Release Date(s)2002 (December 6, 2016)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: B-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: A-
Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is a man with no past, at least not one that he can remember. Shot and pulled out of the Mediterranean by a fishing boat, all he has to recovery his identity is a number, pulled from a tiny device implanted under his skin, for a bank account in Zurich. This leads him to a safe deposit box containing a gun, lots of money, and passports, all with his face but under different names. Almost immediately, his having accessed the account sets in motion a series of dramatic events; for reasons unknown, the CIA is trying to kill him. Now, the only person he can trust is a down on her luck German girl (Franka Potente, Run Lola Run), who he’s just met and paid $10,000 to drive him to Paris.
Based on a series of popular spy novels by Robert Ludlum, The Bourne Identity works well for a couple of reasons. First, the story and characters are grungy, not flashy like those of a Bond film, nor are they over the top like Mission: Impossible. Bourne is a blue-collar spy for the post-9/11 world, and Matt Damon is perfectly cast to make the character easy to identify with. The direction here is also good, solid, workman-like, and efficient, with great action staging and fight choreography. The electronic soundtrack, by John Powell with Moby and Paul Oakenfold, is pretty good too. Indeed, this film and its sequels became so popular, they influenced the Bond franchise (when it finally parted ways with Pierce Brosnan) to move in a similar direction.
The Bourne Identity was shot on film in Super 35 format and Universal presents it on Ultra HD at the original 2.39:1 theatrical aspect ratio and with a restrained HDR color timing pass. Overall clarity and detailing are quite good, with modest granularity, about what you’d expect from an existing catalog master (probably not a brand new scan, as there’s a bit of edge enhancement visible). Blacks are deep, with modest detail. Highlights are bright but not overwhelmingly so. Colors are rich and accurate, though, as most of this film takes place in the winter, the color tones tend toward the cool – blues, grays, greens, and browns. This is nowhere near the kind of stunner image-wise that something shot more recently in native 4K digital might be, but given the film’s vintage and the fact that it was shot on Super 35 (which has a which has a theoretical maximum resolution of 3.2-3.5K under the very best of conditions, completely setting aside questions of lens choices, lighting, and photochemical processing), it’s hard to imagine The Bourne Identity looking much better. This is certainly an improvement on the existing Blu-ray master, which (it’s worth noting) was always considered somewhat underwhelming itself. Primary audio is available in an English DTS:X mix that’s 7.1 DTS-HD MA compatible. Clarity is excellent, with a wide front soundstage, precise staging and surround play, and a solid foundation of LFE. The mix is aggressive but not flashy and the height channels are used largely to extend the soundstage vertically, especially during the car chase and fight sequences, creating a bit of greater immersion. The disc also includes a 2.0 English DTS:X Headphone mix, as well as French and Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD MA. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French, and Spanish (my player indicates that there are two additional subtitle tracks in French and Spanish, but they don’t seem to contain anything – possibly they’re just an authoring orphan).
The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc includes the original audio commentary by director Doug Liman in 2.0 Dolby Digital. The package also includes a standard Blu-ray Disc with the film in 1080p HD (it appears to be identical to the previous Blu-ray release and is probably just a repressing), the same commentary, and the following extras (most in the original SD from their previous appearance on DVD):
- U-Control: Treadstone Files
- U-Control: Bourne Orientation
- U-Control: Picture in Picture
- The Ludlum Identity (12:49)
- The Ludlum Supremacy (12:41)
- The Ludlum Ultimatum (23:57)
- Alternate Opening and Alternate Ending (10:46)
- Deleted Scenes (4 scenes – 6:58 in all)
- Extended Farmhouse Scene (:58)
- The Birth of the Bourne Identity (14:32)
- The Bourne Mastermind: Robert Ludlum (5:44)
- Access Granted: An Interview with Co-Writer Tony Gilroy (4:03)
- From Identity to Supremacy: Jason & Marie (3:37)
- The Bourne Diagnosis (3:26)
- Cloak and Dagger: Covert Ops (5:31)
- Inside a Fight Sequence (4:43)
- Moby’s Extreme Ways music video (3:39)
The Bourne Identity is a very good example of the spy/action genre and it’s never looked and sounded better than it does here in 4K (though format enthusiasts would do well to keep their expectations in check a bit). The film and all its sequels are available separately on the format, or there’s a Bourne: The Ultimate Collection 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray box set that’s exclusive to Best Buy. It contains The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy (2004), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), The Bourne Legacy (2012), and Jason Bourne (2016), plus a Blu-ray bonus disc (which carries over the previous Best Buy-exclusive bonus features for Ultimatum and Legacy). Whichever option you choose, if you’re a fan of this film, the 4K release is a solid upgrade.
- Bill Hunt