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Blu-ray Review: The Bourne Supremacy

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Robert Ludlum's Bourne trilogy has certainly been around the block a few times.  Ludlum's series of novels, published between 1980 and 1990, have all been adapted to film. Due to the success of The Bourne Identity in 2002, the second film, The Bourne Supremacy, was put into production and released in 2004. The result was a film that is almost as fun as the first, but not exactly faithful to Ludlum's original story.

While The Bourne Identity was directed by Doug Liman, Paul Greengrass was tapped to handle The Bourne Supremacy. Greengrass's direction is decidedly grittier, with dark scenes, quick edits, and film grain aplenty. The result is a more visceral experience that stands out from the first in many ways. This vision isn't necessarily better than Liman's. It's just different. Thankfully a cohesive story and fantastic acting by a familiar cast help the project come together in another successful package.

In The Bourne Identity, amnesiac Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) struggled to grasp his past and figure out who he was. To make a long story short, he's a bad-ass assassin who worked for a secret group within the CIA named Treadstone. Something went wrong on a mission, he went missing, and Treadstone wanted him dead. Along the way Bourne met and fell for a girl named Marie (Franka Potente) and together they worked on disappearing off the world's radar, and in order to do that some key people needed to die. I'll leave the details out, but suffice to say the first film left the door open for the sequel.

The Bourne Supremacy begins some time after the end of the first film, with Bourne and Marie settling down in India. It's a quiet life in a rural town next to the water and it's a bit off the beaten path, but it suits the two just fine. Things are starting to look up for the happy couple. Bourne's memory is slowly coming back and for once we see his character actually begin to relax somewhat. All this changes, of course, when an assassin named Kirill (Karl Urban) tracks them to India and gives Bourne reason enough to come out of hiding. From this point the film's pacing slowly escalates as the pieces are all put into place. Someone in Russia is framing Bourne for a job they perpetrated, the CIA digs up old Treadstone files and tries to track our hero down, and things from the past come bubbling up to the surface of Bourne's memory.

The Bourne Supremacy does everything extremely well. The plot keeps you guessing just enough to stay interested and there are several climaxes throughout that continuously raise the bar. There are bits and pieces where the film slows its pacing down to fill in the blanks in terms of story, and it often feels like the movie is trying to catch up to Bourne, but that's all par for the course. You might get the impression that you're being dragged along for a ride, but if you enjoyed Identity you probably were expecting that to some extent.

As a sequel Supremacy carries the torch from Identity quite adeptly with many nods to the original. Some familiar faces return, such as Nicky (Julia Stiles) and Ward (Brian Cox), but this time Bourne interacts with them, so that's a nice twist. The action in the first installment set the bar pretty high and for the most part Supremacy hits similar notes. There's an exhilarating car chase, plenty of hand-to-hand fights, and of course lots of shooting. Fans of the original won't be disappointed, but I can't help feel that this film doesn't quite hit the same levels of intensity. Despite that, this is a solid action piece from start to finish and an absolutely must for those who enjoyed the first Bourne outing.

Now, if you have seen the film and are approaching this latest release, there are a few things you should know. First of all is that Universal's latest Blu-ray release marks the sixth time this film has hit store shelves. Two individual releases were on Standard Definition DVD, there was a trilogy repack, a release on HD-DVD, and last year a Blu-ray trilogy was released. So why release the films again one year later on the same format? Apparently there's a market for Blu-ray/DVD combo packs with high-def on one side and standard on the other.

Bourne Supremacy's latest Blu-ray release receives a transfer that is identical to the trilogy release from last year. The film is presented in 1080p with an original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and comes with VC-1 encoding and hovers around 34 Mbps (the DVD features 480p resolution and similar aspect ratio). Like Identity, Supremacy looks very good and offers a transfer similar to that found on the HD-DVD. That means this release looks very good, but due to Greengrass's gritty style the picture's transfer doesn't look quite as sharp as the original film's.

The Bourne Supremacy's 1080p presentation is still leaps and bounds above the 480p on the flipside; however, it lacks the overall polish enjoyed by Identity. Black levels aren't quite as rich and scenes are much dirtier looking than one would expect. But then again, this is all due to the aforementioned director's style. Aside from these deliberately gritty touches the picture is sharp, the contrast is solid, and all around this is still a very attractive film.

As far as sound is concerned this latest release for Supremacy presents the film with English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 as its main source of output. Options are also available for French and Spanish DTS 5.1 and English Dolby Digital 2.0. The DTS-HD track is simply incredible. The sound hits you from all directions with great force and intelligent uses for every channel. The film comes to life and sucks you in, emphasizing the bombastic score and powerful sound effects to great effect. On the DVD side of the disc the film comes with English, French, and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1. Subtitles are included for English, French, and Spanish as well.

Like the other Bourne Blu-ray titles, Supremacy comes loaded with some familiar bonus features and Blu-ray exclusive content. Basically all this supplemental material has been around before, so if you're coming to this release with another already in your collection, keep that in mind.

What's here? Well, for starters there are five deleted scenes to check out as well as a feature commentary by director Paul Greengrass. After you finish watching the film definitely take the time to check out Greengrass's commentary. It's chock full of information and is quite insightful regarding the production of the movie and some key scenes. "Matching Identities: Casting" (5:23) looks at the cast of the film, "Keeping it Real" (4:58) features a discussion about the differences in style between the Identity and Supremacy, and "Blowing Things Up" (4:00) looks at the house explosion special effect.

"On the Move with Jason Bourne" (4:46) follows the crew around as Bourne moves through the film, "Bourne to Be Wild: Fight Training" (4:21) looks at the fight between two assassins, "Crash Cam: Racing Through the Streets of Moscow" (5:58) examines the awesome car chase in Moscow, and "The Go-Mobile Revs Up the Action" (6:49) follows the driver of the Go-Mobile camera during the action. "Anatomy of a Scene: The Explosive Bridge Chase Scene" (4:41) is another special effects feature, "Scoring with John Powell" (4:46) focuses on the music of the film, and "The Bourne Mastermind" (4:42) and "The Bourne Diagnosis" (5:35) are the second parts from the same features on The Bourne Identity.

The Blu-ray exclusive features included U-Control and BD-Live. The U-Control content is interactive and appears when this option is activated and prompted. Basically there's "Picture in Picture", "Bourne Dossier", and "Bourne Orientation"; all of which are worth turning on for additional views on the picture and information about the characters and film. The BD-Live content is kind of lame with mostly trailers and a card strategy game to waste some time with.

Once again Universal has done one heck of a job with their release of a Bourne film. The Bourne Supremacy Blu-ray/DVD is a great addition to any action fan's collection and a nice improvement over the regular SD DVD that may be sitting on your shelf. The A/V presentation is a big step up, though it's not quite as sharp as Identity was due to the change in directorial style. Still, this is a great looking disc packed with features and comes highly recommended if you don't already own the trilogy on Blu-ray.

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