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The Bourne Identity(2002)
After being pulled from the sea with two bullets in his back, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) awakens on a fishing boat with no memory of his involvement in a top-secret, black ops arm of the CIA called Treadstone. The only clue to his identity is the number of a Swiss bank account in which he discovers an array of passports and weapons, as well as a fortune in cash. As he struggles to regain his memory, his former employers dub him a rogue agent and target him for termination. When an equally deadly assassin codenamed "Professor" (Clive Owen) is sent to dispose of him, Bourne rediscovers his extraordinary survival skills, including hand- to-hand combat, martial arts and multiple languages, and begins to understand who he really is. As he struggles to unlock the secret of his own identity, Bourne has to deal with his past in order to ensure his own future.
For more about The Bourne Identity and the The Bourne Identity Blu-ray release, see the The Bourne Identity Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on January 22, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Matt Damon, Clive Owen, Chris Cooper, Brian Cox, Franka Potente, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
Director: Doug Liman
» See full cast & crew
The Bourne Identity Blu-ray Review
A captivating introduction to one of the most magnetic characters of the decade...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, January 22, 2010
How is it that so many people doubted Matt Damon could play a rogue assassin on the run from his CIA handlers? Was he too passive in Ocean's Eleven? As I recall, his Linus Caldwell was a driven, quick-witted con artist who held his own against a number of seasoned criminals. Too genteel in Dogma? Not Loki, the foul-mouthed avenging angel with a penchant for hot-tempered hellfire and brimstone. Too dim-witted in Rounders? Hardly, his Mike McDermott was a street-savvy survivalist willing to risk his all for a friend. Too cute and cuddly in Good Will Hunting? Not with Will Hunting's violent disposition and how-bout-them-apples attitude. Come to think of it, were we all watching the same Matt Damon movies? In retrospect, Damon was the perfect choice for Jason Bourne, a tormented amnesiac who treks halfway across the world to discover who or what he might be. He certainly had the dramatic chops, and his skills as an actor were never in question. For anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to his career and its trajectory, his casting didn't require much suspension of disbelief at all. Ah well, I suppose it doesn't matter anymore. Director Doug Liman's The Bourne Identity quickly put such concerns to rest, instantly transforming Damon the Talented Actor into Damon the Bankable Superstar.
After being fished out of the ocean with a handful of bullets in his back and no memory of how he got there or why he had been left for dead, a baffled, nameless scrapper (Matt Damon) with innate fighting skills and counterintelligence know-how attempts to reassemble the pieces of a very puzzling life. A strange implant leads him to a security deposit box in Switzerland, one that yields dozens of passports, a pile of cash, and a name: Jason Bourne. With the subsequent help of a desperate young woman named Marie (Franke Potente), he makes his way to a flat in Paris, only to be attacked by a vicious, knife-wielding assailant (Nicky Naude). The activated assassin, as it turns out, is one of three killers a CIA black ops bigwig named Alexander Conklin (the always excellent Chris Cooper) has sent after Bourne. It seems Conklin, the mastermind of a classified op dubbed "Treadstone," has his own shady agenda, one that involves tying up loose ends and sending Bourne to an early grave. Now, with a cool head and a desire to regain his lost memories, Bourne traces Treadstone back to its source, matches wits with a calculating sniper (Clive Owen), and slowly pieces together the events that brought about his psychogenic amnesia.
Although Liman discounts the phrase "thinking man's actioner," that's precisely what he created in The Bourne Identity. As portrayed by Damon, Bourne is a decidedly composed renegade spy who relies on instinct and intelligence to overcome any obstacle he encounters. He habitually discards firearms after they're no longer necessary, sniffs out traps long before they're sprung, and never rushes into battle without a series of primary goals and a slew of contingency plans. Even the inevitable dust-ups that occur are mercilessly swift. Neither Liman or his protagonist are interested in bloated, flashy fights, favoring quick and efficient attacks instead of overly choreographed routines or impossible feats of superhuman strength. Bourne, like Damon and Liman, understands all too well that his survival isn't guaranteed; his limitations define his approach, not vice versa. Moreover, Identity isn't predictable enough to be a tried-and-true genre pic or embellished enough to be an action extravaganza of old. Each character is immersed in familiar emotions, decisions are made in response to genuine fears, and reactions read as spontaneous rather than rehearsed. The result? Contrivances like the film's romantic subplot are rendered believable -- transformed into natural extensions of the situation at hand, not of a screenwriter's key strokes -- and plot holes are plugged with countless boundaries that ground every gunfight and chase scene in some semblance of reality.
For me, The Bourne Identity only disappoints when comparing it to its engrossing sequels. Director Paul Greengrass, Liman's successor, amps up the grit and grizzle of Bourne's world so dramatically, so unconditionally, that the first film's realism actually begins to reek of Hollywood, even if just a bit. Still, I prefer to think of Greengrass' advancement of the series as a refinement of Liman's ideals more than a pair of superior films. His Bourne is more acclimated to the pains of his past while Liman's Bourne is stuck in limbo, reeling from the aftershocks of amnesia. But as an introduction to the character and his precarious world, Identity flourishes, finding fresh ways to approach some stock spy-vs-spy material. Watching Bourne, armed with nothing but a shotgun, cleverly close in on a sniper hidden hundreds of yards away is an absolute thrill; seeing him snag a foe's radio and rip a guide map off an embassy wall inspires awe; smiling as he uses a pen to gain an advantage over a knife-wielding intruder is unavoidable. As it stands, Damon and Liman inject such acumen and awareness into Bourne's every move and expression that it becomes more and more difficult to write the character off as just another action hero. It even becomes easy to forgive the director of a few minor missteps (among them a disjointed, anticlimactic coda).
