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Bourne: The Ultimate Collection - 4K Blu-ray Review

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The Bourne series is currently five films in (as of the writing of this article) and had definitively made its mark in the action/spy genre. In a perfect storm of confluences, it hit its mark with an audience desperate to break with convention and be given something unseen in the marketplace at that time. It has the distinction of changing the course of long the established Bond franchise (which they answered masterfully with Daniel Craig). It is a franchise that continues to favor quality over quantity. Let’s get to exploring the world of Jason Bourne in 4K.

The Bourne Identity

 The Bourne Identity (2002)

It’s hard to believe that Bourne was not on Hollywood’s radar. Robert Ludlum’s spy novels had often sat on the New York Bestseller list and the author had been given considerable exposure in the decades preceding the early 21st Century. There had been an unremarkable TV adaptation of The Bourne Identity starring Richard Chamberlain in the 80s, but Jason Bourne had never reached the memories of the general movie going audience.

"a top notch adaption, ... the pacing, the layers, the tension: it’s all masterfully constructed"


Fortunately, Swingers director Doug Liman had made it his passion project to adapt it for film, spending two years and going as far as to spend time with Ludlum himself to secure the rights to make it. After going to half the action stars at the top of their game, and even Brad Pitt, it was relative newcomer Matt Damon who would sign on to play the amnesiac assassin.

Found floating in the middle of the ocean, a young man is rescued by fisherman and taken to shore. With only a small device, found inserted under his skin, he wanders about aimlessly until that item starts him on a dangerous path to discovering who is and where he came from. He, and a hapless German girl Marie (Franke Potente) he innocently involved, are forced to run for the lives when it becomes known who he is and who is after them.

This film came hot off the heels of a bit of lull in the action genre. Bruckheimer was almost the sole high profile output of action flicks in the years preceding Bourne. Even Bond was starting to feel tired, and would crash and burn with irrelevancy with Die Another Day. This was a breath of fresh air. The story was succinct, kinetic; it had relatable emotions, impressive visceral action, and impeccable performances from the entire cast. Damon, not known for physical roles really before this, proved to break any preconceptions by training hard to perform many of his own fights and stunts. You completely buy him as a highly trained government weapon. The opportunism in Bourne’s fighting and fleeing is something that had never been seen before and thrilled from start to finish.

This was a top notch adaption, written by Tony Gilroy (who would go on to contribute to all the Bournes, save the last one) and William Blake Herron. The pacing, the layers, the tension: it’s all masterfully constructed.

Liman’s direction is understated and has none of the (love it or hate it) shaky-cam style that would come to define the series is present in this one.

This was not a mega hit, but still made back four times its budget, shook the cobwebs from EON productions, when it came to James Bond, and ensured that further Ludlum Bourne books would again feature Matt Damon on the big screen.

5/5 stars


The Bourne SupremacyTHE BOURNE SUPREMACY (2004)

‘I swear to God, if I so much as feel someone behind me; there is no measure to how fast and how hard I will bring this fight to your doorstep.’ – Jason Bourne from The Bourne Identity.

There was never an intention of making any Bourne sequels following the original. Box office was good, but hardly something to say a sequel was a must. But the above quoted line, and Hollywood commercialism would prevail. That’s sounds snarky in print, but this reviewer is beyond thankful they continued. Liman was out, serving in the token credit as a producer. Instead Paul Greengrass would helm what would be the next three Matt Damon led sequels, and imprint his unique and divisive style to the Bourne franchise.

"Supremacy makes good on Jason threat, with rapid-fire and dizzying violence steeped into a complex and compelling espionage plot."


Tony Gilroy would take up scripting duties once again, but would not stick in any way to the Ludlum novel of the same name, sharing only the title in similarity.

This time out, Jason Bourne and Marie are living out their lives together in Goa, India in relative obscurity. But there are dodgy dealings afoot back in the life Jason abandoned, with the real mastermind behind Treadstone, Abbott (the always brilliant Brian Cox) trying to covering his tracks and filling up body bags in the process. Jason Bourne’s prints are planted and he is framed for a crime he didn’t commit. When an assassin is deployed to take Jason out, Marie is killed, and Jason is forced to reenter the arena of killers and secrets. Ironically, one of his best chances at an ally is Pamela Landy (Joan Allen), of the CIA.

