January 21, 2010

The Bourne Supremacy

2002 saw the big screen debut of Robert Ludlum's now unforgettable character Jason Bourne, as portrayed by Matt Damon. We were introduced to his quest for identity. The man was an experiment gone wrong for a super-secret sect of the CIA. An invisible assassin without a past, a questionable future, and a desire to be left alone. 2004 saw the return of the amnesiac spy in The Bourne Supremacy, a film that saw the action heat up and Bourne's involvement in deciding his own future become a bit more proactive.

The Bourne Supremacy picks up a couple of years after Identity (duh). If you have not seen the first film, I recommend you go and check that out before continuing here as there are some minor spoilery type stuff relating to the first film. Of course, you have probably already seen it by now rendering this point all but moot. In any case, do not say I didn't warn you.

As The Bourne Identity concluded, Jason was able to, at least temporarily, get the government off of his back. He reunited with Marie (Franke Potente) and the couple are working on building a new life in, I believe, India. Things are looking a little better for him. He is not constantly on the run, he has somewhat come to grips with being Jason Bourne. However, there is still a void inside the man. A void filled by nightmares giving him a flash of his past that he cannot quite grasp.

The world of espionage, murder, and cover-ups comes crashing in on our hero when he is framed for an assassination in Berlin. This brings the CIA and their black ops gang back onto Bourne's radar. This leads to a sequence that hits like a punch to the gut. When it happens there is no amount of money that could get me to side with those going after Bourne. If he was dangerous before, he is much more dangerous now. He is much more focused and in control of his abilities and skills.

The bulk of the film sees a CIA group, led by Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) and Ward Abbott (the returning Brian Cox), trying to capture Bourne and learn the secret of what happened in Berlin. At the same time, Bourne is being hunted by an assassin named Kirill (Karl Urban).

The entire exercise is as exciting as it gets. Where the first film showed a man coming to grips with who he is without knowing who he was, this sequel gives us a man simultaneously intent on discovering more about himself, but also a man taking the fight to his enemy.

The sequel is as thrilling as the first film. The screenplay by Tony Gilroy (based on Robert Ludlum's novel) contains a level of intelligence that keeps you involved, guessing what is going to happen, what will be revealed around the next corner. Of course, it is not all about intelligence, it is about the action. Just like the first film, there is a veritable ton of action crammed into its run time. Fist fights, shoot outs, car chases, they are all here and they are utterly captivating. You will be hard pressed to look away from the screen for a moment.

Matt Damon turns in another fine performance. It is great watching an actor take on an action role who can truly act. At any given moment you can see any number of emotions. Damon makes Bourne a person, and a rather interesting one at that. What also helps is the supporting cast that surrounds him. Joan Allen, in particular, adds a lot to the film. She is a complex character who is determined to achieve her goal and while not really being a bad guy, despite filling that role. Add in the likes of Brian Cox, Karl Urban, and Julia Stiles and you have an interesting line up.

Director Paul Greengrass steps into the director's chair, replacing Doug Liman (who acts as producer this time around). Greengrass is an interesting film maker and he takes Liman's handheld work to the next level. The camera is in constant motion, many don't care for it, but I like it. Their is a high level of kinetic energy flowing throughout, highlighted by this camerawork that takes you right into the action, it has a very intimate feel.

Audio/Video. This disk is a "flipper," part of Universal's first wave of such titles. It is a technology that Universal first used when they were supporting the HD-DVD format where they would put the HD-DVD on one side and DVD on the other. In this case the flip side is Blu-ray. It is intriguing technology although I am not sure it offers any advantages over including two separate disks. Perhaps it is in the production, reducing the carbon footprint by making a single disk instead of two.

The DVD side looks quite good. Now, it is not Blu-ray quality, but the film is solid. The colors are solid, if a bit washed out, not quite to the level of the first film, but close. It is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. It looks just like the original DVD that I remember.

The Blu-ray side looks quite good. No, not the best I have seen, but the detail upgrade is distinctly noticeable over the DVD side. The washed out colors are still there, only sharper and more defined. There is film grain evident, but it is minimal and gives a good impression that you are watching film and not a digitally cleaned up copy. Just watch the fight sequences and car chase, everything is crystal clear with good detail even in darker moments. The same can be said of the DTS-HD 5.1 sound, the dialogue is always clear, but watch everything spring to life during the car chase sequence. It sounded like the cars were right there beside me. Very nice.

Extras. This disk has a host of bonus material to wade through. Most of the extras appear on both sides of the disk
  • Commentary. The track is Paul Greengrass by himself. He is not the most engaging of personalities, but he does offer some nice information about the production.
  • Explosive Deleted Scenes. A series of cut moments. There is nothing particularly special here, but they are always interesting in checking out.
  • Matching Identities: Casting. This takes a look at, you guessed it, the cast!
  • Keeping it Real. This takes a look at how they came up with their desire to deliver something different and something real.
  • Blowing Things Up. They had fun blowing up a house without the use of computers. They also discuss the ratcheting used in getting people to fly through the air.
  • On the Movie with Jason Bourne. Think of this as the travelogue portion of your journey.
  • Bourne to be Wild: Fight Training. This focuses on the major fist fight in the film and he work that went into developing it.
  • Crash Cam: Racing Through the Streets of Moscow. Move from the fist fight to the car chase, which seeks to up the ante from the one in Identity. Did they do it? Perhaps.
  • The Go-Mobile Revs Up the Action. This is cool, it is the car/camera rig used to get you inside the car with Bourne. Interesting rig.
  • Anatomy of a Scene: The Explosive Bridge Chase Scene. Another look inside an action sequence.
  • Scoring with John Powell. John Powell did nice work on this series. I really like the music across the films.
  • U-Control (Blu-ray side only). This gives you access to some in-movie extras like the Bourne Dossier, and Bourne Orientation which offer more background on the film.

Bottomline. This movie stands right up there with the first film. It is tense, dramatic, thrilling, action packed, and centers on a memorable character. It is nice to see it make its way to Blu-ray, now we can see what the HD-DVD fans have been able to see. This is a movie, and a series, you should add to your collection.

Highly Recommended.

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