The third entry in the ongoing adventures of Jason Bourne, 2007's The Bourne Ultimatum, is, like its two predecessors, a taught and suspenseful spy action/adventure film that once again finds Matt Damon in the titular lead role. Interestingly enough, this third film proved to have the most box office power of the three films, out grossing both The Bourne Identityand The Bourne Supremacy.
When the story starts, Jason Bourne is in hiding but that doesn't last too long once an English newspaper man named Simon Ross (Paddy Considine) starts trying to figure out what exactly is going on with an 'Operation Blackbriar' and what it has to do with the enigmatic Jason Bourne. When Ross and Bourne finally meet, Bourne is able to recall some of his repressed memories and this sets him back on track to try and figure out what exactly happened in his past.
While Bourne and Ross have been cavorting, the CIA, lead by Pamela Landy (Joan Allen), has been doing their best to keep tabs on the pair. Her two CIA superiors are none too happy with the progress, or lack thereof, that her team has made so far and they're starting to put some pressure on her. If that weren't enough, a rogue agent named Nicky Parson (Julia Stiles) is sneaking around trying to help Bourne for reasons no one quite understands just yet. As Bourne uncovers the truth about Blackbriar and begins to further piece together his past he'll be taken around the world only to trace his steps back to the United States to try to find out what the CIA knows about him and why he's in this position in the first place.
The second film to be directed by Paul Greengrass (also responsible for The Bourne Supremacy), The Bourne Ultimatum is the strongest film in the franchise so far thanks to some fantastic editing and an extremely tight and clever script. There are some legitimately unexpected twists and turns present in the picture that keep us guessing up until the end and the film has more than its fair share of ridiculously suspenseful films ranging from Bourne having to deal with a sniper in a crowded English train station to a killer car chase sequence in New York City. These scenes, combined with a believable and very able performance from Matt Damon, manage to keep us enthralled with the film and it's hard not to get wrapped up in Bourne's plight as the picture moves on. It's a picture that requires a considerable amount of the viewers attention but also one which is so well made that it's harder not to get into the movie - as such, it's not a problem in the least.
The ultra fast cuts and rapid fire editing from the first two pictures hits us even harder than it did previously and as such, it might have a dizzying effect on some viewers but this does serve to really give the hand to hand combat scenes a rough and realistic edge. While the film doesn't really break a whole lot of new ground or push the envelope any further than it was pushed with the first two pictures, it is a consistently engaging and entertaining spy film that gives us a colder, harder and less emotionally responsive Jason Bourne but one who we can get behind, who we can emphasize with and who we can root for. It may be a little less character driven and more action intensive than earlier Bourne films but Greengrass and company have done such a good job and crafted such a genuinely exciting film that it's tough not to come away from this one completely impressed.
The Bourne Ultimatum is presented in an excellent 2.40.1 anamorphic widescreen presentation in 1080p/VC-1. This film, like the two that precede it, is intended to look grainy and gritty and the colors have been intentionally manipulated in some scenes to give the film a cool, even cold look. Taking that into account, the results on the HD-DVD side of this combo disc are excellent. You won't notice any dirt or debris on the image nor will you notice any compression artifacts or edge enhancement. Detail levels are excellent and contrast levels look dead on when you take into account how the film is supposed to look. Black levels are nice and strong and flesh tones look lifelike and natural.
The standard definition side of this combo disc presents the movie in a nice 2.40.1 anamorphic widescreen 480p presentation that looks great for what it is but which obviously isn't on par with the 1080p transfer on the HD-DVD side.
Even more impressive than the excellent transfer on this disc is the English language Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (48-kHz/24-bit) Surround Sound mix. Surrounds are used very well during the more action intensive scenes that are scattered throughout the film but just as important to the picture are the quieter moments and these also fair well with some nice, subtle ambient noise and crystal clear dialogue. Levels are properly balanced and bass response is perfect. The score kicks in with an appropriate amount of 'oomph' and the sound effects, gun shots in particular, sound quite intense. There are no problems at all with hiss or distortion to complain about and everything is mixed very, very well here, resulting in one of the best sounding HD-DVDs this reviewer has had a chance to enjoy. Alternate audio tracks are also provided in English, French and Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround Sound with optional subtitles available in English (SDH) and French.
