The Bourne Ultimatum is the third and possibly final chapter in the spy saga and was also, interestingly, the most financially successful of the three. No doubt strong DVD sales of the first two films pushed audience expectations and created a blockbuster. It is also one of the strongest selling HD-DVDs in the history of the format, even reportedly outselling the third Spider Man film on Blu-ray. Not surprisingly, it is also one of the more impressive HD-DVD offerings, it being a spy film, the advanced capabilities are perfectly suited for this type of movie. It is directed by Paul Greengrass ("United 93", "The Bourne Supremacy"), and it is possibly the best of the three, and that says a lot considering I thought the first two were simply excellent.
If you have a chance to catch up on the previous two (assuming you have watched them previously), or at least skim through them, I would highly suggest doing so, because the plot can get a little involved with itself at times. If you haven't seen the other two, you simply must watch them, or you'll be missing out on the big picture, literally. In any case this film picks up where the second one leaves off.
The film starts off with Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) injured in Moscow and still running from the police. He has a gunshot wound in his shoulder and limps into a pharmacy for some painkillers. He has the first of many disturbing flashbacks about his mysterious past and how he came to be such a dangerously talented fighting machine in the first place. The officers eventually find him but he escapes without using lethal force, but leaves the two officers probably wondering what hit them. Bourne has escaped.
In Italy, a reporter named Simon Ross (Paddy Consadine) is getting closer to a story he doesn't know is the most dangerous of his life. He meets with an extremely nervous CIA agent who reveals a super secret project called 'Blackbriar'. Ross finds out one very important name involved in this complex puzzle, and the name is Jason Bourne. The project itself is so closely guarded that even the very mention of the word on his cell phone triggers the attention of the CIA Headquarters in Langley Virginia, they are monitoring all cell phone use for specific trigger words and this is one of them. CIA director Ezra Kramer (Scott Glenn) is particularly interested in leading the case, along with Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) and Noah Vosen (David Strathairn). The mysterious project known as 'Blackbriar' has the potential to expose some very deep and dark secrets, and Kramer will stop at nothing from keeping it hidden, for reasons best left unrevealed. The CIA starts aggressively monitoring Ross in London.
On a train to London, Bourne reads the story written by Ross. It reveals everything about Jason Bourne, including the mystery surrounding his ex-girlfriend's death and the presence of the super secret Blackbriar. After contacting Ross, we have an extremely well paced and suspenseful scene where Bourne is leading Ross with a disposable phone, trying to keep him alive, it proves how Bourne is one step ahead of his predators, but eventually Ross is assassinated. In the panic of the crowd however, Bourne manages to retrieve some of Ross' notes and they lead him to Spain, where he steals some files and meets up with Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), who has a strange compulsion (along with every other female character in the film series) to help Bourne find out the truth about his identity and his past.
From here the film is just a mile-a-minute action spectacle. There are car chases, explosions, and gunfights all taking place in some very beautiful and remote locations all across the globe, including Tangiers and New York. And the fighting scenes are a real rush of adrenaline. One of the biggest thrills of the whole film series is it's international flavor, and let me tell you, these exotic locations look great in high definition. "The Bourne Ultimatum" is a fitting end to a series that proves that action movies can also be intelligent and even brilliant at times, it deserves all of its rave reviews and is one of the best films of last year. If you have a chance, watch the whole series in sequence on HD-DVD, you'll be happy you did.
The video presentation, unsurprisingly, is simply breathtaking and dead on. The muted colors come across vividly, and the very fast paced action scenes come across with a level of detail that adds new depth and intensity to the action before us. Filmed in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, the image is just as good as the previous two installments. Yes, the film is intentionally grainy and stylized in a certain way by the filmmaker and certainly isn't the crystal clear image you may think you expect, but it looks simply amazing and the entire series has a certain visual style that comes across in high definition perfectly. This film you simply must experience in high definition, it's the only way to see it as it was intended.
In the sound department we have a Dolby Digital TrueHD track that fills the room with the kind of explosive bullets zipping across and behind the room you may have come to expect from action films in high def, and yet this track also clearly brings out the best in the techno soundtrack and the dialogue, which is extremely important in a complex thriller such as this, is always easy to understand. This is a movie that will really give that subwoofer a serious workout. But we also have a whole world of subtle surround effects from the CIA Headquarters, the sounds of computer bleeps and fax machines in the background perfectly complimenting the action up front, this is a standout track, and the music sounds great too. In fact, the main theme by Moby is actually quite catchy, and you will become quite familiar with it since it plays during the menu.
If you are a fan of special features you have come to the right place, as well. This disc (which is a combo format release so it also has a DVD side) is loaded with features in high definition and standard definition. First up, Universal provides us with some 'U-Control' features which include a 'Picture In Picture' style feature that is quite informative and features cast and crew talk about select scenes, along with behind the scenes footage and other surprises. 'Be Bourne Game' is a feature where it shows you a select scene then quizzes your memory skills and you can compare your score with others via the online capabilities of the player. Pretty useless, but a mildly entertaining diversion. 'Blackbriar Files' is pretty cool and offers a digital graphic montage and text based presentation of some of the weapons and spy toys and other things presented in the film. We also have the 'My Scenes' feature which allows you to bookmark your favorites and even send them to other people via the internet, but I still have yet to find a need for this feature, although it sounds cool.
My favorite featurette, 'Man On The Move: Jason Bourne' is in high definition. What I like the most about it, because it's your basic interviews with cast members, is that it is split up between all of the different locations across the globe, and I find that fascinating.
'Planning The Punches', 'Rooftop Pursuit' and 'New York Chase' are also in high definition and combined run about 23 minutes and each one takes apart some of the amazing stunts and action sequences featured in the film.
The deleted scenes are all in standard definition are interesting but you can see why they were cut. There is also a commentary with Paul Greengrass, a wonderful and insightful track where we learn how difficult making a film like this can actually be. A good listen.
'The Bourne Ultimatum' is an excellent HD-DVD that perfectly compliments the other two and really packs a punch, Universal went all the way with this one, but I can't help thinking there will be a boxset in the future; on this format or another, perhaps. The picture and sound are as good as it gets and the special features are thought provoking and genuinely interesting, certainly a very well put together package, one I highly recommend.