There are those who declare The Bourne Identity to be their favorite film of the franchise. Not me. Personally, I enjoy Greengrass' sequels much more. That being said, I still find Liman's opening volley to be a riveting, top-notch spy thriller worthy of its place in any fan's collection.
The Bourne Identity Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Bourne Identity barrels onto Blu-ray with a solid 1080p/VC-1 transfer that, several issues notwithstanding, represents a notable upgrade from its standard DVD counterpart. Although the film's palette is largely subdued, there is strength and stability beneath every restrained primary and well-resolved black. Explosions, as uncommon as they are in the Bourne universe, boast brilliant oranges, nighttime Parisian sequences are sumptuous and rich, and reds are remarkable whenever they're framed by the actors' relatively lifelike skintones. Object definition is sharp and satisfying as well (even though scenes draped in shadow are a bit soft) and textures are fairly refined (particularly during closeups). Take note of the tactile underbrush flanking Clive Owen in his sniper perch, the fine hair on Damon and Potente's necks, the minuscule lettering on the passports in Bourne's security deposit box. Significant macroblocking, unintentional noise, aliasing, and crush are nowhere to be found, and ringing and artifacting, though present to some degree, are kept a minimum. Granted, several shots haven't aged so gracefully -- brace yourself anytime Brian Cox walks on screen; his flatly filmed scenes are some of the transfer's most underwhelming -- but they're few and far between.
My biggest complaint is that overall contrast is somewhat lacking. Snow has a smoky tint, brightly lit apartments are quite dreary, cityscapes occasionally waver, and depth and dimensionality take countless hits. That's not to say the film ever looks bad per se, just that some slight tweaking would have allowed the picture to properly pop. Regardless, the Blu-ray edition of The Bourne Identity should please fans and attract newcomers to the franchise. While its transfer isn't as striking as those that accompany its sequels, it nevertheless delivers a competent high definition presentation.
The Bourne Identity Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Universal's video transfer may have inspired a shrug or two, but the studio's rousing DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track had me grinning from beginning to end. Dialogue is clean and intelligible, prioritization is spot on, and gunshots pack some heat of their own. Weighty LFE output lends oomph to every kick-kack, thoom, and roaring engine, and aggressive rear speaker activity encircles the listener with hurried crowds and brisk snow storms. John Powell's score has a palpable pulse as well, driving the film's befuddled amnesiac forward with ever-quickening bass beats and kinetic strings. Directional effects are equally effective, assaulting the listener from all angles and enveloping them in every step of Bourne's confusion plight. Moreover, pans are spy-vs-spy smooth, the soundfield becomes increasingly immersive, and dynamics rarely relent. A handful of conversations, chiefly those that take place between Damon and Potente while driving cross-country, could use some more support, but such mishaps should be attributed to the original mix, not Universal's efforts. Likewise, Liman's sound design isn't as intense as that which Greengrass employs in The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, but that certainly isn't the result of any technical deficiency. Suffice to say, The Bourne Identity sounds fantastic.
The Bourne Identity Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The individual Blu-ray release of The Bourne Identity boasts the same generous supplemental package as its box set counterpart, the only difference being that it's all housed on a dual-sided BD-59 "Flipper" disc (Side A is the equivalent of a traditional BD-50, Side B is a DVD layer that contains a standard definition copy of the film).
The Bourne Identity Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Bourne Identity isn't as thrilling or mesmerizing as its shaky-cam sequels, but it's still a standout spy thriller worthy of the cinematic franchise it begat. Damon channels raw electricity as mainstay Jason Bourne, Liman's restrained action is arresting, and the story itself is compelling and masterfully constructed. Thankfully, Universal's Blu-ray release is a strong one. While some will no doubt bemoan the studio's use of a dual-sided BD-59 "Flipper Disc," the film's high definition video transfer delivers a solid catalog presentation, its DTS-HD Master Audio track is magnificent, and its supplemental package is filled with extensive features. If you didn't already pick up the three-film Bourne-box over the holidays, be sure to take advantage of the individual Bourne releases and their affordable pricetags.
The Bourne Identity: Other Editions
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The Bourne Identity Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Deal of the Day: Bourne Blu-ray Trilogy for $49.99 (Expired) - December 18, 2009
Amazon's Gold Box deal-of-the-day is a special offer on the Blu-ray box set 'The Bourne Trilogy', which only today can be bought on Blu-ray for just $49.99, or 58% off MSRP. The price history for this title shows that the lowest this title has been is $58.99. ...
• Universal Brings back Flipper Combos, now on Blu-ray - December 1, 2009
In an industry first, Universal Studios Home Entertainment announced today the introduction of "groundbreaking" dual-format discs containing both Blu-ray and DVD versions of some of the studio's most iconic films. The new "flipper" discs will launch on January ...
• Bourne Movies Get Separate Blu-ray Releases - November 29, 2009
Universal Studios Home Enterainment has announced that it will release the three movies from the Bourne Trilogy ('The Bourne Identity', 'The Bourne Supremacy' and 'The Bourne Ultimatum') separately on Blu-ray on January 19, 2010. Disc details are expected to be ...
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