The Bourne Supremacy

The Bourne Supremacy (2005)
Universal Home Video
Cast: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Brian Cox, Joan Allen, Karl Urban
Extras: Commentary Track, Instant Acces Feature, Deleted Scenes, Featurettes

Following the success of "The Bourne Identity" and eager to build a bankable franchise, Universal Pictures has adapted another one of Robert Lludlum's acclaimed super spy novels, "The Bourne Supremacy." After a successful DVD release, the film has now also been launched on the HD-DVD format and I was eager to find out how the film translated to the high definition format, especially since the disc also contains a feature that is new and has been exclusively developed for the HD-DVD release.

Picking up where "The Bourne Identity" ended, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) and his girlfriend Marie (Franka Potente) have escaped to India where they live a life, away from the eyes of the public and the FBI. And yet, an assassin finds them and destroys their idyll, and once again Jason finds himself on the run despite his best efforts to keep out of the game.

Pamela Landy (Joan Allen), the new head of the department Bourne used to work for, is convinced that Jason Bourne is a risk to the agency. She is determined to not only find out what happened previously and how his mission could have gone so awry, but also to put an end to him before the situation could potentially escalate yet again. With the FBI on his heels he now needs to revert to what he knows best. His cunning and his ability to infiltrate and kill if need be, and so the story unfolds as Jason Bourne tries once again to discover his past, only so he can put an end to it and find closure. If only they would let him…

Matt Damon is a great cast choice for Jason Bourne. The actor manages to bring his dynamic personality to the part and makes him an always agitated young man who nevertheless never loses his cool and has some wicked surprises inside himself that he didn't even know he had. Joan Allen was also a great choice for the new nemesis to appear in the film. While not quite a Chris Cooper, she has qualities that make her a great adversary.

Despite its great cast and the phenomenal globetrotting backdrops of the movie, the film is not without its flaws and it is not nearly as good as "The Bourne Identity." For some reason things feel a little forced here. The plot doesn't flow as nicely as in the first film, the character dynamics aren't quite as great and the plot – while not truly repetitive – lacks a certain sense of innovation, as we witness Jason Bourne run from his past over and over and over again.

The transfer of the movie that Universal is dishing out here on this DVD is quite remarkable. Razor sharp and with plenty of detail, it is a pleasure to see the movie as it races across the globe, filling your screen with some great, highly detailed shots from around the world. Coming from a quality source and a clean print, the image is stable at all times and offers up good definition. Occasionally the transfer has trouble holding the level of detail in some of the furious scenes with a lot of camera movement, but given their nature it is not distracting or overly noticeable. Black levels are very deep and solid and combined with the vivid color reproduction it makes for an enjoyable presentation that is a good notch above what you see on DVD.

The audio on the release is coming as 5.1 channel Dolby Digital Plus tracks that are extremely aggressive and active. Making constant use of the surround channels, the increased bitrate helps maintain clarity and also makes sure the spatial integration remains fully intact at all time, allowing you to perfectly pinpoint sound sources in the mix.

The disc contains the same commentary track by director Paul Greengrass that was previously included on the DVD version of the film. It is an interesting track filled with good information about the movie's production and certainly worth checking out.

This brings us to the exclusive extra on this release, called "Bourne Instant Access – presented by Toshiba." It feels a bit weird to have a "presented by" byline for a bonus material, but since Toshiba probably paid the bill for this supplement to generate more interest in the format, I'll overlook this blatant advertising for the time being. It is a second video stream that plays in a small window in the right hand corner of your screen. The idea is to provide commentary-like background information on the film as you watch it. Only, it doesn't work. The experience is nerve-wreckingly disruptive and gets annoying after a few minutes. The reason for that is that it is by no means scene specific and has been edited together from what appear to be a million unrelated interviews and soundbytes. The result is a completely incoherent and inconsistent flood of information and images that simply don't go well with the movie. I understand the purpose of such a feature and the intent to showcase HD-DVD's ability to run two video streams and show how cool this can be handled, but frankly, in this case at least, it felt completely superficial and pointless. Once someone designs such a feature from the beginning and maintains a level of consistency throughout, it may work, but for the most part I fail to see any real application for such picture-in-picture presentations other than gimmicks and maybe a comparative view of video streams.

The other extras found on the disc are a selection of features previously found on "The Bourne Supremacy" DVD as well as "The Bourne Identity" Special Edition. It starts out with a selection of deleted scenes, followed by a variety of featurettes. In fact, there are so many featurettes here that the Special Features menu covers the entire screen. While HD-DVD's ability to have on-the-fly menus, this is clearly going overboard and the menu should have been structured into submenus for better access. Among the featurettes are looks at the casting of the film, the pyrotechnic special effects, the fight training, a closer look at the car stunts, and many others. Overall it is a good mix of additional content, though each of them is a bit brief and not very exhaustive.

"The Bourne Supremacy" is an enjoyable and explosive film. Not quite as good as the first one, but still a cool and furious spy thriller that offers action galore as well as great locations and a top notch production design. This HD-DVD version has its upsides as well as its shortcomings but overall, it certainly is a solid release.