The ManlyMovie foray into 4K continues, with mixed results. Some of the early material is impressive but some of it is equally disappointing. There’s going to be a ton of this stuff in December as studios appear to have timed quite a few releases for Christmas. Five Bourne movies are on that list and we’re going to be looking at those this week. It’s been a while since I’ve visited this franchise, so we’ll see how they’ve held up both in image quality and ease of watching.
The CRT monitors in The Bourne Identity remind us that this movie came out in 2002, which is kind of finally starting to look somewhat far back in some respects. The film broke new ground in anti-establishment cynicism, following Enemy of the State’s anti-Big Brother theme a few years earlier. Matt Damon is of course Jason Bourne, an assassin working on behalf of the western plutocratic deep state, who awakens on a fishing trawler at sea with no memory. An assassin, tasked with killing cantankerous African leaders not willing to whore out their national wealth and minerals, having lost his memory, is dangerous, They must kill him, so we get a breakneck movie that blends 21st century surveillance state creep with old school spy craft.
When this movie came out, it made James Bond look laughable. Remember? When Pierce Brosnan was driving around in an invisible car (!), Damon was driving a beaten up Mini in stunts that belong in a John Frankenheimer movie. This was the salt of the earth reboot everyone needed, the JB initials just weren’t James Bond…
Much has been said about the shaking camera effect that this series ‘popularized’, but remember that Doug Liman directed the first and only experimented with it, while Paul Greengrass took over later and abused it. It’s not too bad in this movie, effective even, with the action mostly feeling bruising and bone hurting. Matt Damon also plays Bourne quite well, carrying a barely perceptible but appreciable ‘dazed’ look throughout the movie, he’s playing a man who is suffering. Not easy to do.
There is always debate about what the best ‘Bourne’ movie is, the first of second movie. I don’t know but after watching this after so many years, I think this is it. It’s first to do what Supremacy did, only better. The panicked war-room tracking and the gritty action, only tempered and more realistic. This is a great spy movie.
I don’t know why, but I had high hopes for this movie on UHD. It’s not an old movie, it was filmed on 35mm and Universal is a big studio that has been working wonders with its restored 1980’s TV back catalogue recently. At this point, I’m developing an eye for what I (personally) deem acceptable in 4K. Two things are spurring this, The Revenant and Narcos. The latter in particular on account of its colours is a benchmark for me, each new episode I watch leaves me slack jawed.
So then, switching to The Bourne Identity, which isn’t even streamed and compressed like Narcos, left me disappointed. This movie in 4K looks flat and tired most of the time, not like ‘4K’ at all and to me this was particularly noticeable with close ups on human faces, because dare I say it, they looked like early 1080p Blu-Ray release material. It wasn’t like new technology bringing an old favourite to new heights… isn’t that the point of this stuff?
I’ll compare it to Sylvester Stallone’s mug in The Expendables 3 UHD. The first time I caught a large close up of that guy in true 4K in those Aviator shades, I was genuinely stunned and frantically reached for the remote for the pause button. There is none of that here, I’m afraid to say. And that’s a pity given how beautiful a wintry continental Europe looks in The Bourne Identity.
While some of it looks like a basic Blu-Ray, it is an improvement, don’t get me wrong. Certain interior shots look impressive in detail and I’m pretty sure the HDR at play here is boasting contrast beyond the capabilities of standard HD. However, I kind of have to say that if you already own the movie on Blu-Ray, I can’t recommend upgrading to this version (which will be available separately).
P.S. this release has extras, but they are ‘old’ and part of the 1080p release which also comes on a second disc here, but that won’t be discussed here.