The Bourne Identity: Special Edition (2002)
2nd February 2003
When a fishing trawler in the Mediterranean sea manages to fish something out of the ocean that is neither fish or plastic, a conspiracy theory is soon thrown into the open when the barely alive man makes a recovery. Unfortunately, the man has no idea who he is or just how he ended up floating in the ocean with two bullet wounds in his back. Matters are made worse when he is informed by his rescuers that a strange laser capsule containing a Swiss bank account number surgically embedded in his hip.
Desperate for any indication to his identity he follows the only clue he has and heads for Switzerland and the bank holding his account. With no money to assist his travel he ends up sleeping rough in a Zurich park where he is apprehended by the local police for being a vagrant. He's even more surprised when he manages to defend himself with ease and quickly overpowers the two officers leaving them crumpled and groaning on the ground. That certainly rules out a few possible occupations for our mystery man.
Upon his arrival at the bank, not only do the staff know him but he is presented with a safety deposit box. Once opened he is shocked to discover that it contains numerous passports and identities including one which is Jason Bourne, a US citizen who lives in Paris. Lifting an additional partition in the box he also finds a loaded gun and piles of money in a wide range of currencies. Emptying the box he leaves the bank and heads for the US embassy to seek assistance.
But when he enters the embassy in Zurich he quickly discovers that he's not as welcome as he first thought. Forced to flee the security staff he seeks the assistance of a young woman and her car who agrees to drive him to Paris, for a handsome fee. However, they soon discover that they are both wanted by the police as well as being threatened by a group of unknown assassins.
The picture is bright and colourful with a good level of detail throughout with no signs of either artifacting or outlining. The print remains free from dust scratches and other picture imperfections whilst grain is kept to a minimum. The black levels and overall picture definition is also impressive and this is all the more important when you consider that the majority of the film takes place either at night or in dimly lit indoor or exterior locations. Apparently, the people of Paris are yet to hear of the 100 watt light bulb.
The original DVD release came equipped with both DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks. However, along with the director commentary track, the DTS soundtrack has been dropped in favour of adding space for the additional extras. Whilst the Dolby Digital soundtrack is no slouch, with some good stereo separation, plenty of activity in the rear channels and that all important LFE channel, after hearing the DTS soundtrack on the original release there was that little something missing. Whilst some DVD releases add a DTS soundtrack to make up for a lack of extras, removing the soundtrack from an action film is bordering on the criminal.
The menu system is pleasantly animated and scored with a well laid out menu system which is easy to navigate through. However, the menu system remains remarkably similar to the original DVD release and little effort has been made in order to make things more interesting. Just don't dwell on the Bonus menu too long as it soon reverts back to the main menu before eventually starting the film. It's very annoying (especially when you're in the process of writing the review!)
This Special Edition has essentially been re-released in order to promote the sequel The Bourne Supremacy. As a result you would have expected the disc to be littered with promotional material for the new film. However, it is only in the short From Identity To Supremacy featurette where it really gets a mention. Also, in a rather surprising omission, there's not even the The Bourne Supremacy theatrical trailer, even though its does contain the theatrical trailer for Van Helsing. A rather strange decision indeed.
Whilst some of the extras remain intact from the original release, such as the deleted scenes and the Moby music video, the majority of the material is new to this release. However, in addition to losing the DTS soundtrack the audio commentary has also been lost to make room for the additional features. It may not have been the most exciting of commentaries around, but when you consider that some of the extras look like filler material, such as the Van Helsing trailer and the Filmographies, you do have to wonder whether its loss was really justified.
There are a number of featurettes on the disc with one common theme - they're all disappointingly short. Never the less, they still manage to provide some interesting information with plenty of film clips as well as including some promotional material for the sequel. Highlight is probably the The Bourne Mastermind : Robert Ludlum featurette where it looks at the highly successful author behind the Bourne Identity books. Next up is the Access Granted featurette which contains a reasonable interview with screenwriter Tony Gilroy and his ideas for the film.
The From Identity To Supremacy: Jason And Marie featurette offers a sneak peak at the sequel The Bourne Supremacy without giving too much away. There's the usual business of saying "No body wanted to do a sequel unless it was better than the first" when they really meant "They offered me lots of money", but overall it whets the appetite for what looks like a good sequel. The Bourne Diagnosis featurette interviews a doctor and looks at the reality and symptoms of someone suffering from amnesia. Interesting stuff it is too.
After looking the medical side of the film The Cloak And Dagger: Covert Ops expands things by interviewing the ever handy ex-CIA officer who looks at the technical detail and realism of the actions in the film. The Speed Of Sound feature is an interesting featurette about the car chase with an interactive element which allows you hear the sound of the Mini in a number of different guises. The Declassified Information section contains four deleted scenes of no real interests and were probably removed from the film for pacing purposes.
Finally, the much heralded Bookend Scenes are two scenes, one at the beginning and one at the end, which were inserted during post-production after the events of 9/11. The film producers were worried that this tragic event would render the film irreverent in the new world climate and, for a while at least, Hollywood wondered whether a film would ever show an explosion again. As a result, the film was changed around by having the original ending of the film at the beginning and then the entire movie shown as a flashback. Fortunately, the test screeners liked, and accepted, the original cut of the film so these new scenes were never actually used.
As well as taking plenty of liberties with Robert Ludlum's original novel and the 80's made for television movie starring Richard Chamberlain, The Bourne Identity is one of those clichéd stories where a person looses their memory and, along with strange ability to throw knifes and kill people in various grim methods, slowly discovers a shocking secret about themselves. Why do they always turn out being some sort of dark and mysterious person and simply not a bloke called Derek who works for the council and drives a Nissan Micra?
Never the less, this film is still rather good and certainly has to be one of the better spy thrillers of late. There's plenty of action and suspense, some good stunt work and a rather spectacular car chase around the streets of Paris in a humble Mini which has seen better days. Whilst it is no Ronin, it can still be considered as one of the better celluloid car chases and with half of the Paris police force in hot pursue you could have almost been back in Turin and the classic Italian Job.
With the loss of the DTS soundtrack and the audio commentary from director Doug Liman it becomes a little hard to understand, and even justify, the much overused Special Edition tag. If this was truly a special addition then features should have been added, not taken away. As a result this edition would have been much improved if it had been released as a two disc edition with both the DTS soundtrack and commentary still intact. Although you can see the requirements behind it, by removing them the value of this re-release is somewhat diminished.
Still, if you never got around to purchasing the initial release, or are new to the Bourne franchise, then The Bourne Identity Special Edition is still a good purchase with a solid all round performance that gives any action thriller a run for its money. However, owners of the original DVD may consider that this release offers very little additional material to encourage them to make another purchase. It's a real missed opportunity in what could, and should, have been a cracking special edition.
- The Bourne Mastermind : Robert Ludlum featurette
- Access Granted : Interview With Screenwriter Tony Gilroy
- From Identity To Supremacy : Jason And Marie featurette
- The Bourne Diagnosis : Amnesia featurette
- Cloak And Dagger : Covert Operations featurette
- The Speed Of Sound : Sound design interactive featurette
- Declassified Information : Deleted scenes
- Extreme Ways music video by Moby
- Van Helsing theatrical trailer
- Cast/filmmakers biographies