Damon was adamant that IF there was ever going to be sequel, it would have to match or exceed the quality of the first one. With Greengrass at the helm and Gilroy on the keyboard, the cast delivered a tour de force sequel that succeeded Damon’s edict definitively.

Supremacy makes good on Jason threat, with rapid-fire and dizzying violence steeped into a complex and compelling espionage plot. There is character development and progression for the once amnesiac, and the other supporting characters. And some real actor chews dialogue moments throughout. If Identity showed Bond it was time to get relevant; Supremacy showed them how to do a continuing plot well. It’s intelligent, relatable and inventive.

Again, this picture performed adequately enough, taking nearly 300 million on the 75 million dollar budget. But there was an increasing familiarity with the character of Jason Bourne that would promise the audience wanted another. Bond would resoundingly adjust to his arrival in 2006’s Casino Royale (and financially speaking trounce Bourne) but now Bourne was being referred to in the same league, and deservedly so.

5/5 stars

 


The Bourne Ultimatum

THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM (2007)

By the time the third film went into production, the Bourne series had established itself as an anticipated franchise. Its’ box office would reflect this. As seemingly the final chapter in the saga (mistakenly assumed by audiences and key players in the franchise alike), people came out in droves to the tune of nearly 450 million dollars.

"delivers emotion, thrills and apprehension in impressive balance"


Picking up immediately in the throw of Supremacy’s finale, Ultimatum sees Bourne fleeing to heal from his injuries and to take a personal journey to let Marie’s brother know what happened to her. Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) divulges her intelligence on Treadstone/Blackbriar and Bourne to her boss. Separately, the secrets are being leaked to a journalist (Paddy Consadine), and when he starts investigating, draws the wrath of these dangerous men and puts a target on his back. Bourne, still getting flashbacks, and trying to regain all his memories, is drawn back in to serve his own preservation and to try and protect the journalist, Landy, and Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) in way over their head.

Greengrass returns to direct this literal continuation. Three years might have passed between productions, but narratively no time has passed at all. This film ups the ante on Greengrass’s penchant for shaky cam, but there are truly spectacular sequences in the film that briefly (and frustratingly for me) artfully and cohesively steady the camera and show off just how impressive these performers are. It’s a subjective choice, his directing style, that does fit the narrative, but less would have been more for my taste.

The action continues its impressive inventiveness. Not settling just for car chases and punch ups in a room, we see set-pieces that truly drop the jaw. Damon again gives his all and convinces he is the one pulling this stuff off (even if he didn’t do all of it, he did do most it).

This tale makes for a rarity: a trilogy of films that never dips in quality. Damon—like any actor out there—claimed the only motivation to continue was to deliver something as good, or better. Unlike most series out there, Bourne accomplished it. With the likes of Stiles (in an expanded role) and Allen returning, and the addition of Albert Finney (R.I.P.) and David Strathairn, this is tour de force wrap up of Bourne’s original narrative. It delivers emotion, thrills and apprehension in impressive balance. It was a perfectly satisfying end, but of course its box office would motivate a continuation.

5/5 stars

 


The Bourne legacy

THE BOURNE LEGACY (2012)

Ultimatum’s box office almost guaranteed that Universal would want another entry. But Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass had ended their story beautifully and were looking forward, away from the Bourne series. Amazingly, the studio didn’t rush. It would be 5 years between entries this time, and what was offered, unfortunately, wasn’t wanted.

Although Bourne gave Bond the kick in the relevancy pants they needed, the amnesiac assassin was not the infamous British Spy. There was no desire to see Damon replaced as the lead, much the same way there was no desire to see Connery replaced back in the day. Unlike Bond, however, Legacy would prove this attempt to be a misstep.

