MyScenes, and downloadable trailers, but it also has a strategy card game as well that you can play against another person online. Better than I was expecting. Some of the shorter featurettes are a little fluffy, but in total there are more than 100 minutes of extras here; sadly, they are presented in Standard Definition, but that's still a lot of extras.

The video / audio presentation on the Blu-ray is strong, with the audio being slightly better than the video. This makes sense, as the film was shot in a semi-documentary style with an emphasis on realism and not gloss, while the sound was always amazing in the franchise. In fact, the third film won three Oscars, two of which were for sound.

The Bourne Supremacy - Blu-ray / DVD - Buy from Amazon

The film starts off a couple of years after the events of the first movie, with Jason and Marie living in India with the past firmly behind them. That is until... major spoiler... Jason Bourne is framed for a crime against the C.I.A. and an assassin is sent to take him out but accidentally kills Marie instead. This prompts Bourne to return to his search for his past and make those responsible pay. This time around the person searching for him is Pamela Landy, who in the process starts to dig up even more information on Bourne's past, and Treadstone, which is not something the C.I.A. wants, especially Ward, who was in knee deep in Treadstone before.

This film earned nearly the same number of positive reviews as the first film, and for good reason. It maintains the same high level of tension and the mystery is just as powerful. Also, the cast is even better, as Joan Allen is amazing in this film and a huge addition for the franchise. (I liked Julia Stiles too.)

Extras on the DVD are very similar to those of the first film with an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, and a ton of featurettes, including ones on the cast, the making of a fight scene, the score, the look of the film, etc. Most are too short to be really in-depth, but combined they add up to a lot.

Over on the Blu-ray side, we have another picture-in-picture track, the same BD-Live features as above, plus additional featurettes. Some of the featurettes, like The Bourne Mastermind on Robert Ludlum's career and The Bourne Diagnosis on the psychology of the movie, have second parts here. The picture-in-picture track is more dense with information than on the first film, while the featurettes range from in-depth to a little on the fluff side. Again, there are more than an hour of extras to watch here, which is impressive. More so because I thought the Blu-ray / DVD flipper disc might be more limited in storage space when compared to a regular Blu-ray. That is either not the case, or not an issue.

The audio / video of the Blu-ray is as strong as the first film, with the audio again being better than the video.

The Bourne Ultimatum - Blu-ray / DVD Combo Disc - Buy from Amazon
The third film has not shown up yet. In fact, I don't think it will be shipped until later this week. However, I will get to it as soon as it arrives and update this review.

The Verdict

In the meantime, we have a partial verdict. On the one hand, The Bourne Trilogy is an amazing series of films. One of the most successful trilogies of the first decade of the new millennium in terms of critical reception, and a very solid performer at the box office. (At least it was domestically; internationally it was a little weak.) If you own the Blu-ray Box Set already, there's little reason to upgrade to the Blu-ray / DVD flipper discs. That said, buying these three discs individually is actually significantly cheaper than buying the box set, so if you don't have it on high definition yet, now is the perfect time to grab it. Granted, I'm not a fan of flipper discs in general. But, while I was worried they would either be costlier to make or have fewer features, that doesn't seem to be an issue here.

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Filed under: Video Review, The Bourne Ultimatum