The Bourne Supremacy

I have mixed feeling about the Bourne films. This one is the sequel to the first, The Bourne Identity. The two movies feature a rogue, on-the-run, amnesiac CIA hit man trying to discover who he really is, and in the process discovering "talents" that he didn't know he had.

Like the first film, this one is thin of plot and loaded with action. The fight scenes are shot in rapid-fire, quick-cut fashion. They're exciting, but the only thing that keeps them from being hopelessly confusing is that there are a limited number of participants (often just two) so it isn't hard to figure out who's getting the upper hand as push comes to shove.

The real stars of the film are the car chases. The last of these chases may be the best car chase ever put on film. But you have to accept that one of Bourne's unexpected skills is being a stunt driver (who knew that the CIA taught Demolition Derby 101), with the ability to survive massively violent collisions and keep on going (not to mention his car, too!).

Matt Damon is, for me, still a bit too baby-faced for this role, (twenty years ago, it would have been Harrison Ford's for the asking), but he is fine otherwise. Karl Urban is his main nemesis. Urban (with this film and The Chronicles of Riddick, which I'm sure he'd like to forget) shares the HD DVD stage with Clint Eastwood (Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby), and Ethan Hawke (Assault on Precinct 13 and Training Day as the first actors, I believe, to appear on two HD DVD titles. Maybe ther should be a trophy or something for that.

At first glance, this is one of the worst-looking of the early HD DVD releases. It's loaded with odd color choices, some grain, and crushed blacks. An early night scene with Bourne talking with his girl, played by Franka Potente, on the balcony of their hideaway, is a brutal test for any video display, and particularly for anything but a CRT. But I saw the film in the theater and the movie was definitely shot in a gritty, dark, almost surrealistic style. On the upside, it does share one of the distinguishing characteristics of nearly all the HD DVDs I've seen so far: No attempt was made to spruce it up with heavy-handed edge enhancement. It is what it is, and is neither overetched nor unnaturally soft.

The Dolby Digital+ audio here, however, is spectacular. The recording of John Powell's score is particularly noteworthy, as it spreads smoothly across the front soundstage rather than pooling into separate clumps (left and right, and sometimes the center) as is often the case. The dialog is clear, and the effects realistic without going over-the-top.

This is a solid, and by all indications accurate, video and audio transfer of a well crafted and exciting, if not great, film.

Video reviewed on a Yamaha DPX-1300 DLP projector, 78-inch wide Stewart Studiotek 130 screen, and Toshiba HD-A1 HD-DVD player set to 1080i. Audio evaluated via the player's digital output to an Anthem D1 pre-pro, Proceed AMP5 amplifier, and Pioneer EX Series loudspeakers.