"No matter how clever this off branch is—and it is—and no matter how many awesome actors they got to drive this narrative, it is an unnecessary addition, and doesn’t add anything"


Tony Gilroy, writer on all the previous Bourne films would take the director’s chair this time. His off the cuff remarks about how to proceed without Jason Bourne ended up earning him the gig. To him, this new entry would have to run concurrently with the existing franchise, be born (pardon the pun) from the events the other three entries, and add something new.

Jeremy Renner’s career was going from strength to strength. He had risen in popularity after his amazing turn in The Town, he was now an Avenger; he even was being touted as the heir apparent to Tom Cruise for Mission Impossible. He would be the new central character: Aaron Cross.

Legacy runs parallel with The Bourne Ultimatum. Aaron Cross is part of an off branch of Blackbriar called Operation: Outrun that involves genetically enhancing operatives. While deep in the snow on a training mission, Aaron Cross is given these ‘Meds’ as they call them, and he is now part of this dodgy government program. In the fall out of Jason Bourne’s action from Ultimatum, those being exposed, including new bad guy Eric Byer (Edward Norton), do what bad guys do and try covering their tracks by eliminating all involved. Cross must go on the lam, and seek more ‘Meds’ before his initial dose has adverse effects on him.

Let’s get this out of the way. No matter how clever this off branch is—and it is—and no matter how many awesome actors they got to drive this narrative, it is an unnecessary addition, and doesn’t add anything worth all their fine efforts.

Action isn’t as memorable as Damon’s entries, despite the globe-trotting, at times thrilling set-pieces. The new leading guy’s character is just less, and the bad guys even less than him.

Having said that, Renner is a great leading man who both embodies the off-kilter aspects of Damon’s Bourne type, and brings some nuance of his own. Everyone from Edward Norton to Rachel Weiss and returners Joan Allen and David Strathairn elevate this film far more than it deserves. If you are going to make a redundant film this is the way to do it.

3/5 stars

 


Jason Bourne

JASON BOURNE (2016) - from theatrical review

The world is chock full of franchises in this day and age. We have seen the sequel proliferate to the point that it is THE business practice of every studio in Hollywood—it’s their bread and butter. Films are created these days specifically in the hope that they will spawn more than a single cash grab at the box office. And we all flock to them, and they make the studios the kind of profits that propel this business model ever-forward. There are so many franchises in every genre, whether science fiction, comedy, horror or action, whatever your lean, you will have your favorite. But if one stops for a minute, honestly, how many of those sequels are ultimately worthy storytelling, like REALLY up the ante, and add something of value to repeated visits to whatever world is being sequelised? Star Wars? Not for me. Alien? No. Rambo, Lethal Weapon, Fast and the Furious? Afraid not. For this reviewer it’s a very small number that represents a series of films that never dip in quality. Is the Bourne series one of them?

"The action quota/carnage is high, the Greengrass shaky-cam is ever-present but tempered a little in this one, and support players are all first-rate"


It’s been 9 years since Jason Bourne discovered who he was, and our favorite amnesiac assassin went swimming off the grid at the end of The Bourne Ultimatum. Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass (not forgetting Identity’s director Doug Liman) left behind a trilogy of films that never dipped in quality. There was a continuous narrative throughout the sequels that acted as cohesive pieces to a grand and thrilling puzzle. And they announced, despite studio business practices, that it was there they wished to stop; that the idea had played itself out and anything further would be doing it for the sake of money. They chose to leave a good thing alone and move on to other things.

But, of course, the studio would persevere with Tony Gilmore helming a segue way starring Jeremy Renner, and that was a decent action film that complimented what had come before, but ultimately placed the Bourne series with a lot of other franchises. It went for the cash grab. And make no mistake, despite the talents of Renner and Gilroy, The Bourne Legacy was a cash grab (but what film isn’t?)

When the multitudes of announcements and re-announcements had finished about what was next for the Bourne franchise, Greengrass and Damon had come up with what they viewed to be a relevant and worthy new script. They have come back to do what they do best. And Jason Bourne is back.

