Just in time for the theatrical release of the sequel, Universal has re-released "The Bourne Identity" as what they call and Extended Edition. Mimicking even the look of the theatrical posters of the sequel one can’t help but wonder if Universal has deliberately set out to mislead DVD owners with this release however, as the release hardly offers what I promises.
The promised extended version of the film is not really that. It is the regular theatrical cut of the movie with the option to switch to an alternate beginning and ending of the film – the latter of which had already been included on the previous DVD release of the film. This however has been implemented so clumsily, requiring viewers to manually switch to these additional clips using their remote control, that it is not at all the seamless extension of the film that viewers would expect. The quality of these extended sequences is also sub-par, making it very clear to me that Universal just slapped this together really quickly to create a new key selling point.
"The Bourne Identity" is a stunning thriller of a man trying to find his own identity after he’s been fished out of the water, unconscious and amnesic, in front of the French coast. As he tries to unravel his past he finds that a lot of people seem to want him dead, as everywhere he goes, quickly someone with a gun shows up, pointing it right at him. For some reason however, he is always capable of handling the situations, and piece by piece he puts together his past… a past he’d rather forget.
Based on a novel by Robert Ludlum, "The Bourne Identity" is truly a magnetic thriller that has been put together extremely well. With Matt Damon in the lead, wonderfully supported by Franka Potente, the film has a central character that is strong, yet vulnerable, helpless at times, yet somehow always capable, and most of all, always interesting to watch. The movie’s cinematography and the European backdrops add immensely to the film’s quality and as a whole, we have a rock-solid who-am-I? thriller here that leaves little to be desired. It has action, romance, emotions, chases, explosions, intrigue, double-crossing spies, assassins and a furious pace.
The DVD offers up a good presentation of the movie in its original widescreen aspect ratio in a transfer that is enhanced for 16x9 TV sets. The image is absolutely clear and clean without any blemishes. The transfer is a bit dark at times, and though mostly deliberate, I had the impression that some of the shots were in fact a tad too dark.
Black levels are solid creating solid blacks that are balanced by solid highlights that never bleed. Color reproduction is absolutely perfect, nicely reproducing the film’s rich color palette without problems. Skin tones are always natural and faithfully rendered. No edge-enhancement is evident in the transfer and the compression has also been handled quite well.
The audio on the DVD comes as an explosive 5.1 channel Dolby Digital mix in English, French and Spanish. The audio is very aggressive, making very good use of the format’s capabilities by constantly using the split surround channels to create ambient effects, to enhance effects and give them spatial placement and to render a sound stage that is incredibly wide at times. The frequency response is wide with solid, deep basses and clean high ends.
Dialogues are properly integrated and are never drowned out by the sound effects or the film’s wonderful music.
The DVD once again contains a selection of deleted scenes and the "extended" beginning and opening scenes are also accessible separately from the DVD’s Bonus Materials menu.
A 5-minute featurette sheds some more light on Robert Ludlum, the creator of the Bourne character and other thriller novels. Featuring interviews with his editor, a close friend and some archive interview footage they manage to shed a bit of additional light on the late writer.
A 4-minute interview featurette with screenwriter Tony Gilroy is also included, as he talks about the Bourne trilogy of novels and his approach to take them to the big screen.
Then there’s a 3-minute interview segment with Matt Damon and Franka Potente as they talk about their characters in the film. Another 3-minute interview clip with a psychiatrist covers aspects of amnesia while "Covert Ops" tries to cover the world of special agents and the CIA in under 5-minutes.
Using the car chase scene in the film, "The Speed Of Sound" discuss how the sound track of a movie is created and how some particular effects have been created. In an interactive segment viewers can then do their own mix of the scene as Universal provides multiple sound elements to for free-mixing. I found it tricky to navigate though and was particularly unable to return to the main menu.
"Inside A Fight Sequence" takes a look at some of the stunts in the film by providing behind-the-scenes footage of the preparation for the embassy fight sequence. A music video, production notes and biographies round out the release.
While the DVD is a bit of a disappointment with the misleading extended edition label and some of the shallow promotional extras, the bottom line remains that "The Bourne Identity" is a killer movie. If you don’t own it yet, you have to get this DVD. For owners of the previous release my recommendation would be to keep it as the new version does not even contain the commentary track from the original release and offers barely anything new of value, and if you’re really interested in the new features, you can always rent a copy to check them out.