Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on March 26th, 2009
His name is Craig, Daniel Craig. Love him or hate him, we have to accept the fact that this blue-eyed rather rugged sculpture of a man is the face of James Bond, now and for the foreseeable future. I’ll admit to being more of a nostalgic Bond fan, and have the image of Sean Connery forever etched into my brain as the quintessential 007. But, it’s not only the drastic change in appearance and demeanor that makes this a hard film for me to embrace. For the first time in the franchise’s 22 film and 35 year history we have a Bond movie that is a direct sequel of the previous one. Certainly characters and elements have carried through from one adventure to the next, and there have been rather strongly linked movies in the run, but never before has one picked up literally an hour from the end of its predecessor. If you haven’t watched Casino Royale, or it’s been a while, you would be best served to acquaint or reacquaint yourself with that film. This one sets a manic pace from the very first frame. There’s no time for even a minimal recap, and Bond’s not in the mood to answer any questions. For the very first time, you need to have seen the film before it in order to be on board for this one. The second departure from the tried and true 007 formula is that this time James Bond is on a mission of vengeance. In Casino Royale’s Bond hooked up with the lovely Vespa, who ultimately betrayed him, but eventually sacrificed her own life for him. Now he pissed, and he’s not waiting around for M or the rest of British Intelligence to get with the program. No question that this type of story is definitely best suited for Craig and his particular take on Bond. But, like it or not, this isn’t your father’s or Ian Fleming’s James Bond.
Just as he was as Casino Royale ended, Bond is on the trail of Mr. White (Christensen). He finally manages to get him and bring him to a British Intelligence safe house, where he and M intend to interrogate him. Both are shocked to hear that there are spies inside of British Intelligence. Bond acts quickly to eliminate an immediate threat to M. Unfortunately, the encounter leaves more questions than it has supplied answers. Bond disobeys orders and heads out to root out the organization behind these plots. Through a case of mistaken identity he hooks up with Camille Montes (Kurylenko). It seems that the rather attractive Camille is on a revenge mission of her own. Together they track the bad guys to the doorstep of industrialist Dominic Greene (Amalric) who has tried on more than one occasion to eliminate the young lady. Greene heads an organization that on its surface appears to be a non-profit organization dedicated to the elimination of global warming. The Al Gore clone delivers speeches and provides the structure for this apparently “clean” organization. But Greene is meeting with General Medrano (Cosio). The general is plotting to take control of his country, and with Greene’s help, he will succeed. Greene seeks certain lands as payment for his help. Greene’s plot is to hold a drought ridden country hostage to his demands once he controls the entire water supply. Of course, it’s up to Bond to stop the plot and restore order to a raging country, while seeking a little payback on the side. Felix and his CIA buddies are token characters here, intended to provide a little question as to Bond’s loyalties. There’s a little bit of Bond going rogue here, but I’m not sure anyone really believes that he has. It’s summed up pretty well when M welcomes him back to the fold, so to speak, and Bond replies, “I never left”.
Like all of the best James Bond adventures this one takes you on a whirlwind tour to some exotic locations around the globe. Bond must visit Italy, Haiti, Bolivia, and even England as he tracks down his prey. There is also no shortage of traditional “Bond girls” in this movie. Starting with the lead Olga Kurylenko as Camille, there is plenty of “natural beauty” on hand. There is even a rather nicely played homage to the Connery film, Goldfinger. Another of the Bond bombshells is drowned in oil and left as a warning to Bond on his bed, covered completely in the black substance posed much like the gold painted girl was in Goldfinger. These unmistakable Bond elements lessen the blow for us a little, but you can’t help but feel this is more like a Die Hard film than a James Bond. The action is relentless, and for that you should be thankful because the plot has enough holes to drive an Astin Martin through, sideways. Kurylenko is supposed to be a stronger character than many of her fellow “Bond girls”, but she never really gets the chance to show what she can do. Give the writers credit for not making her so much the damsel in distress, but we only get enough of her in action to tease us for the entire run of the movie. I have to believe Kurylenko was somewhat disappointed. I’ve seen some of her other work, and she’s a capable actress.
The film’s title is one of the few remaining original Fleming titles that haven’t already appeared in a filmed version of the superspy. It was actually a short story and bears little to no resemblance to this movie at all. In the end the film will appeal to those of you who thought the first Craig film was simply brilliant. You’ll forgive the plot holes. You still won’t like this one quite as much, but you will eagerly await Craig’s next outing as Fleming’s Bond. For me, I felt a little empty after seeing this movie. I was promised James Bond, and instead I got John McClane.
Quantum Of Solace is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.40:1. There isn’t anything to complain about in this image presentation. You get a solid 1080p image brought about through the becoming standard AVC/MPEG-4 codec. Colors appear very realistic and not at all the fake brilliance that too many films try to pass off these days. The tone is dark, and both contrast and black levels are excellent. I could find no noticeable examples of compression problems. I have to say that the film style used for these last two movies is far more appropriate to the atmosphere of the character. I love the ultra-realistic pale of this movie. Detail lives up to what you’ve come to expect out of Blu-ray.
The DTS-HD Master Audio track does a better job as well. You get the sense of being inside the action. Surrounds are often aggressive and always dynamic. Your sub is going to get a real workout for a change. You will feel as well as hear this film. That’s what I call an immersive experience. Even with a score that’s too harsh for my tastes the dialog is always well placed and stands out just fine.
The extras here are not near as impressive as the older Bond releases have been. Much of it has been broken up into 2-3 minute pieces. I know there are royalty issues, but they’re not that restrictive. It’s all intended to make it appear there is more meat here than there really is.
Start Of Shooting: (HD) Director Marc Foster leads this 3 minute piece talking about expectations and style. We get to see the first shots of the film, which are actually toward the end of the movie. There is also a very brief segment on Craig’s stunt training.
Olga Kurylenko And The Boat Chase: (HD) This is really just a 2 minute look at what the crew calls a “feisty girl”. The actual chase scene is just a small part.
Director Marc Foster: (HD) Another very short just under 3 minute piece. Cast and crew do the lovefest thing talking about the director.
The Music: (HD) Score composer Danny Arnold talks about the score. You get to see some of the orchestra in a recording session.
Crew Files: (SD) This is a collection of 32 brief profiles on some of the more minor crew members. You can use a play all feature, which I strongly recommend. It runs 45 minutes in total. It’s nice to see the spotlight, however briefly, on crew members who are often forgotten, but are just as valuable to the movie. Unfortunately, most of you will find this rather tedious.
Music Video: (HD) This is one of the weakest Bond songs ever. If you liked it, however, here’s the complete music video.
Look at these last two Bond films as really one film in two parts. I do understand the need to reboot the franchise. Obviously what has worked in the past might not entertain the modern audience. We’ve become too used to great spectacles, and the thought has occurred that there might not be room in this new world for a James Bond. If Bond is to survive, I understand he must evolve. That still doesn’t mean Daniel Craig is the answer. Even if he were, it was a mistake to include Judi Dench in this film in her continuing portrayal of M. A reboot requires a fresh start, and we’re not going to dismiss the high octane Bond of yesteryear while looking at some of the same faces. Dench does a fine job, don’t get me wrong, but she is part of the old regime. Was it also necessary to cater so much to the MTV crowd? The music is often atrocious and far too urban for my tastes. The editing was also too erratic and often too fast to truly enjoy a moment. You get a coupon for some money off of the other Bond films now coming out. I’m going to use mine for Goldfinger; of course as Bond admonishes us, “I’m not dwelling on the past. I don’t think you should be either”.