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Category:    Home > Reviews > Spy > Action > Thriller > The Bourne Supremacy (HD-DVD)

The Bourne Supremacy (Universal HD-DVD)


Picture: B     Sound: B     Extras: B     Film: B



NOTE:  This version has been discontinued, but reissued on Blu-ray, which you can read more about at this link:





Though the studios and several independent outlets are always looking for and hoping for the next Star Wars action/fantasy bombast that will turn into a money machine, Hollywood and similar forces are also always still looking for the next James Bond whether they will admit it or not.  Fox did True Lies and would still like a follow up a dozen years later and counting.  Columbia did XXX, only to follow it with the failed XXX2, but was willing to spend some serious money on both.  Paramount revived Mission: Impossible with big money results and MGM/UA managed to revive Bond after the Cold War ended, leading to a new cycle of spy films that included their own release of John Frankenheimer’s amazing Ronin.  That leaves Universal, no stranger to good thrillers, who took Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne Cold War book series and made it into a series of hit films.


No, they have not been as big as the Tom Cruise M:I films, but have still been big enough.  The Bourne Identity actually was the second filming of the book after a mixed TV mini-series with Richard Chamberlain, but Matt Damon (in some of his best work to date) took on the title role.  That feature removed the Cold War reasons he was developed as a superior fighter and as the book and mini-series show, more of the book went with it than it probably should have.  The editing was eye-catching and controversial, something carried over to some extent in The Bourne Supremacy, the 2004 sequel that has Paul Greengrass (United 93) smoothly taking over from Doug Liman in a story where the secret U.S. agency that created him is out seeking him again and should have just let him be.


That is bad news for him, but of course, good news for fans of the first.  As a matter of fact, with Liman off doing the awkward Mr. & Mrs. Smith (reviewed twice and counting on this site), Greengrass stepped in and had a better script to work with.  Now that the origins were out of the way, he could run with the film and the idea of Bourne as a top assassin, the film did not have the pretense or choppiness of the first.  The CIA screws up an operation and to tie up two loose ends, they decide to frame Bourne for it.  He does not trust any of them, for a good reason, so now he has to fight them and figure out just what really is going on.


Not a popular storyline in a quasi-fascist pseudo-patriotic time, which is one of the reasons it works so well.  The Spy genre at its best has been about cutting through the B.S. propaganda that the government is your happy friend when the government is there to govern coldly with the daily headlines of botched operations, outings of CIA agents (recently spun as something that was “not illegal” as if that could justify it, but there are idiots who will be conned into anything) and other scandals reinforce the cold world of this film.


The best Spy works let the audience in on what is going on, even when there is a mystery about the proceedings.  The acting, action and plotting are better here than in the previous Bourne film or the last two overblown Brosnan Bonds for that matter.  That does not make this Ronin or Munich, but it is much more in that tradition than the overblown, silly films the genre has also always produced since Hollywood thought the best way to compete against Bond was to do spoofy variants, as if the series’ days were numbered.


Also like those better thrillers, you have some fine actors well cast in roles worthy of their talents, including Brian Cox, Joan Allen, Franka Potente, an unusually well-cast Julia Stiles, Gabriel Mann and even Karl Urban in another good film for a change.  Combined with Tony Gilroy’s solid screenplay, the franchise really starts reaching its full potential and its ambition to be original is one of its best aspects.  Though he penned the first and is penning the next, Greengrass has brought out the better points of his work and what they pulled off here does not always get the recognition it deserves.  That the next Bond film is Casino Royale going back to the grittiness and edge of the early books speaks volumes about its influence.  And now we have it in HD.


The 1080p digital High Definition 2.35 X 1 image is a nice surprise, with very good color and definition throughout despite the slightly darker nature of the cinematography nicely done by Oliver Wood.  This is a great test of any HD video playback and certainly an improvement over the disappointing standard DVD version.  The Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 mix is also better than the standard Dolby 5.1 from that regular DVD, though I wish this still had a DTS or DTS-HD 5.1 option, as it still seemed some subtle detail was absent.  John Powell’s score is decent too, as is the fine sound mix.


Extras repeat the standard DVD’s treasure trove of nine featurettes, deleted scenes, Greengrass commentary and the like, but adds a new interactive option regular DVD could never deliver allowing for a more interactive way to access the behind the scenes aspects of the production.  Now you can get the Blu-ray, which has even better sound.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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