HD-DVD Review: The Bourne Ultimatum


Bourne is once again brought out of hiding, this time inadvertently by London-based reporter Simon Ross who is trying to unveil Operation BlackBriar–an upgrade to Project Treadstone–in a series of newspaper columns. Bourne sets up a meeting with Ross and realizes instantly they’re being scanned. Information from the reporter stirs a new set of memories, and Bourne must finally, ultimately, uncover his dark past whilst dodging The Company’s best efforts in trying to eradicate him.


The perfect finally to quite possibly the quintessential American spy trilogy, The Bourne Ultimatum has solidified itself as one of the best films of 2007. Matt Damon is back as Bourne, the cast-away operative fighting to find his true identity and stop the secret government project that turned him into a trained killer. It is as if Matt Damon were born (no pun intended) to play this role, combining his naturally calm demeanor with Jason Bourne’s pent-up aggression. In this episode, he delivers Bourne with a little more angst and a lot more badassness. As you can also tell just by watching the first few moments of the film, director Paul Greengrass is back with his wobbly handi-cam shots and his high-wire cinematography — two elements that give the movie its own sickening visual style as well as a familiar realism, one that Greengrass accomplished with 2006’s United 93. Yet while the movie feels very much like we are a fly on the wall in Bourne’s action-packed world, it also feels like we are the fly that can’t sit still.


As mentioned before, this film fits right in with Paul Greengrass’ catalog of queasiness. And despite the fact that the transfer over to 1080p HD resolution makes some of the wide shots look absolutely beautiful, it is no cure for the camera jitters. In fact, we can be thankful for this HD release, as the constant motion could make a lower-res transfer look like more of a 2 hour blur than an action movie. And as long as you can put up with the Parkinson’s edition of cinematography, you will be graciously rewarded with some wicked cool shots, particularly the scene in which Bourne is running across the rooftops or the car chase scene in lower Manhattan.


The Bourne Ultimatum was one of the first big films this year, ultimately of many, that worked well in dropping the score out of the movie to add effect. The fight scene in Morocco between Bourne and Desh (played by Joey Ansah) is a perfect example — the score goes away and we are left with the awe-inspiring realism of hand-to-hand combat. When Bourne puts a book to Desh’s throat, we can hear exactly what happens next. The 5.1 Dolby Digital transfer is sufficient for this film’s rather simple sound mix, but it is the mix itself that is very effective in adding to the story, rather than becoming an annoyance. Now if only Paul Greengrass could apply that same “keep it simple” attitude to his cinematography.


The special features on the HD-DVD release are far superior to those on its standard DVD counterpart. It features the U-Control in-movie experience that shows picture-in-picture interviews with Paul Greengrass, Matt Damon and various other key crew members. It is one of those features that makes you glad that you have HD-DVD, because it gives you that little bit more. The disc also sports five fantastic featurettes, including one that shows the shooting of the “Rooftop Pursuit” — and let me tell you, just seeing the effort that went into not only the rooftop chase but the part where Bourne jumps from one building into the window of another gave me a deeper appreciation for this unique brand of action.


When held up against other HD-DVD releases, The Bourne Ultimatum may not take the cake. Other than the fact that it is a fantastic film with plenty of extras, there is nothing here that is unique in the HD-DVD world. Though, compared with its standard DVD counterpart, the HD version is a must have. It does not include a cornucopia of special features, but what it does have is plenty interesting enough. If you own an HD-DVD player now or plan to buy one, I would certainly recommend adding this HD Combo Disc to your collection. I would have liked to see some really cool feature that I have never seen before, but then again I am picky.

Grade: B+

Neil Miller is the Founder and Publisher of Film School Rejects. For almost a decade, he has been talking movies on television, the radio, and the Internet. As of yet, no one has stopped him.

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