The standard definition side of the combo disc presents the film in English, French or Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound with optional subtitles available in English (SDH), French or Spanish.
First up is an audio commentary track from director Paul Greengrass that starts off as primarily a technical discussion but which soon lightens up a little bit and becomes more of a general look at the making of the film from the director's perspective. Greengrass is obviously a smart guy and he's got not shortage of topics to cover here as he talks about the difficulties of adapting the Bourne novels to the big screen based on the level of detail and the many levels on which those stories are written. He covers working on location and what it was like shooting in a few different countries and he talks about having to re-shoot a fair bit of the picture to get it just right. Greengrass also talks about the cast and crew and is happy to give credit where credit is due, showing appreciation for the performances in the film and for the work of the various technicians who helped bring it all to life.
A section of Deleted Scenes is also included, and here we see some of the excised material that didn't make the final cut including some courtroom drama, a neat motorcycle chase scene/assassination, and a few minor bits of character development and interaction from the various locations used in the picture. There's twelve and a half minutes worth of material here in total. These are presented in standard definition.
A documentary entitled Man On The Move: Jason Bourne is up next and it takes a look at the location shooting that was done for the film. Clocking in at twenty-four minutes it's a pretty detailed piece that shows us what it was like for the cast and crew to work in Moscow, Paris, London, Madrid and Tangier. Obviously it had to have been pretty taxing to travel so much for the film and this segment shows us how the team pulled it all off, though not without their fair share of headaches and problems. Also included here are some interviews with actors Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, Brian Cox and Joan Allen as well as director Paul Greengrass and producer Frank Marshall. This documentary is presented in high definition.
From here, check out a few scene specific featurettes, starting with six minute Rooftop Pursuit which, obviously, shows us how one of the stand out action set pieces from the picture was shot and edited. Planning The Punchesis a five minute peek at the rapid fire editing used to present the fight scenes in the picture, while Driving School shows us over a scant three and a half minutes how the stunt drivers play such an important role in the film and how Matt Damon did much of his own driving for certain parts of the film. New York Chase is an eleven minute look at the chase scene that takes place in NYC in which Bourne drives backwards and how clever camera work was used to make it as exciting as possible. These featurettes are presented in high definition.
All the supplements above are available on both the HD-DVD side and the standard definition side of the disc. Exclusive to the HD-DVD side, however, is Universal's U-Control interactive interface which allows the user to further explore a few different sides of the production through the following bonus features, all presented in high definition:
Picture In Picture: This is a great collection of behind the scenes footage, cast and crew interviews and other assorted interesting tidbits of information about the film that plays out in the second, smaller window when this feature is enabled. This is hands down the most interesting extra feature on the disc and it does a great job of showing us all sorts of interesting 'making of' and 'how they did it' clips as the finished product plays out in front of us.
The 'Be Bourne' Game: With this feature enabled, as the movie plays out you'll have the chance to take a look at a couple of different parts of the movie and, once you've watched them, you'll be quizzed on what you just watched. Once the film is done you're given a tallied score which you can then compare to other players online.
Blackbriar Files: This is an interesting overlay feature that, in real time, will give you more information the technology and gadgets used in the film as well as interesting trivia and information about some of the characters and about some of the locations seen in the movie.
Tech Specs: Don't get too excited about this one, as it's really nothing more than a list of features and options for the Volkswagen Touareg that is used in the film. It does allow you to go online and get more information from the web, which is neat, but really this is basically a glorified car commercial.
My Scenes: This is simply a nifty name for Universal's bookmarking option that allows users to add a scene to their favorites list or to make clips out of their favorite scenes for easy playback at a later date.
Jason Bourne's third adventure arrives on HD-DVD with a bang. The Bourne Ultimatum continues the tradition of excellence started by the first two films and it turns out to be an enjoyably exciting and suspenseful action/spy film with brains to match its brawn. The HD-DVD presents the film in excellent quality and with plenty of interesting extra features. Consider this one highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.