He’s been living off the grid, still a poster boy for loneliness and post-traumatic stress, essentially punishing himself in a life of aimless violence. Former field agent, Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) has become a hacker and a government malcontent has hacked all their dirty secrets, and brought the wrath of the CIA down upon herself and Bourne. What follows are a rapid-fire couple of hours where Bourne learns more about where he came from, who is responsible and what the future holds for him and the world if they’re not stopped. It’s a globe-spanning, non-stop ride where Damon proves once again there is no one out there like his no-nonsense, rapid fisted Bourne. His fighting, movement, dialogue is all economical and surgical. He is ALL business, and the film’s narrative follows suit. There is nothing superfluous. And there are contemporary themes throughout dealing with the information age that mask an age-old inevitable truth: You can never stand still in a nest of vipers.

The action quota/carnage is high, the Greengrass shaky-cam is ever-present but tempered a little in this one, and support players are all first-rate. The music, as the story, continues organically with the first three and place this one with the first three as a tight, tension filled thrill ride.

Damon and Greengrass have delivered the most intelligent, visceral action movie this reviewer has seen since The Bourne Ultimatum. They have earned the 9 year break and proved undoubtedly that waiting for a compelling story, instead of a release date, brings rewards for all.

The Bourne franchise with Matt Damon at the helm is 4 for 4. They are all as brilliant and compelling as each other. There is no franchise I can name that has managed that.

5/5 stars


The Bourne Identity

4K UHD

4K UHD Details:

The Bourne Identity (2002)

VIDEO:  Oh dear. Identity was shot on Super 35 film stock. It’s apparently a notoriously softer film stock for details than other choices. Couple this with an up-scaled transfer instead of a native scan and this 4K disc presents as pretty bloody dismal. I liken it to watching the movie through a piece of gauze. Its blacks are the weakest I’ve seen on a 4K disc. Every color is anemic and flat. It’s such a shame to see the movie cheapened this way. 4K allows for no sins, and to release and charge money for a half-assed job like this, with its dull lifeless picture, poor edge enhancement and general lackluster HDR is a crime. Shame on you, Universal; after watching E.T., I expected a great experience from you.

AUDIO:  This is an aggressive DTS-X 5.1 mix. Atmospherics come rolling out from the opening scene in the ocean, to the bustling cities, and the rough and tumble of the fights scenes. It’s a fairly immersive surround mix. Dialogue is clean and centre heavy, with busy and populated scenes showing some nuance and directionality. All said, it’s a crapload better than the awful picture.

Supplements:

Special Features:

  • Feature Commentary with Doug Liman
  • The Ludlum Identity
  • The Ludlum Supremacy
  • The Ludlum Ultimatum
  • Extended Farmhouse Scene
  • The Birth of The Bourne Identity
  • The Bourne Mastermind: Robert Ludlum
  • Access Granted: An Interview with Screenwriter Tony Gilroy
  • From Identity to Supremacy: Jason & Marie
  • The Bourne Diagnosis
  • Cloak and Daggar: Covert OPs
  • Inside a Fight Sequence
  • Moby "Extreme Ways" Music Video
  • More

4K Rating:

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  2/5 stars
  Audio 4/5 stars
  Extras 1/5 stars

Overall 4K UHD Experience

3/5 stars


 The Bourne Supremacy

4K UHD4K UHD Details:

The Bourne Supremacy (2004)

VIDEO:

This is another 2K upscale that is an improvement on the appalling first film’s scan, but still isn’t anything to write home about. Color is more natural this time, flesh tones not corpse-like, and contrast decent. Film grain is natural but not obtrusive. It’s seemingly eliminated the green tinge from the India scenes, and HDR has an okay elevation over previous release, but nothing spectacular.

AUDIO:

Another decent DTS-X 5.1 mix, this one base-heavy. It’s got most of the same points I mentioned in the Identity disc’s write up. I will add that there were some kooky directional effects throughout the speakers that didn’t compliment the rest of the well-balanced tracks. I would take half a point for it in fact, but since we don’t do half stars here at Reel, I’ll leave it.

Supplements:

Special Features:

Again, carry over the director’s commentary. Previously released features from blu-rays past gone. Snore.

