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The Bourne Identity (2002) - DVD Review

By Widge - posted 07.29.04 @ 1:42 am
Bourne Identity DVD

Film:
DVD:

Written by: Tony Gilroy & William Blake Herron, based on the novel by Robert Ludlum
Directed by: Doug Liman
Starring: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Chris Cooper, Brian Cox, Clive Owen

Features:

  • Alternate opening and closing with introduction by producer Frank Marshall, scribe Gilroy and actor Cox
  • "The Bourne Mastermind": tribute to author Ludlum
  • Interview with scribe Gilroy
  • Featurettes: "From Identity to Supremacy"; "The Bourne Diagnosis"; "Cloak and Dagger: Covert Ops"; "Inside a Fight Scene"
  • Sound featurette
  • Deleted scenes
  • Music Video: "Extreme Ways" by Moby
  • Cast and filmmakers info
  • Production notes

Released by: Universal
Region: 1
Rating: PG-13
Anamorphic: Yes.

My Advice: Get the original DVD release; rent this one.

A man (Damon) is found floating in the sea, riddled with bullets and near death. Saved by a fishing trawler, the doctor on board finds a device under the man's skin that has a place and an account code on it. It's a good thing, too, since the man wakes up and has no clue who he is or how he found himself as potential chum. He also appears to be able to kick your ass with a credit card at five hundred paces. Anyway, he finds a clue in that he might be this guy named Jason Bourne...but who the hell is that? And why are there people after him?

The primary concern I had when I heard this film announced was this: would I believe that Damon could be that much of a badass? And of course, watching the film it became apparent that yes, not only could he convincingly portray a badass, but he could be a badass that doesn't even know how he got that way. This is all the more apparent in the scene where he takes down two cops almost as a reflex, where his body is moving and he looks almost confused as to why he's doing what he's doing and how he knows to kick butt in such a fashion. It's just a very convincing performance, and that's one of the major keys as to why the film is a success.

Another key is the feel: rather than the absolutely ludicrous snorefests that the Bond franchise has shat out in recent years, you have characters that you care about in extreme situations. You also don't have Bourne doing anything that looks like it belongs in a Marvel comic; as the gentleman from the CIA explains in the bonus features, Bourne does extraordinary things, yes, but nothing that you can't see somebody actually being able to pull off with the right training.

Matt Damon in The Bourne Identity

Lastly, you've got a great supporting cast. It's nice to see Potente getting a choice role since she was so freaking good in Run Lola Run. Chris Cooper and Brian Cox would be good in a Total cereal commercial, so no worries there. And Clive Owen plays another assassin but sadly doesn't get enough screen time. Not his fault, the part is just that interesting and his take on it is choice.

Universal's "Explosive Extended Edition" is to cash in on the recent sequel, Supremacy. As a result, what you've got is some features from the previous "Collector's Edition" and some new bits as well. First up, there's the alternate opening and closing to the film. As the introduction explains, these formed a framing device to help the flick if, as it was already put together, it did not hold up in a post-9/11 world. Luckily, audiences liked the film just fine as-is, since the bookend opening and closing they devised are just godawful. They would have changed the tone of the film completely and made the ending go off the Velveetometer. Be happy they're here for posterity, but that's about all.

Tony Gilroy from The Bourne Identity

All of the featurettes on here are only a few minutes each, so the good news is you can blitz through everything fairly quickly. The tribute to Ludlum is basically some excerpts from Ludlum interviews, and pieces with a friend of the author and the guy who wrote the Ludlum companion book. It's equal parts information on Ludlum and outright praise for how cool he was, so it's basically a wash. I think an actual fifteen-minute mini-bio featurette that talked about how he wrote the novel (since they make a point of stating how he did scads of research and actually visited all of his "locations") would have been a much better way to spend the time.

The interview with Gilroy again is short, so he has just enough time to gloss over what changes were made in the book and how he distilled it for a two-hour film. I've not read the book myself, so I understand some large pieces and characters were left out and the whole thing was altered. From the end result, Gilroy knows how to capture the essence of his source material, so no foul, I guess. The "Identity to Supremacy" bit is Damon and Potente talking about their characters and then sliding into a thinly veiled promo for the sequel. Not worth bothering with.

Bourne Identity author Robert Ludlum

Robert Ludlum

Two featurettes that were worthwhile on here were the "Diagnosis" and "Covert Ops" ones. In "Diagnosis," a psychiatrist basically discusses what version of amnesia Bourne is suffering from in the film as well as how the film tweaked it to make it work. In "Covert Ops," a member of the CIA very quickly talks about how the Agency is setup and outlines what an agent like Bourne would be involved in. He also talks heavily about the scenes he liked and how they were handled very realistically.

The "Inside a Fight Scene" featurette has some blurbs from their fight coordinator, Nick Powell, and Damon, but it's mostly watching them shoot the very beginning of the embassy sequence. Interesting, yes, but I would have preferred they talk about some of the other asskicking scenes in detail and how Damon was coached to make it look like he was doing stuff that he didn't even realize he was doing. The sound featurette goes into how foley and effects were created for the film and does a detailed dissection of the car chase sequence. Once the featurette is finished, you're allowed to play with the various layers of sound created for the scene, which is good for folks who aren't familiar with how such things are accomplished.

You get four deleted scenes, which sadly are without a great deal of context. I would have appreciated an intro from Liman or perhaps some commentary to help us know where to place them--by the time you figure out where they would have occurred in the film, they're over with. Like most deleted scenes, they're superfluous and would have altered the pacing of the film--we're glad they got dumped. You've got Moby's music video as well, which is typical for movie music videos: the artist intercut with bits from the film. About the only reason to watch this is the snippets of a club scene with folks in bungee harnesses. Otherwise, don't bother.

Beyond that, you get production notes and cast and crew info that are text on screen. DVD-ROM is listed as a feature on the menus, but when I put the disc in my computer, all I get is the opportunity to go to the Universal website. So yippee.

It's a shame that the commentary was dumped from the "Collector's Edition." That was the most worthwhile feature there, and coupled with what's on this disc you might have a reason to purchase this one if you're a fan of the film. As it stands, though, this release smells like sequel-marketing-opportunity and nothing more. There's no real value add that you can't experience by going and grabbing a rental. A truly explosive edition would have kept Liman's original commentary and even brought in Damon and Potente perhaps to provide one of their own. And more extensive making-of docus are definitely needed here. Damon did his own stunts, we learn by reading the production notes--and yet, we see nothing of that beyond the fight sequence featurette. Like I said, this leaves a lot to be desired. Even if you don't own the film and want to, I'd advise you to grab the other one for the commentary and rent this one for the few featurettes that are worth watching.

Read More About:

Widgett Walls is Need Coffee's Chief Cook and Bottle Washer. He is the author of the novel Mystics on the Road to Vanishing Point, and two collections of short stories, Magnificent Desolation and Something Else: The Complete First Season. He is also co-author of the children's book There's a Zombie in My Treehouse! All of those books are available in paperback or for the Kindle from Amazon. He is also the narrator and publisher of the first unabridged recording of Seneca's letters, available here. He is active on both Twitter and Facebook. (If you befriend him on Facebook, do say you came via Need Coffee.) He lives and works in Atlanta, Georgia. He hardly ever sleeps.

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