  • Feature Commentary with Director Paul Greengrass
  • Explosive Deleted Scenes
  • Matching Identities: Casting
  • Keeping It Real
  • Blowing Things Up
  • On The Move with Jason Bourne
  • Bourne to be Wild: Fight Training
  • Crash Cam: Racing Through the Streets of Moscow
  • The Go-Mobile Revs Up the Action
  • Anatomy of a Scene: The Explosive Bridge Chase Scene
  • Scoring with John Powell
  • The Bourne Mastermind
  • The Bourne Diagnosis
  • And more

4K Rating:

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 4/5 stars
  Extras 1/5 stars

Overall 4K UHD Experience

4/5 stars


The Bourne Ultimatum

4K UHD

The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

VIDEO:

Much like Supremacy, this one is better than the first film, with respect to detail and color timing. It has a distinctly different looking pallet from the original release. Contrast is much better. HDR is lackluster. This whole series seems muted to me.

AUDIO:

Another verbose and weighty DTS-X 5.1 mix, with none of the directionality flaws from Supremacy. It’s nuanced, immersive and powerfully balanced to put you in the back of chair—an absolutely amazing surround example. I’m taking one point off, because it’s not a 7.1 mix.

Supplements:

Special Features:

Same as the other discs. If they can’t be bothered to add new material, I can’t be bothered to write about it.

  • Be Bourne Spy Training
  • Man on the Move: Jason Bourne
  • Rooftop Pursuit
  • Planning the Punches
  • Driving School
  • New York Chase
  • Feature Commentary with Director Paul Greengrass
  • And more

4K Rating:

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 4/5 stars
  Extras 1/5 stars

Overall 4K UHD Experience

4/5 stars


The Bourne legacy

4K UHD

The Bourne Legacy (2012)

VIDEO:

Still muted for the most part but a tad punchier on reds in the spectrum. More flush in the cheeks of skin tones. Contrast is excellent and finer details improved over the blu-ray slightly. But this is still a weak 2K upscale that would absolutely sing with a proper 4K native scan. HDR is meh: nothing really popping out of a detailed but flat display.

AUDIO:

This is what the other three movies deserved! 7.1 channels of DTS-X perfection: environmental, actions scenes, dialogue, and foley effects are mixed to the absolute pinnacle. It’s a shame it’s only for this movie that they’ve gone the extra mile. Reference good.

Supplements:

Special Features:

Same as the other discs. If they can’t be bothered to add new material, I can’t be bothered to write about it.

  • Be Bourne Spy Training
  • Man on the Move: Jason Bourne
  • Rooftop Pursuit
  • Planning the Punches
  • Driving School
  • New York Chase
  • Feature Commentary with Director Paul Greengrass
  • And more

4K Rating:

  Movie 4/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 4/5 stars
  Extras 1/5 stars

Overall 4K UHD Experience

2.5/5 stars


Jason Bourne

4K UHD

Jason Bourne (2016)

VIDEO:

The ONLY native scan of the series so far and it shows what is missing in the rest of set. While all the films pallets are, shall we say, on the subtle side, this one’s color is richer and more detailed. Also a significant bump from the blu-ray is shadow detail and contrast really pops. Finer details like screen read- outs and subtitles also get a kick into impressive territory. Gone are the corpse-like pallid flesh tones into more natural looking. HDR is also more noticeable in this one, and slightly overdoes in highlights a few times throughout, but nevertheless looks amazing. It’s just proof positive that Universal cheaped-out on the other films.

AUDIO:

Another 7.1 DTS-HD mix, this time of contemporary levels. It’s a thing of beauty. Directionality is the best of series on this disc. It’s so layered and perfectly balanced. I cannot gush enough about the mix. Put the car chase in Vegas on to show off your speakers or the brutal tunnel fight for environmental accuracy.

Supplements:

Special Features:

There is none of the 4K disc. Blu-ray has archive stuff from before. Snore.

4K Rating:

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 5/5 stars
  Extras 1/5 stars

Overall 4K UHD Experience

4/5 stars

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